Despite getting a very good start from Cole Sands, FSU was unable to crack the nut that is J.B. Bukauskas and the rest of the UNC pitching staff. Falling 3-1 to a very good Tar Heels team is no shame, but let’s look closer and find out where FSU could improve and did improve.
- Cole Sands pitched quite a game. The right-handed sophomore gave up 2 runs and 7 hits but only walked 2 and struck out 6 against a very talented Tar Heel lineup. Sands sat down 7 in order at one point and constantly challenged the UNC hitters. While he still needs to cut down on the hits, especially the extra base variety, he pitched about as well as could be expected.
- Cal Raleigh has always had a strong arm, and it was on display throughout the game. Raleigh cut down 2 base-runners, helping keep the UNC threat at bay. The Heels like to run to get into scoring position and preventing that not only shortens the inning, but drastically cuts down on potential scoring threats, as well.
- Once again, the defense performed admirably. The ’Noles have one recorded just one error in the last five games, which is huge for any pitcher. While FSU didn’t make any spectacular plays, they took care of business and recorded double plays when they were there to be made.
- In this situation, it feels a bit wrong to say this, but once again, the ’Noles struggled at the plate. On one hand, Bukauskas is one of the best pitchers in the nation and shuts down every team he faces. However, FSU failed to produce even productive outs with runners on base. FSU was able to tack on a run late behind a hit, a few walks and a wild pitch, but couldn’t throw the knockout punch. A 0 for 5 outing with runners in scoring position is a tough pill to swallow (as that’s the best way to score against top arms), but that’s what Bukauskas does. On the night, the ’Noles only mustered three hits.
- At some point, this offense has to pull its weight, and with the schedule veering into the very difficult, it needs to be sooner, rather than later. There’s little reason a team that sees as many pitches as FSU shouldn’t get good pitches to hit, but they don’t seem to handle the bats very well. Many fans will claim it’s an issue with approach, but the numbers show it’s an issue with talent. FSU ranks 1st in walks, ~25th in OBP but ~150 in average and ~80 in slugging. This is made only worse when you consider the ’Noles are ~25th in home runs. FSU has a bit of a boom or bust offense on it’s hands, which will probably trend more towards bust as the competition heats up...and the ACC is quite strong, once again, this year. (Stats here.)
- In what’s becoming an all-too-common theme, some of the veteran bullpen arms were liabilities. Jim Voyles walked 2 of the 3 batters he faced and was immediately pulled. He has yet to totally find his form from last year, and it’s looking less and less likely that he will. After Chase Haney cleaned up his mess by inducing a double play (and FSU subsequently cut the lead to 2-1), Alec Byrd gave up a home run to the first batter he faced in the 8th. The senior southpaw had some filthy stuff on the night, but you can’t give up that home run after your offense finally scores. Freshman lefty, Clayton Kwiatowski also looked nice in retiring the only three hitters he faced (two via strikeout). He’s now been good in all six outings as a Seminole, and should be the top LHP option out of the bullpen going forward.
The ’Noles return the diamond for Game 2 against the Heels Saturday night at 6:00.