“My, how a day can change things.”
These were the first words out of FSU head coach Mike Martin’s mouth in his postgame press conference after the Seminoles evened the series with No. 4 Clemson behind a 7-3 victory on Sunday.
In many ways, Sunday’s matchup was the exact opposite of Saturday’s, as Martin alluded to. After Clemson jumped out to an early 9-1 lead through three innings in the series opener, the Seminoles owned the middle matchup of the three-game set, taking a 7-1 lead through three innings and never relenting from there.
The win improves the Seminoles to 22-15 (8-9 in ACC) on the year and gives them a much-needed win over a currently-ranked opponent.
1. For a little while there, Tyler Holton’s start on the mound Sunday looked eerily similar to Cole Sands’ start the night before. Both of them allowed the first two batters of the game to reach base before managing to escape with only run allowed each from their respective jams. From there, though, the games branched off in completely different directions.
While Sands fell apart in the second, giving up five more runs and failing to get out of the inning, Holton got into one of his signature grooves, setting down 13 of the next 14 Clemson batters while the Florida State offense rolled out to a 7-1 lead.
He may have fallen off after that stretch, giving up a single run in both the fifth and sixth innings, but his outing still stands out as an overwhelming positive. He gave up three runs, all earned, on seven hits over a career-high eight innings of work against an overwhelmingly talented Clemson lineup.
Perhaps an even stronger indication of how good his outing was is the fact that he kept the Clemson hitters guessing all afternoon. His nine strikeouts to three walks, along with the fact that he was hit hard on very few occasions on Sunday, is a testament to how impressive his outing was. The win improves his record to 5-1 and he boasts a special 2.70 ERA after another performance which is quickly becoming the status quo for the sophomore, who was named to the Golden Spikes Midseason Watch List earlier this week.
2. When the Florida State lineup is completely healthy and clicking on all cylinders, it is a lot of fun to watch. Sunday was one of those days.
The Seminoles took the lead in the bottom of the first inning, plating four runs against Clemson’s Alex Eubanks, who held a solid 2.92 ERA entering Sunday. However, the Seminoles hardly stopped there on their way to forcing Eubanks’ worst start of the season. He was chased after three innings, his shortest start of the year, and surrendered seven earned runs, a career-high.
Florida State relied heavily on the long ball in Sunday’s win as the Seminoles saw Taylor Walls lead off the bottom of the first with a solo shot for the second time this week, his fifth of the season. Designated hitter Quincy Nieporte capped off FSU’s big first inning with a two-run shot to left, his seventh of the year, and finally, Dylan Busby opened the lead up to 7-1 after he cranked a three-run bomb to left in the third inning, his fifth of the season.
Matt Henderson also had another big showing at the plate. Less than 24 hours after he set a new career high with four RBI, Henderson was 2-3 with two more singles, bumping his batting average up to .247 after he started the weekend at .205.
3. A night after ill-timed defensive issues were the most direct reason for Florida State’s loss to the Tigers, the Seminoles pitched a flawless defensive effort which saw them commit no errors over nine innings in the field.
Henderson was targeted often at second base with liners, hard grounders, and multiple tough plays sent his way. Each time, he rose to the occasion. Drew Mendoza has shown improvement in the field as a first baseman, a position he picked up for the first time less than two weeks ago, and numerous other Seminoles excelled in the field on Sunday as well.
1. Mendoza has been one of the biggest cogs for Florida State at the plate over the last two weeks, but Sunday was a game to forget for the star freshman.
Mendoza saw his seven-game hitting streak snapped after an 0-3 performance which saw him work a walk to continue his on-base streak, but also strike out two times with runners on base.
There’s hardly cause for concern as it was a one-game sample size and the rest of the Florida State lineup was willing and able to pick up the slack on Sunday, but it was disappointing to see an end to Mendoza’s strong positive momentum he had going.
2. Again, Florida State was guilty of a poor strikeout-to-walk ratio against a team that was very capable of pounding the strike zone.
The Seminoles, going up against a Clemson pitching staff with the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the nation, worked three walks while striking out eight times. It was a minor improvement from Saturday, but there remains plenty of room for growth in the FSU lineup with regard to stepping outside the comfort zone of plate discipline against teams known for throwing strikes.
3. Such an impressive victory over a top-five team on Sunday is a very positive thing for a Florida State team desperately in need of high-profile wins. That being said, reflection back on what could have been with a win on Saturday will come.
The win in the middle game by itself is FSU’s biggest of the year and sets up the Seminoles with a chance to win a series against an extremely good opponent. However, Florida State could (and arguably should) have won the first game after picking up all that late-game momentum. For as nice as a chance to win the series is for a team firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, already having the series clinched with a chance to sweep on Monday would have been that much bigger.
That rubber match is set to be FSU’s first nationally broadcast game of the season with a 7 PM start time on ESPNU. Mike Martin announced after the game that he intends to throw freshman Drew Parrish (3-2, 5.08 ERA) against Clemson’s Pat Krall (6-0, 3.09 ERA), but FSU will have Drew Carlton, who threw two innings of relief on Saturday, available out of the bullpen.