It seemed clear what this weekend series would be headed into it. Pacific, ranking at No. 245 in the RPI and with a team ERA of 5.45 on the year, was set up to be vastly overmatched by a loaded Florida State lineup.
For a few innings, that was the exact storyline. FSU led 6-0 after one inning and 8-1 through two. From there, though, the narrative shifted gradually over the next few innings.
Pacific rattled off seven unanswered runs, eventually tying the score at 8 in the seventh inning.
In the end, FSU needed some hero ball from Dylan Busby to sneak out of Friday’s game with a 9-8 victory.
1. Some eyebrows were raised when Florida State’s starting lineup was announced with Tyler Holton hitting in the eight spot and playing center field.
After all, Holton had made no starts in the field this season after working as a utility defender as a freshman and had accumulated just two at-bats all year as a pinch hitter.
All those doubts were erased after his first at-bat on Friday.
The sophomore took the first pitch he saw for a ride to right field which cleared the fence for a three-run homer, his first of the year and third of his career, and added another single later as part of his career high three RBI performance.
Now, the grain of salt that must accompany this is that the opposing team may be the worst the Seminoles have faced all season. Still, the addition of Holton to the lineup could create some interesting flexibility going forward.
2. The Florida State bullpen may not have been consistently good in Friday’s opener against Pacific, but the relief work came through in the clutch with the game on the line.
Tied at 8 in both the seventh and eighth innings, the bullpen put itself into jams before narrowly escaping. Over those two innings, the Tigers had five baserunners stranded with both final at-bats working to a full count. On both occasions, Florida State’s pitching staff won out.
Drew Carlton then pitched a flawless ninth inning in quick succession to preserve the win which once seemed like it was going to get away.
3. When a clutch hit was required in the later innings, FSU’s hottest hitter came through once again.
Dylan Busby crushed a solo home run off the scoreboard in left field with two outs in the eighth inning to give the Seminoles a 9-8 lead which held for good. The homer was Busby’s 11th of the year and his 7th in the last 11 games.
1. For stretches of Friday’s start, starting pitcher Cole Sands looked about as good as he has all season. Once again, though, his inconsistency reared its ugly head.
He got himself into jams in the second, fourth, and seventh innings and was unable to get out of any of them unscathed.
His five runs allowed in his 6+ innings of work are significantly more than a pitcher with his potential should be allowing to a team of this caliber at this point in the season. The next two weekend series opponents will be significantly more talented offensively and will surely present a stiffer challenge for the sophomore.
2. For as strong as Florida State’s start at the plate was on Friday, the production fell off almost immediately, allowing Pacific to gradually chip into the Seminoles’ lead.
FSU scored more runs in its first inning at the plate (6) than in its final eight (3) and saw more runners reach base in that first frame (7) than in the next four innings combined (5).
Cal Raleigh was the weak spot of the FSU lineup throughout Friday’s game. Batting in the seventh spot of the lineup, Raleigh went an uninspiring 0-3. dropping his batting average to .224 as his poor stretch has quickly become a poor season.
3. Pegged with the task of putting out the fire created by Cole Sands in the top of the seventh inning, the Florida State bullpen fell apart in a big way. It took three relievers to escape the inning and that didn’t happen until they allowed both inherited runs to score as well as three runs of their own.
The three-run double surrendered by Chase Haney was the big play of the inning, but Clayton Kwiatkowski and Jim Voyles also struggled with control as well as stuff, making Pacific look like a significantly more offensively talented team that it actually is.
In all, the FSU bullpen allowed three runs on six hits over three innings of work. This bad news is further complicated when realizing that this was the first of five games over the next five days. Having to use so many different relievers in the first game of that busy stretch is exactly what Mike Martin was looking to avoid.
The series between the Seminoles and Tigers continues on Saturday with doubleheader games scheduled to start at 2 PM and approximately 6 PM. The first matchup will see FSU throw Tyler Holton (5-2, 3.00 ERA) against Pacific’s Ryan Shreve (1-4, 5.62) and the second matchup sees Andrew Karp (0-3, 6.32) go for the Seminoles against Cooper Casad (2-2, 5.23)