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3 up, 3 down: No. 11 FSU baseball falls to NC State in series finale

The ’Noles weren't able to recreate their walk-off success in today’s series finale.

Louisville @ Florida State
Florida State takes on Louisville
Steve Johnson

Despite winning the first two games of an exciting series against No. 4 NC State (40-14) thanks to walk-off home-runs on back-to-back nights, the No. 11 Seminoles (39-17) came up short in their 5-3 series finale loss today against the Wolfpack. With several chances to earn runs, FSU was able to capitalize on some of them, but was ultimately shut down thanks to some great fielding from NC State, leaving the ’Noles with a total of 10 runners left on base. On the other hand, Florida State head coach Mike Martin was honored prior to today’s game, as a heartwarming record-breaking celebration was held for the skipper after he became the winningest coach in college baseball history following Florida State’s recent series against Clemson.

Three up:

  • Florida State catcher Cal Raleigh’s hitting has improved tremendously from last season, and his talents have certainly been on display in this series. Batting a total of 5 for 13 in this series, Raleigh was responsible for a majority of his team’s runs today. Going 2 for 5, the junior belted a solo home-run in the 4th inning to put the Seminoles on the board, and followed that up with an RBI-double in the 7th inning to bring his team to within a run of NC State at 4-3.
  • The Garnet & Gold’s bullpen today did very well in keeping their team within striking distance of the Wolfpack. After loading the bases in the top of the 7th, starting pitcher Cole Sands was pulled by head coach Mike Martin and replaced by LHP Clayton Kwiatkowski. After giving up a walk, Kwiatkowski was able to escape the jam by getting his next batter to ground into a double play, which was then followed by a ground-out. RHP Conor Grady then took the mound in the 8th and made quick work of it, only giving up one single and picking up three outs in the form of a strikeout and two fly-outs. In the 9th inning, freshman LHP Austin Pollock was able to settle down and work his way back from a lead-off double he gave out, part of which wasn't entirely his fault as right fielder Steven Wells lost the ball in the sun. After giving up a run via a sac-fly, Pollock gave up a single and a walk, but was able to evade danger by picking up a key strikeout to end the inning.
  • Despite giving up four runs and picking up a loss on the day, Sands turned in six innings of solid pitching until facing some hiccups in the beginning of the 7th. Giving up just four hits and a walk against the 23 batters he faced, Sands earned eight strikeouts on the day, including two against NC State center fielder Josh McLain, who leads his team in hits with now a .329 average on the season following today’s series.

Three down:

  • A nagging issue for FSU all season long, the ’Noles left a total of 10 runners on base in today’s loss against NC State, which hurt their chances of picking away at the Wolfpack’s lead. Leaving two runners on base in both the 7th and 8th innings, perhaps the most glaring example of this issue came in the 5th inning. With bases loaded and just one out, both first baseman Rhett Aplin and Raleigh were unable to capitalize on the opportunity to put runs on the board. While this wasn't the only reason Florida State fell in today’s series finale, it is certainly something that Martin and his players will look to improve upon as they enter the post-season.
  • While some hitters like Raleigh and left fielder Reese Albert have significantly produced at the plate in this series, especially after Albert’s spectacular 5-RBI performance in Saturday’s victory, others have struggled. One player who falls under the latter category is second baseman Rafael Bournigal, who now sports a .182 average on the season after going 0 for 3 today and 0 for 9 in this weekend’s series. Another player is third baseman Drew Mendoza, who despite having an excellent season offensively with a batting average of over .300 went 0 for 4 today and just 1 for 12 in this series. Both players are undoubtedly talented offensively, and did find other ways to contribute to their team’s success through smart base-running and drawing walks. These players will surely look to put this series behind them and prepare for their next opponent.
  • Down 4-3 entering the 9th inning, Florida State was certainly not counting themselves out after their recent success with walk-off wins. However, a misplaced fly-ball by Wells, who lost it in the sun as his sunglasses sat on the top of his cap, led to a lead-off double for NC State that would eventually bring in another run, increasing their lead to 5-3. Even though the Seminoles weren't able to produce a hit in the bottom half of the inning, this mistake still weakened the possibility of a comeback, and is something that the Garnet & Gold will need to avoid going forward if they want their best chances at post-season success.