National seeds are up for grabs with less than a month before the NCAA tournament. Both Florida State and Clemson have a chance for home-field advantage all the way to Omaha. Monday night, on the campus of Clemson University, the hometown Tigers increased their chances after celebrated a 5-4 victory, in walk-off fashion.
Cole Sands, working his way back into form, pitched well for the ’Noles on Monday. His pitch count was higher than you might expect (75 pitches) over four innings, however he made the pitches he needed to make, when he needed to make them. After surrendering a two-run home run to Clemson shortstop Logan Davidson with zero out in the third inning, Sands retired six of the next seven batters he faced. FSU took the lead in their half of the fifth and Sands’ day was done after FSU brought eight men to the plate in the inning.
The FSU bullpen pitched admirably in five innings of work. Clayton Kwiatkowski, having thrown two innings of shutout ball, was the first man called upon — his third inning of work was not as efficient. Tied for the top-spot in the ACC, Clemson right fielder Seth Beer belted his 14th home run of the season. Kwiatkowski pitched well otherwise, despite perhaps being in the game longer than he needed to be, and Martin turned it over to freshman Conor Grady. Having allowed eight runs over his last 12 innings, the Tampa native struck out the first two batters he faced — retiring the side in order. He started the ninth inning with a strikeout as well, before ultimately surrendering a walk-off home run to No. 9 hitter Jordan Greene. The three runs allowed by the bullpen were not a product of struggles on the night, but more over, they were simply two pitches that, depending on your perspective, either missed location or were poor selection, and the Clemson hitters took advantage. While it’s easy to look at the box score and say that the bullpen cost FSU the victory, that’s not the biggest takeaway. The bigger issue is in the game is outlined below.
Cal Raleigh continued his torrid weekend, having posted three hits on Monday. The FSU backstop went 8-for-13 over the three-games series against Clemson. He’s now within one point of catching Drew Mendoza (.309) for the team-lead in batting average.
- Despite facing left-hander Jake Higginbotham, head coach Mike Martin — having recently become the winningest coach in NCAA history — decided to start lefty-swinging Rafael Bournigal at second base. Although Nick Derr has struggled over the last two weekend series (2-for-15, zero RBI), Bournigal is batting .189 on the season. Easily the position of least production, second base has been a liability regardless of who Martin runs out there — with the exception of Derr’s mid-season surge. With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning, Martin called on Derr to pinch hit — he struck out.
- At first glance it may appear that FSU fared well at driving in runs. However, none of their four runs were earned. Clemson catcher Kylie Wilkie committed two errors which led to the three-run fifth inning. Florida State struggled at the plate with runners in scoring position — including back-to back strikeouts by Derr and Reese Albert with the bases loaded in the seventh inning — going 2-for-13 on the night. Clemson, on the other hand, took advantage of their opportunities.
- After a 16-game hitting streak earlier in the year, Mendoza, having gone 1-for-2 in the finale against Clemson, has steadily declined at the plate. He entered Monday’s contest with 16 hits over his last 22 games, since his hitting streak was snapped on March 25.