After winning the ACC Tournament for the 2nd year in a row Florida State found out it earned earned a top 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament but to make sure the ‘Noles benefit from hosting the 2nd round at home they must make it through the 1st round. FSU will face Samford Friday night at 7PM and then will face either Mississippi State or Oklahoma on Saturday.
Mississippi State was expecting big things from this year but their head coach Andy Cannizaro resigned just before the season due to an extra-marital affair he was having and then the Bulldogs dropped their 1st 3 games at home to Southern Miss. Pitching coach Gary Henderson took over has led MSU to an up and down season in the difficult SEC. While Mississippi State has impressive sweeps of both the SEC’s top teams in Arkansas and Florida they only have 2 series wins on the road, although 1 is rival Ole Miss.
If they’re going to win the Bulldogs are likely going to score and they score by getting on base and not striking out. MSU has 5 batters hitting over .300 and only 1 has more than 40 strike outs on the season. They don’t walk a bunch nor hit a ton of home runs but they do a good amount of damage with doubles.
Friday starter Konnor Pilkington will likely throw in their 1st game against Oklahoma so FSU will likely see Ethan Small. Both pitchers will get their fair share of strike outs but walks will likely come at a premium, which can be a problem for the FSU offense. MSU relies on their pen more than FSU (many college teams have gone with this strategy in the past couple of years) and, as a result, has a pretty deep one.
Oklahoma got hot in the middle of the season, highlighted with a series sweep of Baylor, and finished the regular season a bit bumpy with losses to Texas, Oklahoma State and Kansas. OU was able to exact a bit of revenge knocking out Texas of the BIG XII tournament but couldn’t solve Baylor falling twice to the Bears.
On offense OU could be without 2 of their top hitters as the likely high draft pick and awesomely named Steele Walker suffered an oblique injury and Kyler Murray injured his hamstring. The 2 players have accounted for 23 of OU’s 44 home runs on the year. Both are game time decisions on Friday. The Sooners still have a strong offense with Brylie Ware and Kyle Mendenhall providing most of the punch.
Oklohoma will be starting Jake Irvin against Mississippi State and he’s really their big arm. Irvin has an impressive 109 strike outs to just 24 walks on the year but things look a bit less obvious. Only Irvin has started all the games he’s appeared in although Nathan Wiles only has 1 relief appearance. Much like Mississippi State Oklahoma will probably use their pen a lot.
The Bulldogs made the tournament by winning the automatic, and only, bid from the SOCON tournament. Samford has strong pitching but the guy to watch out for is DH Brook Carlson. Carlson has hit well sporting a .350 and 8 home runs on the year, hitting safely in his last 13 games. Samford does a solid job of setting up Carlson for success as both Branden Fryman and Troy Dixon are hitting over .260 on the year and are not afraid to steal a base or two.
The ‘Noles will have a tough task at the dish facing lefty freshmen Sam Strickland. Much like the rest of the Samford staff Strickland throws a lot of strikes and very few balls. Sporting a bit more than 1 strike out per inning and just under 1 hit every 3 innings Strickland started the year 6-0 and was named the freshmen of the year in the SOCON conference.