Here at Tomahawk Nation, we find that breaking large schedules up into smaller pieces helps fans set expectations for coming seasons. So with 2019 on the doorstep, let’s go.
Just like every year, for better or worse, Florida State starts the season with what can only be described as lesser competition. On one hand, this gives younger and previously little used players an opportunity to make a good impression against live competition.
On the other hand, the Seminoles will not really be sure what kind of team they have heading into ACC play. Florida State actually does schedule pretty well from an RPI perspective, as constant middle-of-the-week games against in-state opponents boost its ranking, but it would be nice to see a big-game series early in the year, like the ‘Noles used to do.
Starting the season with a four-game series, Florida State will host the Maine Black Bears. After a mid-week trip to Jacksonville, FSU returns home for a three-game set against Youngstown State. A game in Tampa against USF is followed by a weekend tilt against Mercer and a Wednesday visit by UNF to round out the first leg of the season.
It’s hard to imagine Florida State having trouble with any of its weekend opponents, but this is baseball, and last year Maine was able to take a game each from Miami and Mercer. Of the three, only Mercer finished the year with a winning record. FSU’s mid-week slate is a bit different. Both Jacksonville and USF are tough opponents that could change their rotation to have their better pitchers go against FSU. USF faces an extremely challenging 7 days with a road series at No. 7 UNC sandwiched with home games against No. 6 UF and No. 13 FSU.
Expect the Seminoles to close out the start of the season some where around the 12-1 mark. Again, it’s a fairly harmless start to the season that gives Florida State a chance to knock off some rust, but there’s always hiccups.
Heating up into conference play
The first half of the ACC schedule for Florida State is a relatively simple one. After hosting a weekend series against Virginia Tech, the ’Noles become road warriors, playing a mid-week game at Florida, a series at NC State, a two-game home stand against UCF and FIU, another at Notre Dame, and a neutral site game against Florida in Jacksonville. Rounding out this part of the season is a weekend series against Boston College, a Tuesday tilt against Jacksonville, and a trip down to Miami for the first FSU/UM series not featuring Jim Morris in quite a long time. Finally, the series against UF concludes at Dick Howser Stadium
Florida State got about as easy of an ACC schedule as it possibly could. FSU misses the Coastal Division’s three most difficult opponents (UNC, Duke, and Georgia Tech) while getting a nice tune up against VT before a big early-season series against the Wolfpack. NC State has a deep but not star-studded team that could pull the series from FSU, but not likely a sweep. Both Notre Dame and Boston College project to be near the bottom of the division, and Miami has a young team with some good arms that will likely be erratic at the plate and in the field.
Interestingly enough, if FSU swapped its mid-week games for its weekend series, it might have a harder go of it. Jacksonville and UCF are always solid to good, and Florida rolls out another top-10 team. A record of 14-7 would look pretty good through this part of the season, with FSU favored in all but maybe two of the series.
The tough finish
Florida State starts the third half of the season with a home stand against a Clemson team that lost quite a bit to graduation and a bit more to injuries this year. What Clemson is this year could swing wildly, as there is still talent in South Carolina. But it’s going to be a bit unproven.
FSU then heads up to Charlottesville to face a similarly questionable team in the Virginia Cavaliers. 2018 was a nightmare season for Virginia, as they could not shake the injury bug, but Brian O’Connor recruits well, so expect a strong test.
Two games at home against Stetson is followed by what should be an exciting series against an experienced Wake Forest team. Wake Forest struggled with consistency at the plate last year but eight of their top nine hitters return, and the starters that shut down the FSU offense in the double header last year are back.
Former FSU pitcher and pitching-coach Mike Bell brings his Pittsburgh Panthers into Tallahassee for a three game series. Bell has a bit of work to do, as Pittsburgh has struggled mightily since joining the ACC. Mid-week games at home against Jacksonville and Stetson followed by a “get healthy” series against Richmond lead to what will hopefully be a series for the division, if not conference, crown. Florida State travels up to Kentucky to play a very good Louisville team.
A record of 14-8 should be the goal for this stretch of the season. The Louisville series is easily FSU’s most difficult weekend series of the year, and Wake, Virginia, and Clemson could all cause problems for the ’Noles. However, both Pitt and Richmond should be relative cake walks, allowing for Florida State to build some confidence for the post season.
Bringing it all together
If FSU can stay on schedule, Mike Martin will cap his 40th season as head baseball coach just like the previous 39: with 40 or more wins. A 40-16 record ought to have the Seminoles in good contention for the top seed in a pod along with a chance of a super regional host in the NCAA tournament.