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Setting expectations with No. 12 Florida State baseball’s 2020 schedule

Can Junior pick up where 11 left off with another 40-win season?

Florida State Seminoles baseball vs North Florida Ospreys
Florida State Seminoles baseball vs North Florida Ospreys
Courteney Korosec

MAILBAG ALERT! If you have any questions about the baseball team, please submit them in the comments. A Mailbag of your questions and our answers will follow.

PSA: FSU BASEBALL HAS A GAME TOMORROW. Okay now that I got that out of my system... Here at Tomahawk Nation, we find that breaking large schedules up into smaller pieces helps fans set expectations for coming seasons. So with 2020 on the doorstep, let’s go.

Pre-conference play

In recent years, FSU has played little to no competitive games before reaching conference play. That has resulted in a whole lot of W’s and experience for younger players, but not so much pressure moments to really test the team before conference play. Under Junior, that’s going to change and we are already seeing it in year one.

Before FSU plays ACC play, it will have already faced four 2019 NCAA tournament teams for eight games. The ‘Noles will also face a couple of tough midweek tests from in-state opponents to get them ready for the season.

The season opener will still come against weaker competition, as the Niagara Purple Eagles will make the trip to Tallahassee on Friday to open up the 2020 season. The Purple Eagles come out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, in which they went 9-15. Overall, Niagara was 15-33 last season.

The Seminoles will have three tough midweek opponents before heading into conference play. USF will be FSU’s first midweek opponent of the season, making the four-hour drive from Tampa for one game. USF is trying to get back to the postseason after a down year in 2019. The program is still loaded with talent from the Tampa-area.

FSU will make the trip across I10 for the first game of a three-game season series against Jacksonville. Jacksonville took the season series from the Seminoles last year with two W’s. The Dolphins always bring a scrappy team to the field that finds ways to win.

FSU will also travel to Mercer for one midweek game. FSU swept the Bears in an early season series last year, but Mercer put up a quality year, making the tournament and the Athens regional along with FSU. With the long drives to JU and Mercer, I wouldn’t be surprised to see FSU drop one of these games.

The Seminoles’ second weekend series will come against the Cincinnati Bearcats, another 2019 NCAA tourney team. The Bearcats made a late season run to the postseason after winning the AAC tournament in Clearwater. After taking game one from #1 seed Oregon State, the Bearcats season ended in the Corvallis Regional. Overall, Cincy was 31-31 on the season. They will pose a quality threat that should test FSU in weekend #2.

FSU’s biggest test of the early season will come week three when the Owls and Red Raiders make their way to Tallahassee. The Seminoles will get two games against each team. The Seminoles took care of 3-seed FAU in the Athens regional last season after they posted a 41-21 record on the season. The Owls are consistently the best non-power five baseball program in the state.

Florida State was knocked out of the College World Series by Texas Tech last season, and they’ll have their chance at some redemption early in the season. The #6 ranked Red Raiders will face FSU on Saturday and Sunday of the third weekend of the season. FSU should know where they are as a team after the weekend and how they matchup with the best of the best in the nation.

I’m not saying FSU will lose a bunch of games in this segment, but they won’t be undefeated going into ACC play like last season, which is okay. Find out what you have with your team, which players fill which roles, and which players will come through in the clutch. Not to mention some wins against these teams will really help FSU’s RPI.

Tough start to ACC play

Florida State will open their ACC slate on the road, against #15 Duke. The Blue Devils have consistently been a threat in the ACC the last few years. FSU will travel to Durham to face a team that went three games deep in a super regional against National Champs Vanderbilt. Duke is a quality and proven program, and FSU will have to be ready to go or else they’ll get an early wakeup call in the ACC.

FSU will get their first crack at rival UF on March 10th in Gainesville. The Seminoles have lost 11 straight games to the gators. They’ll play another three game series with Florida split up between Gainesville, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee in 2020. The Gators are expected to have a bounce-back season in 2020, ranked #4 in D1Baseball’s preseason rankings.

The Seminoles will get a tough task of driving back to Tallahassee and facing Illinois State the next night. The Redbirds went 36-26 last season, including pushing Louisville to the bring in their own regional. Illinois State was one run away from knocking off the Cardinals in a game seven in the Louisville regional. The Redbirds will present one of the toughest non-conference tests of the season for the ‘Noles.

Georgia Tech will travel to Tallahassee for the Seminoles’ first home ACC series of the season. The Yellow Jackets’ were a wrecking ball in the ACC last season, going 43-19 in the season and earning the #4 national seed going into the postseason. After losing a lot of talent to the 2019 MLB draft, the Yellow Jackets enter the season ranked 19th in the nation.

FSU will travel to UCF during spring break for a two-game midweek series after the GT series. The Knights were one of the first four out from last season’s NCAA tournament. UCF gave the Seminoles some fits in Tallahassee last season, taking a game from the ‘Noles in midweek action. Despite struggles in AAC play, UCF finished their 2019 with a 36-22 record.

Lighter competition in middle third of conference play

While most of you will be paying attention to the first two rounds of March Madness, FSU will be paying a visit to Mike Bell and the Pitt Panthers. After a 21-34 season, the Panthers are projected to finish the 2020 season at the bottom of the ACC for the second straight year.

NC State is the one outlier in this section, as the only team that made the NCAA tournament in 2019. The Wolfpack will be FSU’s biggest competion in the Atlantic division outside of the Cardinals in 2020. Despite losing their top two hitters, NC ST still boasts a strong lineup in 2020. Luckily, FSU will face the Wolfpack in Dick Howser Stadium this season.

The Seminoles will once again face JU and UF in this portion of the schedule. FSU will also add a home game against Bethune-Cookman on the first of April. BCU was 17-38 last season. The ‘Noles will also get Stetson for two games at home, as well as another contest late in the season on the road. The Hatters took one of three games against FSU last season, as they no hit the ‘Noles in Deland.

FSU will travel to Boston College and Wake Forrest for weekend series this season. Boston College is my sleeper to breakout in this conference this season. The Eagles had three ACC All-Freshmen last year and are a team pointing in the right direction. Traveling to Chestnut Hill and the potential of cold weather could make this a trap series for the Seminoles. Wake Forrest consistenly has one of the best lineups in the ACC and that will continue this season. WF is going to mash, but they won’t do much pitching. FSU should have a good matchup in Winston-Salem with their weekend rotation.

After taking 2-3 games from the Fighting Irish last season, Notre Dame will travel to Tallahassee on Easter weekend for a series. FSU should have their Easter baskets full that weekend, as Notre Dame is projected to finish last in the Atlantic division in 2020.

The tough finish

The strength of schedule will ramp back up for the ‘Noles in the home stretch of the season, starting with Miami. The ‘Canes arguably return the most talent of any ACC team in 2020 and are favored to win the coastal division. Miami heads into the season as the #3 team in the nation. Miami took 23 from FSU in Coral Gables last season, but FSU will look to get them back in Tallahassee this season.

The schedule only gets tougher the next weekend, as Louisville travels to Tallahassee. The Cardinals enter the season ranked #1 in the nation after a 2019 CWS birth and a 51-18 record. However, the Cardinals lost a load of talent on both the mound and at the plate. FSU is one of a few teams that can matchup with the Cardinals’ weekend rotation. Dick Howser stadium will be the place to be from May 1st-3rd.

FSU will finish their midweek series with JU and Stetson before heading into a bye week, new to college baseball in 2020. The Seminoles’ bye week comes with just three regular season games left on the calendar, but will give the team a weekend to rest before heading into postseason play.

The Seminoles will round off the regular season at Clemson from May 14th-16th. The Tigers 2019 season ended in the Oxford regional after a 35-26 season. The Tigers’ lost some offensive leaders, but return some young starters to bolster their rotation. Playing at Clemson will be one final test for the ‘Noles to pass before the postseason.

Bringing it all together

FSU is not going to have an amazing record in 2020. The weekend series boast some high powered programs and some of the best teams in the nation. FSU will have tough competition all season long in midweek games and will likely drop a few as they run out young guns on the mound to pick up experience, which is good. Drop a few games this season, but it betters the future of the program. This team will have to make noise in the postseason to surpass the 40-win mark for the 43rd straight year. But FSU doesn’t need to win 40 games in the regular season to be a regional host this year. This strength of schedule can carry FSU’s RPI to a top-16 national seed and a regional site. I’d expect FSU to be a low-end regional host or a two-seed in regionals this season.