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Three up, three down: Power hitting leads FSU baseball to series clinching win over UNF

Matheu Nelson, Vince Smith pelt scoreboard in rubber match.

Larry Novey/FSU sports info

Florida State baseball clinched their opening series with an 8-4 win over UNF in a rubber match this afternoon. FSU relied on their power in game three of the series, as two homers produced four of their seven runs. The ‘Noles did a good job putting the ball in play and seeing lots of pitches. The Seminoles posted nine hits and seven walks, while striking out seven times.

Three up

  • Conor Grady set the tone from the first inning in the rubber match. The right-handed pitcher showed why he was chosen as FSU’s Sunday starter as he brought a veteran presence to the mound. The fourth-year senior worked quick and efficient. Grady stumbled in his last couple innings of work, but still had a very solid start to his 2021. Grady sat in the 88-90 MPH range with his FB, but was consistently sinking it and keeping it down in the zone. Paired with two plus off-speed pitches, Grady kept UNF off balance all day. His changeup was his best pitch, as he had hard-fading action on the pitch. He also got lots of swing-and-miss with the slider. Grady’s final line was 5.1 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 2 ER, 6 K, 74 P (47 S). When he throws like this, the ‘Noles will have a chance to win every Sunday.
  • All preseason, we spoke on the potential breakout of power for Matheu Nelson. Through one weekend of baseball, he’s shown he’s in store for a big year at the plate. Nelson took advantage of a 3-1 fastball and nearly cleared the score board. The first inning bomb was the second of the weekend, and both have been no-doubters off the bat. The right-handed hitter took advantage of another 3-1 pitch later in the game, as he roped a double down the LF line to lead off the 7th inning. Nelson also had an important defensive play in the fifth inning. After Grady’s first walk of the day, the catcher gunned down a runner trying to steal for the second out of the inning. Nelson’s throw, from his knees, was right on the money. The catcher is Florida State’s most important player this season, and he put together a solid opening weekend.
  • With Elijah Cabell out and Logan Lacey filling his LF spot, Vince Smith got the start at third base. Smith had some hard hit balls through the first two games, including a robbed home run, but had yet to get his first career hit. The good swings paid off in a big moment for the freshman. Smith took advantage of a middle, middle fastball in a full count and lined it off the LF scoreboard for a three-run jack. The homer brought life back to FSU’s dugout after three straight scoreless innings. Smith will have lots of opportunities to make an impact as a freshman due to his advanced approach.
  • Bonus: The biggest play of the game came in the top of the seventh inning, with runners on the corners and one out. Momentum was swinging towards the Ospreys as Brandon Walker entered the game for Jonah Scolaro. Walker induced a ground ball on his second pitch, leading to a 6-4-3 double play to strand the runners. The turn was lightning quick from Nander De Sedas and Jackson Greene. FSU’s infield was lights out on double play opportunities this weekend.

Three down

  • Florida State’s relievers have struggled to strand inherited runners this weekend. That trend continued this weekend as Tyler Ahearn entered the game to relieve Grady. Ahearn toed the rubber with two runners on and one out. Both those runners quickly scored on a first pitch double. After a ground out, another run scored off a wild pitch. He also hit a batter to end his day on the mound. FSU’s relievers have to be better with runners on base or else it could be a long 2021.
  • Much of those struggles have come from command. Florida State’s bullpen was consistently behind in counts this weekend. After his quick end to the 7th, Walker put the ‘Noles in a tough in the next inning. Walker opened up the 8th with back-to-back walks, throwing just two strikes. He threw just three strikes in 12 total pitches. The two walks led to a run on his line. Walker has as much stuff as anyone on Florida State’s staff, but if he can’t command his fastball, the stuff will go to waste.
  • FSU’s defense was clean until the last third of the game. Before the crucial double play in the 7th, the ‘Noles made a blunder on a run down. Nander De Sedas fielded a hard hit ball to his backhand as a UNF runner took off from second. De Sedas made a heads up play as he got the runner into a run down, but the ‘Noles couldn’t execute. Smith dropped the throw from De Sedas, allowing the runner to take third with ease. For FSU to reach their potential, they have to start making the easy plays look easy. Smith also misplayed a pop up in foul territory in the ninth inning. De Sedas and Simmons also weren’t able to connect on a throw to second on a weak grounder in the ninth, but the play was cancelled out due to an illegal bat ruling.

Florida State’s next game is on Friday at 6:00 PM against Pitt in Dick Howser.