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Florida State baseball weekend preview: 3/12-3/14 at #18 Virginia Tech

‘Noles travel to Blacksburg for first road trip of 2021.

Larry Novey

Florida State baseball (4-5, 2-4 ACC) travels to Blacksburg to take on no. 18 Virginia Tech (8-3, 4-2 ACC). The trip to VT will be FSU’s first road trip of the season. FSU lost two of three games at Duke in their only ACC series last season. The ‘Noles are coming off a bounce back weekend, as they took home their first ACC series win over the Virginia Cavaliers.

The Seminoles offense is still struggling. Florida State is in the bottom fifty in the country with a .214 batting average and a .311 slugging percentage. The ‘Noles are still making pitchers work with the 29th most walks in the country. FSU’s defense has been their biggest positive trend. The Seminoles have made eight errors and posted a .977 fielding percentage, 56th best in the country.

FSU dominated on the mound last weekend, giving up just two earned runs in 27 innings pitched. The ‘Noles are top fifty in the country with a 3.18 ERA, a 6.56 hits per nine, and a 11.5 K/9. There’s still more to come for the Seminoles’ pitching staff, as they haven’t showed their depth off with FSU’s starters throwing 21/27 innings this past weekend. Last weekend, Florida State showed what they could do on the mound when attacking the zone. FSU walked just four batters and struck out 34.

Virginia Tech is the opposite of Florida State. The Hokies have had a hot start to the season in the box. VT is top fifty with 24 home runs and 87 runs this season. The top four in the VT order are all hitting .333 plus. Virginia Tech possesses one of the most dangerous offenses not just in the ACC, but the whole country. The top four in the order are as good as it gets. Tech doesn’t strike out much, but they also don’t walk much.

On the mound, the Hokies have been up and down. Through 11 games, Virginia Tech has a 4.04 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP. VT has been able to work around a .255 batting average against with 12.1 K/9, good for 17th in the nation. FSU will strike out this weekend against some power arms, but should be able to produce runs if they can get timely hits. The Hokies have 13 errors and a .968 FLD%.

FSU is 45-15 all time against Virginia Tech.

Friday 3/12, 4:00 PM

Probable Starters: LHP Parker Messick (3.52 ERA, 15.2 IP) vs. LHP Peyton Alford (6.48 ERA, 8.1 IP)

How to watch: ACC Network Extra

Messick is coming off his first ever ACC pitcher of the week award. The southpaw worked eight scoreless innings with 11 K’s. Messick also gave up no walks and just three hits. The Plant City native was at his very best and in command of all his pitches. When he’s consistent with his full arsenal, he can be un-hittable. It will be key for Messick to bring the type of energy that he had in Dick Howser on the road. VT’s top two hitters are both lefties, so it could be a good matchup for the second-year freshman. If the Seminoles get another gem from their ace, they’ll be in great position for their second straight Friday win.

Alford is expected to get the Friday start for the Hokies. The southpaw is in his first season as a weekend starter, as the senior made nine relief appearances last season. So far this year, he’s worked just 8.1 innings in three appearances and two starts. For his VT career, he’s posted a 4.37 ERA. So far this year, he’s given up seven walks and eight runs. Alford possesses a high-80’s fastball and a high-70’s slider. He also has a changeup and a curveball.

Saturday 3/13, 3:00 PM

Probable Starters: LHP Bryce Hubbart (1.54 ERA, 11.2 IP) vs. LHP Chris Gerard (3.71 ERA, 17.0 IP)

How to watch: ACC Network Extra

Hubbart did his best to replicate Messick’s gem last Saturday and came close. Hubbart has been locked in this year on the bump and been FSU’s most consistent pitcher, looking like a completely different pitcher from 2020. So far this year, the southpaw has a 1.54 ERA in 11.2 IP. He’s allowed just four hits and a .103 batting average against. He’s also been in control, walking just four batters while striking out 17. When the second-year freshman’s curveball is down in the zone and he can be dominant up in the zone with his fastball, he’s untouchable. He leads FSU with two wins.

Chris Gerard is the Hokies most proven starter with 19 career starts. In 95.1 career IP, he’s accumulated a 2.64 ERA. The southpaw is a strike-thrower, as he walked just four batters in 23 IP last year. So far this year, he has a 3.71 ERA and 19 K’s in 17 IP’s. The LHP will sit in the 89-92 MPH range with his fastball. His best off-speed is a changeup and he also possesses a downhill curveball. Alford, like Andrew Abbott last week, could give the Seminoles fits.

Sunday 3/12, 1:00 PM

Probable Starters: RHP Conor Grady (3.86 ERA, 16.1 IP IP) vs. RHP Anthony Simonelli (5.14 ERA, 14.0 IP)

How to watch: ACC Network Extra

Grady put together the best outing of his four-year FSU career last weekend. The right-handed pitcher threw seven innings of one-run ball. The fastball took a major step up, sitting in the 90-92 MPH range for the length of the outing. He was efficient and attacking the zone with 0 walks. The slider and changeup were both on and consistently in the lower third of the zone. So far this year, he has a 3.86 ERA in a team-high 16.1 IP. He’s struck out 19 batters and allowed a .228 batting average against. When he’s down in the zone, he’ll be hard to square up.

Simonelli has the best raw stuff of the Hokies’ staff. The RHP possesses a FB into the mid 90’s, sitting in the 90-94 MPH range. He also possesses a sharp slider and a changeup in a three-pitch arsenal. Simonelli has been a full-time starter at VT since coming from the JUCO ranks. He’s struggled to start this season, with a 5.14 ERA in 14 IP. He’s walked seven and struck out 14.

Virginia top performers

  • TJ Rumfield transferred to Virginia Tech for the 2021 season after a strong freshman season at Texas Tech. Rumfield has had another start to a season, hitting .364 through the first 11 games. Rumfield puts the ball at a high rate, as he has more homers (three) than strikeouts (two) in 44 at-bats. He leads the team in average, hits, and OBP. He’s also yet to make an error at first base this year.
  • Gavin Cross has shown off a rare power-speed combo so far this year. Combo leads the Hokies with a .674 slugging percentage. He has four doubles, two triples, and two bombs. Cross is also tough to K, with just six in 43 AB’s. Cross has stolen a couple bags as well. He’s hitting .349 with 15 hits to start the year. He leads the team with 16 runs scored.
  • Tanner Schobel has been the run producer for Virginia Tech this year. Schobel has 17 RBI in just 11 games, which is 15th best in the country. Schobel is hitting .333 and has six extra base hits. The freshman has been consistent up the middle at second base with just one error.

Sunday Golds: A Florida State Baseball Podcast’s preview of the weekend:

Mike Martin Jr’s preview of the weekend: