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Florida State baseball weekend preview: 3/5-3/7 vs. #16 Virginia

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FSU’s offense set to face one of best weekend rotations in the country.

FSU sports information

Florida State baseball (2-4, 0-3) will look to bounce back this weekend against no. 16 Virginia (5-3, 1-2 ACC). The Seminoles were swept in their opening weekend series by Pittsburgh. The sweep was the first time FSU had been swept at home since 2017. The Seminoles were also shut out in game one of the series in a 1-0 loss, the first time that Florida State was shut out since their loss to Michigan in the 2019 College World Series. It won’t get any easier this weekend for FSU, as UVA boasts one of the best pitching staffs in the country.

After week one, the Seminoles were ranked in every poll and top-50 in the country in five offensive categories. Heading into the UVA series, the ‘Noles aren’t ranked in any pole and are only in the top fifty in walks, with 42 as a team. Florida State has ran into an early season slump with a team batting average of just .229. Four of FSU’s nine qualified hitters are hitting below .240. The Seminoles are dead last in the ACC in batting average and second-to-last with 48 hits.

Florida State pitchers still haven’t shown their best stuff. The Seminoles haven’t executed enough under their AAA34K (any pitch, any where, any time, three pitches for strikes) philosophy. FSU has gotten ahead of hitters, but struggled to put them away. FSU is ranked 204th in the nation and last in the ACC with 6.36 walks allowed per nine innings. But Florida State’s pitchers have also shown off their powerful stuff, striking out 11.6 batters per nine. FSU hitters will start to show their true selves if they attack the zone up in the count, rather than nibbling around the zone and trying to make perfect pitches.

FSU’s defense has been the biggest positive of the season so far. The Seminoles have posted a .972 fielding percentage with seven errors in six games and had two error-free games last weekend. It took the ‘Noles 16 games to produce an errorless game in 2020. Through two weeks last season, FSU had a .935 fielding percentage with 17 errors. Nander De Sedas’ defensive strides have given FSU’s defense a whole new identity. De Sedas had seven errors through seven games in 2021. He has just one error so far this season.

Virginia’s offense has also gotten off to a slow start in 2021. The Cavs are hitting .242 with a on-base percentage of .344. UVA has just three homers through eight games. Four of Virginia’s starters have averages below .220. The Cavaliers will look to put the ball in play, striking out 8.25 times per game, and put pressure on opposing defenses. UVA is 27th in the nation with 12 steals and have been thrown out just twice. Virginia has scored four or less in five of eight games this year.

On the mound, the Cavaliers are as good as it gets. All three weekend arms have thrown 90+ innings in their UVA careers. Through 23.2 IP, the starters have given up six runs. Virginia is 21st in the country with a 2.57 ERA, 30th with a 6.43 hits allowed per nine, 17th with 12.1 K/9, and 33rd with a 1.14 WHIP. They’ve allowed an opponent batting average of .199. The Cavaliers have posted a .975 fielding percentage through eight games and had a .962 FLD% in 2020.

FSU is 57-30 all-time against the Cavaliers. The Seminoles took two of three from UVA in Charlottesville the last time the two teams met up.

Friday 3/5, 6:00 PM

Probable Starters: LHP Andrew Abbott (2.13 ERA, 12.2 IP) vs. LHP Parker Messick (7.36 ERA, 7.1 IP)

How to watch: ACC Network Extra

After a tough opening day, Messick bounced back in a big way last Friday. The southpaw posted a final line of 5.0 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 9 K, and 1 ER. Despite being much better, he still wasn’t his best or close to what FSU’s pitching staff has come to expect from him. In three preseason outings leading up to the season, Messick walked just one batter. The second-year freshman is at his best when he’s attacking the zone with four pitches for strikes. His curveball took a major step forward in his last outing, as he was able to drop it in for strikes whenever he wanted. His velocities also ticked up, sitting in the 92-94 MPH range and touching 95 MPH in five innings of work. If he can keep the stuff up and find the zone with more consistency, Messick’s in store for a big year.

After three strong years in the UVA pen, Abbott has made a quick and easy transition to the Friday-night role for the Cavaliers. Through two games, Abbott has given up three earned runs in 12.2 IP. He’s walked just two batters and struck out 15. The southpaw has both command and swing-and-miss in his arsenal. In 121 career innings, Abbott has posted a 3.12 ERA and a 13.4 K/9. The lefty works with a low to mid-90’s fastball. The breaking ball, a hard slurve in the high-70’s, is Abbott’s out-pitch. He’ll use it to both righties and lefties for most of his swing-and-miss. He also possesses a low 80’s changeup. Abbott has faced the ‘Noles twice, giving up three earned runs in 5.2 IP.

Saturday 3/6, 2:00 PM

Probable Starters: RHP Griff McGarry (3.00 ERA, 9.0 IP) vs. LHP Bryce Hubbart (3.18 ERA, 5.2 IP)

How to watch: ACC Network Extra

Hubbart will make the move to the weekend rotation on Saturday after a dominant outing last Sunday. The southpaw has always possessed the stuff to be dominant, but was held back by control issues. When he missed, the misses were big. And when he found the zone, it often found the middle third. This season, he’s looked like a completely different pitcher. Hubbart has walked only two batters through 5.2 IP and struck out 11 batters. The fastball has been up to 95 and sits in the 92-94 MPH range. His out-pitch is a big, power curveball which is knee-buckling against both right and left-handed hitters. Hubbart was in the mix for the weekend rotation in the preseason and was built up as a starter, so he shouldn’t have a pitch limit this weekend.

McGarry could make an argument for the best swing-and-miss stuff in college baseball. The right-handed pitcher has a mid-90’s fastball and can reach back for upper 90’s at time. The pitch has well-above average spin rates, which gives it a rising effect. He also possesses a hammer curveball in the low-80’s which is unfair off the riding fastball. McGarry’s struggles come from his command, as he had walked 73 batters in 73.1 innings between 2019 and 2020. So far the command issues have been down and the strikeout numbers continue to rise. He’s given up three earned runs and five walks while striking out 18 batters in nine innings. McGarry gave FSU fits in 2019, tossing five scoreless innings while giving up just one hit and striking out eight.

Sunday 3/7, 1:00 PM

Probable Starters: RHP Mike Vasil (0.00 ERA, 12.0 IP) vs. RHP Conor Grady (4.82 ERA, 9.1 IP)

How to watch: ACC Network Extra

Grady was not his best last week, but still gave FSU a chance to win, as he seemingly always does. The veteran never loses his composure and battles through outings, even when he doesn’t have his stuff. He struggled to stay down in the zone and away from hard contact last Sunday. The RHP gave up four extra base hits, including a two-run homer, in four-plus innings. But he came up with timely strikeouts in big moments to keep the game close after a crooked number in the first inning. Grady needs to get back to his normal self with his sinking fastball low in the strike zone early in counts, which gives him the ability to attack with two plus off-speed pitches.

Like FSU, the Cavaliers have a veteran arm in the Sunday starter role. Vasil has been the best of the bunch so far this season. He’s yet to give up an earned run or a walk through 12 innings. He’s also posted a batting average against of .163. After coming in as a top recruit, he struggled in 2019 with a 5.93 ERA. Vasil bounced back last year with a 2.45 ERA in four starts. The RHP possesses a low to mid-90’s fastball with a sharp downhill breaker. He also has an effective changeup in his back pocket. FSU gave Vasil a tough time in his freshman season. The ‘Noles scored eight runs off the RHP in 4.1 IP with nine hits (three extra-base hits) and four walks.

Virginia top performers

  • Zack Gelof is Virginia’s biggest threat in the lineup. The junior has started every game since he reached campus and simply raked. In 56 games as a freshman he hit .313. In the shortened 2020 season he hit .349. And he’s started this season with 11 hits in just 29 at-bats. The Cavalier’s three-hole hitter has reached base in every game and possesses a .500 OBP. He also has five extra base hits, including one homer. Gelof is one of many Cavaliers who will bring wheels to the base paths. He’s got three steals in three attempts this season.
  • Nic Kent is the energizer bunny for the Cavaliers. As Kent goes, UVA goes. Through eight games, the sophomore already has five multi-hit games. He’s struck out just four times in 36 plate appearances. Kent hit .328 last season and had six steals in six attempts. He already has four steals in four tries this season. The biggest key for FSU’s pitching staff this weekend will be keeping the pesky middle infielder off the base paths.
  • Logan Michaels is the Cavaliers’ leader in the lineup and behind the plate. The graduate student won UVA’s most valuable player award last season. After hitting .318 in 2020, he’s off to another good start with a .308 average. Michaels is another guy who puts the ball in play at a high rate. He’s earned twice as many free passes as walks so far this year.

FSU headlines to watch for

Can Florida State find timely hits?

FSU’s offense simply couldn’t find a clutch hit in a big moment last weekend. The Seminoles were 2-30 with two outs, struck out 47 times, and left 37 runners on base. Despite being swept, the ‘Noles were two or three hits away from winning the series. The ‘Noles have to make productive outs and put the ball in play in big situations. Mike Martin Jr. also has to do a better job of manufacturing pressure throughout games.

Injury status of Tyler Martin and Matheu Nelson

Mike Martin Jr. announced yesterday that both Tyler Martin and Matheu Nelson will be game time decisions this weekend. Martin and Nelson are arguably the two most important position players for FSU. Martin is the table-setter for the big bats in the lineup. He’s top fifty in the nation in both OBP and AVG. Nelson is one of the Seminoles’ vocal leaders and has come through in big moments for his entire FSU career. He also has full command of the entire pitching staff. Nelson is third in the nation with three homers. The statuses of the key players could have a lot to do with the outcome of the weekend.

FSU’s early consistency on the infield

As mentioned above, Florida State’s infield defense has been their biggest positive so far this year. The consistency on the infield has kept the Seminoles in games. They’ve made the routine plays, tough plays, and turned nearly every double play opportunities. For FSU to win this series, it’s going to take even more of that consistency. The three keys for the Seminoles this weekend are throw strikes, make routine plays, and produce timely hits.

For more on the upcoming series, listen to the latest episode of Sunday Golds: A Florida State Baseball Podcast:

For Mike Martin Jr.’s preview of the series, see below: