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No. 18 Florida State baseball vs. No. 21 North Carolina: Series preview, how-to-watch, game thread

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Mike Martin Jr. facing UNC for the first time as head coach.

Kameron Simmons

Florida State baseball (13-8, 8-7 ACC) will take on No. 21 North Carolina (13-10, 8-7 ACC) this weekend. Both teams are looking for bounce-back weekends. FSU dropped their series to wake last weekend despite taking game one in a pitcher’s duel. The Tar Heels were swept by NC State and have lost four straight games. Scott Forbes, long-time assistant coach in Chapel Hill, is in his first season as head coach after replacing long-time head coach Mike Fox. The Seminoles are coming off a mid-week win over the Mercer Bears, as the pitching staff bounced back with a dazzling performance from Jack Anderson.

The ‘Noles are currently third in the ACC’s Atlantic Division with an 8-7 conference record. The Heels are third in the Coastal with the same conference record. Both teams are ranked in the top 25 of Baseball America’s rankings.

Florida State’s offense has been hot as of late. The Seminoles posted their largest inning of the season on Wednesday, posting an eight-run seventh inning in which they batted 12. As a team, FSU is hitting .252 with a .369 on-base percentage. FSU is 18th in the country with 31 homers and 62nd with 6.9 runs per game. Matheu Nelson has led the way for the Seminoles. The starting catcher is third in the country with 10 homers and 18th with a .814 slugging percentage. Tyler Martin is 15th in the country with 27 runs and seventh with 22 walks.

The ‘Noles had their worst pitching performance of the season last weekend, but are still the tops staff in the ACC. FSU leads the conference with a 3.17 ERA, 6.67 H/9, 12 K/9, and a 1.18 WHIP. Out of the pen, Hunter Perdue, Clayton Kwiatkowski, Davis Hare, and Jonah Scolaro have allowed just six earned runs in 42.1 IP. The Seminoles are allowing a .202 average against. FSU’s staff has been aided by strong defense. Florida State is fielding at a .972 clip and has posted a .975 FLD% in conference play.

FSU was without Nelson (thumb), starting third baseman Logan Lacey (hamstring), and starting shortstop Nander De Sedas (oblique) on Wednesday. Eight of Florida State’s nine projected starters have missed at least one game with injury. Robby Martin is the only Seminole to start all 21 games this year. In terms of short term and long term impact, FSU’s injury bug will be a headline to follow for FSU this weekend.

North Carolina has similar numbers to Florida State at the plate. The Tar Heels, like FSU, rely on their power. The Tar Heels are hitting .255 with a .354 OBP. They have a .440 slugging percentage with 32 homers in 23 games. They’ve struggled some in ACC play, with a .234 average against conference teams. In the field, the Heels are fundamentally sound, posting a .978 FLD%. On the mound, UNC has a team ERA of 4.49. They have allowed a .237 average against.

Florida State leads the all-time series 70-34 over the Tar Heels. This will be the first time that Mike Martin, Jr. has faced North Carolina as head coach. FSU last played UNC in 2018, taking two of three games in Chapel Hill.

Friday 4/2, 6:00 PM

Probable Starters: RHP Austin Love (3.75 ERA, 36.0 IP) vs. LHP Parker Messick (2.73 ERA, 33.0 IP)

How to watch: ACC Network Extra

Parker Messick has been dominant in conference play. In five ACC starts, Messick has posted a 1.47 ERA and .167 average against in 30.2 IP. He’s also struck out 48 hitters and allowed just one homer. His only ACC loss came in a 1-0 game. The southpaw is 11th in the country with 51 strikeouts on a 13.91 K/9. Messick still hasn’t been his best with the fastball command, as he walked three hitters in his last outing. The Plant City native is at his very best when he’s spotting his fastball down in the zone. Every time he toes the rubber, he gives the Seminoles a chance to win due to his bulldog mentality and ability to work from behind in the count with his plus off-speed pitches.

Austin Love was one of the best pitchers in the conference until he got touched up last week. Love had a 2.25 entering his start vs. NC State, but seven ER in four IP rose the season average to 3.75. The big RHP, standing at 6’3 and 235 pounds, will sit in the 92-93 MPH range with his fastball. He can also run it up to 95 early in the game. Love can mix in two effective off-speed pitches, with a sharp slider and a plus changeup. He’s allowed a .215 average against and struck out 40 batters in 36 innings of work.

Saturday 4/3, 2:00 PM

Probable Starters: RHP Max Alba (5.81 ERA, 26.1 IP) vs. LHP Bryce Hubbart (4.01 ERA, 24.2 IP)

How to watch: ACC Network Extra

Sunday 4/4, 12:00 PM

Probable Starters: RHP Max Carlson (4.56 ERA, 25.2 IP) vs. RHP Conor Grady (4.18 ERA, 28.0 IP)

How to watch: ACC Network

UNC top performers

  • Justice Thompson is in his first year at UNC and has been the star of the show. Thompson has stolen home, robbed homers, and hit no-doubt homers. Thompson presents a rare power-speed combo. The JUCO-transfer leads the team with a .341 average. He also leads the team with 11 stolen bases and 24 runs. He’s slugged four homers and posted a .534 SLG% through 23 games. Thompson will start in center field and likely hit second for Forbes.
  • Caleb Roberts has been the main thumper and run producer for the Tar Heels. Roberts leads the team with a .605 SLG% and six homers. He’s also second on the team with a .296 average, .438 OBP, and 18 RBI. Roberts has five more free passes than strikeouts this season. Roberts could also be active on the base paths, as he’s stolen three bases in four attempts.
  • Angel Zarate has been another producer at the top of the order for Forbes. The redshirt sophomore is third on the team with a .293 average and second with 26 hits. He also is a high-contact hitter, with more free passes than strikeouts this season. Zarate is another active baserunner, as he’s attempted seven stolen bases, but been thrown out four times. He has three homers and 16 RBI.

We’ll update this article with FSU’s lineup when it becomes available.

UPDATE, 5:15 PM

Matheu Nelson, Logan Lacey, and Nander De Sedas are all back in FSU’s lineup tonight.

Sunday Golds: A Florida State Baseball Podcast’s preview of the weekend, ft. a recap of the Wake and Mercer games:

First pitch of game one is scheduled for 6:00 PM from Dick Howser. The game will be broadcasted on ACC Network extra. We will have updates in the game thread below, and I’ll have updates on my twitter as well (@brettpn).