‘Noles Look To Rebound In Regional

Florida State looks to rebound from an 0-4 week to close the season.
Florida State looks to rebound from an 0-4 week to close the season.

No. 1 Florida State (44-15, 20-11 ACC, RPI 8)

There was some concern that the Seminoles might not get a national seed after they went 0-4 in the last week of the regular season. Their entire body of work was enough to convince the selection committee that Florida State merited the seventh seed in the tournament, so now it is FSU’s turn to back it up.

Florida State is second in the ACC in walks (320) and lead the conference in hit batters (93). Yes, there are some good bats in the lineup, like freshman DJ Stewart (.348 average, 22 doubles, .534 slugging) or the hard-hitting Marcus Davis and Stephen McGee (17 combined home runs). The disciplined approach the team takes to hitting makes every player in the lineup is a threat to find a way on base, which can make things hairy for opposing pitchers.

Then there is Florida State’s pitching. Scott Sitz touts a 1.73 earned run average and the best facial hair in the ACC. Luke Weaver has 100 strikeouts after an incredible duel with Virginia Tech’s Brad Markey during the ACC Tournament.

Robby Coles allowed his first two home runs of the season during Florida State’s loss to Georgia Tech in Durham. He bounced back with 1 2/3 innings of shutout relief against Virginia during their 12 inning game, so there doesn’t appear to be any concern regarding the closer’s mentality. Nor should anyone read too much into the four losses last week, as they came against some of the ACC’s stiffest competition.

No. 4 Savannah State (33-20, 17-7 MEAC, RPI 180)

The Tigers enter Tallahassee after claiming the MEAC Conference Championship. They haven’t been tested very often by top teams this season, with a 2-4 record against RPI Top 100 programs. However, junior pitcher Kyle McGowin ensures that Savannah State will at least force Florida State to take their opening game seriously.

Savannah State is 157th in Division I in batting average (.271) and 193rd in slugging percentage (.352), This forces the Tigers to be active on the basepaths, where they have 127 steals (tied for 6th in Division I) and have only been caught 30 times. Catchers will have to be on their toes against SSU, with six Tigers in the lineup carrying double-digit steal totals into the weekend.

Golden Spikes semifinalist McGowin will also garner plenty of attention. The right-hander is third in the nation in strikeouts, with 128 to his credit in 115 1/3 innings of work. His ERA is 1.33, allowing just 17 earned runs in 16 appearances. McGowin believes he is up to the task, telling a Tallahassee TV station that Florida State is “…no better than us,” Because that worked well for Jordan Lynch.

After McGowin, however, there’s not much going for the Savannah State pitching staff. Remove McGowin’s stats, and the Tigers have a 6.02 ERA and a .297 opposing batting average. They might spring the upset if the junior is the real deal rather than the beneficiary of weak opposition, but they’ll be hard-pressed to maintain that success through the weekend.

No. 3 Troy (40-18, 20-10 Sun Belt, RPI 41)

Earlier this season, Troy lost 11-2 to Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The two teams will get a rematch to begin play in Tallahassee, as the Trojans earned an at-large bid from the Sun Belt to join this year’s field of 64.

The Trojans are batting .295 as a team, with 144 doubles and 52 home runs for a .463 slugging percentage (ninth in the nation). Junior Trae Santos has 16 of those blasts, tying him for seventh in Division I, while Danny Collins has 11 homers and 24 doubles. Collins is batting .363, falling just shy of Logan Pierce’s .373 for best average on the team. Needless to say, Troy does not lack offensive weapons.

While Troy’s earned run average (4.06) is not overly impressive, they can overwhelm you with an abundance of strikeouts, averaging 8.7 per game (4th in the nation). Trojan starters Shane McCain and Tanner Hicks have 99 and 88 strikeouts, respectively, while reliever Nate Hill has 85 in 68 1/3 innings.

Thus, Troy is 15th in run differential, averaging 7.3 runs per game while allowing 4.4. The Trojans are also 11-9 against RPI top 100 teams. However, they have lost five of their last seven games after a 1-2 showing in the Sun Belt Tournament. Can the Trojans turn it around?

No. 2 Alabama (34-26, 14-15 SEC, RPI 25)

Alabama finished seventh in the SEC, posting a conference mark just below .500. It’s still good enough to make the NCAA Tournament when you’re in a tough conference. Interestingly enough, the Crimson Tide has alternated wins and losses over the last ten games. So beat Troy, lose to Florida/Savannah State, win a loser’s bracket game, lose to Florida/Savannah State again?

Alabama is 229th in batting average (.257). The starter with the best average is freshman Mikey White, who is batting .286 with 11 doubles. The team does have 25 home runs (six apiece from Brett Booth and Austen Smith), so they aren’t incapable of scoring. However, runs will come at a premium for the Tide.

In the SEC Alabama’s 3.66 ERA is good for just 10th in the conference. While the Tide lack the dominant ace that some teams have, there are several solid arms at their disposal. Senior Charley Sullivan has struck out 75 batters while posting a 3.56 ERA. Closer Ray Castillo has 11 saves and 41 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings. Fellow relievers Keaton Haack, Tucker Hawley, and Jay Shaw may not have as many “K’s” to their credit, but they limit opposing hitters to a .221 batting average.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.


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