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Midseason report: FSU must make push in next month

Florida State’s inconsistency has been on display. The best week, arguably, in a regular season for the Seminoles in program history saw a home win over Florida and a sweep at Miami. A stunning sweep at home by Pittsburgh and a surprising home loss on Tuesday to Jacksonville are among the results that make the long-term outlook cloudy.

No. 18 FSU (15-10, 10-8 ACC) has reached the midpoint of the regular season as the ACC has settled on a 50-game schedule. Next up is a significant three-game series against the league’s best team, at No. 5 Louisville beginning on Friday at 6 p.m. (ACC Network). We’ll take a look at some highs and lows as well as the hitting, pitching and fielding for the Seminoles.

Hitting

The lineup is built to hit long balls and produce big innings. FSU indeed has 36 home runs, including Mat Nelson’s ACC-leading 11. The last Nole to hit 20 home runs in a season: Buster Posey in 2008. Nelson also leads the team in batting average (.321) and RBI (33).

Tyler Martin leads the ACC in walks (24), runs scored (30) and on-base percentage (.509). He has reached base safely in 18 consecutive games, 38 of 39 career starts and is the ideal table-setter. Robby Martin shook off a sluggish start and is hitting .310 with six home runs and 30 RBI.

Logan Lacey has been a pleasant surprise, hitting .314. Elijah Cabell also had an awful strikeout-filled start only to produce five home runs in a six-game stretch. Pitchers like Wyatt Crowell and Parker Messick became valuable two-way players.

FSU also a bottom of the lineup that needs to be more productive. Vince Smith (.175), Ryan Romano (.167) and Jackson Greene (.127) have had moments but not nearly enough of them.

In what is the year of the pitcher, FSU is averaging 6.6 runs per game. But the Seminoles have also struck out 282 times (11.28 per game).

Fielding

FSU has 27 errors in 25 games and a .971 fielding percentage. The errors seem to come in bunches but the Seminoles also went a full weekend at Miami without committing one. Nander De Sedas appears to be a more comfortable fielder but has six errors.

Starting pitching

Parker Messick has been one of the ACC’s best pitchers and is among the nation’s top freshmen. The left-hander ranks fourth nationally with 63 strikeouts and has struck out at least 10 batters in four of his past five starts. In six ACC starts, Messick’s 60 strikeouts, 1.46 ERA and .167 batting average against is the best in the league.

Bryce Hubbart (3-2, 4.13 ERA) went six innings vs. Virginia and Miami but is also coming off short outings against Wake and UNC. Conor Grady (4-1, 3.34 ERA) has been the veteran FSU wants on the mound on Sundays when trying to win a series.

Carson Montgomery (0-1, 3.66 ERA) has filthy stuff but not enough control and hasn’t been able to get through five innings on midweek starts. Jack Anderson was perfect for 6.2 innings vs. Mercer although he got a no decision. It’s possible Martin Jr. could slide Anderson into the midweek role — a game at Florida is Tuesday.

Bullpen

Much like the team, there have been some positives but also shortcomings. Martin Jr. has leaned on Chase Haney (17 appearances, 3.77 ERA), Jonah Scolaro (13 appearances, 1.93 ERA) and Davis Hare (13 appearances, 1.93 ERA). Clayton Kwiatkowski also has a 1.38 ERA, and Hunter Perdue hasn’t allowed an earned run in 9.1 innings. Tyler Ahearn has also had some quality outings and has a 2.89 ERA. Hare has two saves but gave up the game-winning two-run homer in the ninth as JU defeated FSU.

High point

Sunday, March 21 in Coral Gables. FSU recorded a 12-0 shutout of the Hurricanes as FSU finished off a perfect week vs. its biggest rivals. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Low point

Sunday, Feb. 28 in Tallahassee. FSU could have won a Friday game or a Sunday 13-inning game. The Seminoles were thoroughly outmatched in a Saturday 7-2 loss. But regardless the weekend sweep to an underrated Pitt team, which is now ranked 17th by Baseball America, is viewed as a sore spot on the resume.

Outlook

The NCAA hasn’t disclosed many details about the predetermination of regional sites. But the necessity to have COVID testing and protocols set up in various sites around the nation means the NCAA will receive bids next week and announce host sites in May. 

FSU is projected as a No. 2 seed in the Starkville (Miss.) Regional by D1baseball.com. The value of the conference tournaments will be minimal, but the next month of baseball will be under the microscope.

The Seminoles’ RPI is 60th (that’s not a misprint), and illustrates the up-and-down nature of the team. But it also doesn’t line up with a resume that includes series wins over Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami and North Carolina. The road ahead provides the Seminoles opportunities to strengthen the resume as they will play at No. 7 Louisville, No. 12 Florida, No. 15 Georgia Tech and No. 13 Notre Dame. That’s 10 games, unfortunately all on the road, but a few series wins would go a long way for the Seminoles. But FSU has also been very good with a 5-1 road record.

This weekend

FSU’s games at Louisville are Friday at 6 p.m. (ACC Network), Saturday at 1 p.m. (ACC Network Extra) and Sunday at 4 p.m. (ESPNU).

Friday’s starters

FSU: LHP Parker Messick (2-2, 2.52 ERA) vs. UL: LHP Michael Kirian (5-0, 2.12 ERA)

Saturday’s starters

FSU: LHP Bryce Hubbart (3-2, 4.13 ERA) vs. UL: LHP Luke Seed (0-0, 1.50 ERA)

Sunday’s starters

FSU: RHP Conor Grady (4-1, 3.34 ERA) vs. UL: RHP Luke Smith (2-2, 4.74 ERA)