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Notes: A top-20 series between old friends with FSU-ND

Two Tallahassee boys will be leading Florida State and Notre Dame in a series this weekend between a pair of top-20 teams.

The Seminoles (23-16, 15-12 ACC) are in a more unusual spot, needing a series win to strengthen the argument that they are worthy of a regional bid when those are announced on Monday. Mike Martin Jr. and the Seminoles have secured series wins over Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Boston College and Georgia Tech but a few that slipped away — a chance to win a second game against Louisville and Wake Forest as well as the early sweep vs. Pittsburgh — are part of the inconsistent resume.

Link Jarrett, who played at FSU from 1991-94 and was a roommate of Martin Jr.’s, spent time as an assistant coach at Mercer, East Carolina and Auburn before landing his first job at UNC Greensboro in 2013. He led the Spartans to four straight seasons with 34 or more wins from 2016-19 before jumping to Notre Dame in 2020.

Notre Dame (24-8, 21-8) is viewed by one poll as the No. 2 team and has essentially locked up a regional host. The Irish are coming off a sweep of North Carolina by scoring 36 runs and pounding out 36 hits in the final two games.

“I just like the focus on the guys and pitch by pitch and defensive awareness and thinking on the field is really what the toughness is when you break it down,” Jarrett told the media after Sunday’s sweep. “And I think we’ve been fairly consistent with that.”

Martin Jr. said he has been impressed with what his teammate has accomplished in his second season in South Bend.

“Link’s a very intelligent guy that works hard and understands our game of college baseball,” Martin Jr. said. “I knew last year he liked his guys. He said, ‘We got some guys that I think are athletic enough. They just haven’t been taught correctly.’ And it really felt like they could do something.”

Among the other Noles in the ACC are Pittsburgh coach Mike Bell, Georgia Tech hitting coach James Ramsey and NC State associate head coach Chris Hart (at FSU from 1999-2003).

The FSU-ND series begins Friday at 6 p.m. The teams will play Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. (note the time changes for weekend games). All three games will air on the ACC Network.

Let’s take a look at some regional projections and notes on the FSU-Notre Dame series:

Notre Dame is comfortably a regional host and Louisville is also in position to grab a regional host, although it would be a much lower national seed if it is one of the 16 selected teams. Pittsburgh is also a candidate.

FSU has been projected to be on the road as a No. 2 seed in a regional at an SEC school the last three weeks, with D1baseball.com projecting the Seminoles to Starkville, Nashville and now Gainesville. The thought of a regional at Florida may not seem appealing considering the FSU-UF history of Super Regionals still fresh in the memory banks. The Gators (31-13) are coming off a series win over No. 2 Vanderbilt. 

FSU left-hander Parker Messick is second in the ACC in ERA (2.45) and strikeouts (99) and has a 5-2 record. He has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his ACC starts.

Catcher Matheu Nelson leads the nation with 20 home runs. He has done that in 37 games, while a trio of players are tied for second in the nation at 16 home runs (and each has played 41 or more games). Nelson is tied with Jace Jung of Texas Tech for the national lead with 57 RBI (Jung has played 42 games). 

Notre Dame’s lineup has five players who are hitting .298 or better. Niko Kavadas leads the Irish in home runs (15) and RBI (43). Carter Putz leads ND in batting average (.349) and doubles (nine).

The Irish take on a different philosophy with the pitching staff as starters sometimes don’t go deep into games. Jarrett clearly likes to adapt for matchups and to keep an opponent from getting a good read on a starter by his third time in the batter’s box. None of them give in much from the standpoint of allowing walks. Notre Dame’s top arm is RHP Tanner Kohlhepp (7-1, 2.34 ERA). He has 42 strikeouts and 12 walks in 42.1 innings. LHP John M Bertrand (5-1, 3.38 ERA) has 40 strikeouts in 58.2 innings. LHP Aidan Tyrell (2-1, 3.38 ERA) has 24 strikeouts in 32 innings. Left-handers Joe Sheridan (1-2, 5.45 ERA) and Will Mercer (1-1, 5.97 ERA) are two others to watch.

FSU’s coaches have not made a determination on whether left-handed reliever Clayton Kwiatkowski will be able to pitch this weekend. Martin Jr. said Kwiatkowski had one more throwing session before they made a call on his availability. Isaiah Perry, who was hit in the jaw by a pitch a few weeks ago, is improving and will travel. Martin Jr. said there is a “mental hump,” a reference to getting back in the box against live pitching.

Without Kwiatkowski, the FSU bullpen was quite good in the Troy series. The relievers tossed 9.1 innings and did not give up an earned run (one unearned). They had 10 strikeouts and gave up just two walks.

Freshman left-hander Ross Dunn has not given up an earned run in his last seven outings, a stretch of 7.1 innings where he has nine strikeouts and allowed just two walks.

Jack Anderson has a 37-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season. All three of Anderson’s walks came in his first appearance and he has 35 strikeouts since then. Anderson earned his first two saves last weekend against Troy.

Martin Jr. said Notre Dame’s field is all artificial turf and plays slow compared to faster fields like Louisville and Virginia Tech.

The weather forecast is for colder weather, with a low on Friday of 33 and a low on Saturday of 40. “The first number is 4, we’re ok,” Martin Jr. said. “That first number is a 3, these Florida boys don’t do so good in it. Adrenaline will take care of the cold.”

The Seminoles are 19-9 all-time against the Irish and have won five of six series against Notre Dame since joining the league before the 2014 season.

FSU’s 2021 stats can be viewed here.