The Florida State baseball team played loose. And like it had nothing to lose.
Expect that mindset to continue this weekend as the Seminoles travel to LSU for a best-of-three Super Regional beginning on Saturday.
“I think we just played loose and relaxed and just had fun out there,” center fielder-closer J.C. Flowers said. “And the rest took care of itself.”
FSU took care of business in Athens, Ga., putting up 10 or more runs in every game en route to a 3-0 weekend that culminated in a knockout punch of No. 4 national seed Georgia. Next up on FSU’s tour of the SEC is another heavyweight, No. 13 national seed LSU (40-24). The FSU-LSU winner advances to the College World Series.
LSU has a collection of hitters, who produced 31 runs in the regional, as well as some quality arms. Among the LSU stars who were drafted this week: Shortstop Josh Smith (Yankees, second round), center fielder Zach Watson (Orioles, third round), right-hander Zack Hess (Tigers, seventh round), right-hander Todd Peterson (Nationals, seventh round) and outfielder Antoine Duplantis (Mets, 12th round).
Smith leads LSU in batting average (.346) and runs (68), while also hitting nine home runs. Duplantis leads the Tigers in RBI (64) and is second in batting average (.319) and home runs (11). Watson is not far behind (.310, 7 HR, 52 runs).
Hess (4-5, 82 strikeouts in 70 innings) is among LSU’s top starters, and Peterson (5-2, 3.83 ERA) is a top reliever.
FSU has played in some difficult venues but few are quite like LSU’s Alex Box Stadium, which hosted nearly 400,000 fans in 2018 (an average of 10,786 per game). It’s a crowded house but also a lively one.
“We know that LSU is a very good baseball team,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “I happen to feel we’re a very good baseball team. We’re excited to still be playing.”
And while it can be an intimidating place to play, LSU is not nearly undefeated at home. The Tigers are 30-8 in Baton Rouge this season.
FSU has played in some difficult environments through the years, especially at rivals like Florida, Clemson and Miami.
“I don’t know how you prepare for it,” Martin said. “Their fans are really impressive. They show up in droves. It’s a mentality of us against them. They certainly outnumber us. But we’re excited about being put in that environment because I think our guys are not the least bit intimidated but yet it will be something many have never experienced.”
Rotation for FSU is set: Martin said that FSU will go with the same rotation for the Super Regionals, beginning with left-hander Drew Parrish (8-5, 5.07 ERA, 112 strikeouts in 81.2 innings) on Saturday and right-hander C.J. Van Eyk (10-3, 3.71 ERA, 115 strikeouts in 87.1 innings) on Sunday. If necessary, FSU would go with right-hander Conor Gray (9-5, 3.64 ERA, 67 strikeouts in 59.1 innings) on Monday.
LSU’s rotation is not certain. The Tigers opened the regionals with freshman right-hander Landon Marceaux, who allowed just one run in the regional-opening win over Stony Brook. Marceaux is 5-2 with a 4.64 ERA this season. The Tigers will also likely throw right-handers Cole Henry and Eric Walker.
Weather note: The Baton Rouge, La., area is expected to get thunderstorms the next few days, there’s an 80 percent chance of rain on Thursday and Friday, but the forecast improves a little over the weekend. There’s just a 20 percent chance of rain on Saturday but a 60 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms on Sunday. Monday clears up with a 10 percent chance of rain.
“Just hope that the weather holds up,” Martin said.