By: Scott Carswell, Jr., ScottJr91@gmail.com
To start the season FSU was a favorite to earn a top eight national seed in the NCAA tournament and make a deep run in Omaha. It had the makings of Coach Mike Martin’s best team in recent memory. After ace pitcher Tyler Holton’s opening day injury the expectations took a hit. But with a 43-17 record, an ACC title and a top eight national seed in hand this team is right where we thought they would be going into regional play.
The biggest storyline going into the season was Martin’s quest for the all-time wins record in NCAA Division-I baseball, which he accomplished on May 5 at Clemson with his 1,976th win. Of course, winning FSU’s first national championship to go along with all those wins would be nice as well.
The biggest injuries to the pitching staff during this season include Holton, who went down with a UCL tear resulting in Tommy John surgery, and Cole Sands, who was sidelined for a month with bicep tendinitis. After Holton went down in the first game you would think the pitching staff would need time to adjust, but this was not the case as the Seminoles got off to a 14-game winning streak led by the young pitching staff and the midweek veteran Andrew Karp.
All year long Martin and pitching coach Mike Bell have been trying to figure out the best roles for newcomers Austin Pollock, CJ Van Eyk, Jonah Scolaro and Conor Grady. After many ups and downs it looks like the pitchers know their roles, as they have been solid and sometimes dominant against very explosive ACC offenses.
As the postseason approaches it looks like Drew Parrish will be the No.1 starter. Parrish has been locked in the last five starts as he has posted 3 wins, a 1.66 ERA and 56 K’s. Karp and Sands will be the other starters with Clayton Kwiatkowski as the first reliever out of the bullpen and Van Eyk as the closer. The starters have been very good this year so it will be up to the bullpen guys to hold the other teams in check for FSU to go to Omaha.
In recent years the Seminoles have been known for their patient approach at the plate. This years team is no different as the ‘Noles are leading the nation in walks once again. For most of the season the run production for the Florida State offense has come from the two through six hitters. Jackson Lueck (15 home runs), Rhett Aplin (.427 on base percentage), ACC Tournament MVP Cal Raleigh (.330 batting average), Steven Wells (.446 on base percentage) and Drew Mendoza lead the offensive assault.
Mendoza was on fire to start the year as he batted .434 in the first 14 games, which included 2 walk-off hits but has tailed off considerably since. Mendoza may have found his swing as he had a solid tournament, which included the game winning hit in the championship game. In the ACC tournament right fielder Steven Wells was inserted into the five hole of the lineup. This move seems to have given the lineup some depth as the Seminoles have pounded out 24 runs in the last four games. The rest of the lineup has been a bit of a mystery especially the lead off spot as “11” has tried using several different lead off hitters.
Players such as middle infielders Mike Salvatore and Rafael Bournigal and outfielders Reese Albert and JC Flowers fill out the rest of the order. With his recent play at shortstop, Salvatore looks like he has staked his claim as the team’s leadoff hitter. FSU has had no issue getting on base this season but has struggled bringing them in. Hitting with runners in scoring position will be a key to this team’s success in the postseason.