Lordy…. Lordy…. Look who hit 40!!!

The Seminoles have achieved something that used to happen every year. Something that has been elusive for just under five years, well, four years, 11 months, and 13 days. Referring to 40 wins, the last time a Florida State Seminoles baseball team achieved a 40-win season was on June 8th, 2019. 

That all changed on Tuesday night as the Seminoles had to use almost every arm in the rotation to come away with a 12-9 win against Georgia Tech on Day 1 of the ACC Tournament in Charlotte. The Seminoles (40-14) showed why they are one of the most dangerous offenses in the country as Marco Dinges, Daniel Cantu, Drew Faurot, and Jaime Ferrer all hit two-run homers to give the Seminoles an 8-1 lead heading into the seventh. So, it would seem like they would have an easy win on day one. But we would be wrong. 

The top of the seventh would see the Yellow Jackets surprise everyone, stinging the Noles and scoring five runs on seven hits in the bottom of the seventh, narrowing the Seminoles’ lead to just two runs before they even had a chance to bat again.  The Seminoles would utilize almost every arm in the bullpen to secure the win.

This game showed everyone the issue that this team has suffered from throughout this season. Now, this team is vastly improved from last season, don’t get me wrong. However, the one nagging issue has been this pitching staff. Not the entire pitching staff, but the bullpen depth and the quality of arms coming out of that bullpen. In a game where the Seminoles should have cruised to an easy win, being up seven runs in the seventh. I saw the bullpen give up eight runs and forced coach Jarrett to call upon ace lefty Jamie Arnold to save it and move the Seminoles a game closer to the semi-final round. 

The pitching staff as a whole is not insufficient, but they have struggled this season, particularly with the bullpen. The bullpen has given up 174 runs this season. I did not include in this total Cam Leiter, Conner Whittaker, and Ben Barrett’s stats, as they are all coming back from injury. The bullpen as a unit has had issues finding the strike zone, leading to wild pitches, hit-by pitches, and walks. In total, the bullpen has given up 218 extra bases (171 walks, 47 HBP) and has thrown 40 wild pitches in 246.1 innings of work.  

So, to say this is an area I am concerned about is an understatement. The offense will provide the runs needed to make a deep run, but to continue their mission for a trip to Omaha this pitching staff needs to step up big time. The bad thing is it only gets tougher from here, and with Friday’s game against a very dangerous Virginia Cavaliers (41-14) coming up, this pitching staff must find a way to see their form from earlier in the season. 

Virginia is no team to play with, as they dismantled Georgia Tech 13-0 in seven innings on Wednesday. Virginia enters Friday’s matchup as winners of nine of the last eleven games and has scored nine or more runs in six. The Cavaliers are one of 13 teams in the country with 40 wins at the end of the regular season, tied for the second most in the ACC. They have one of the top offenses in the country, ranking in the top 5 in six different categories. They are second in hits (666), third in batting average (.340), fourth in scoring (9.6), fifth in runs scored (521), fifth in doubles (132), and fifth in slugging percentage (.584). It leads the ACC in nearly every offensive category, including home runs with 106.

What makes this team dangerous is they are essentially a version of a healthy Florida State team and it’s up and down their lineup. It starts at leadoff for UVA with junior shortstop Griff O’Ferrall who is the toughest batter in this lineup, as he is the toughest in the ACC to strike out. He has struck out only 20 times in 251 at-bats. He has started every game of his collegiate career (178), all but one of which he’s batted leadoff for the Cavaliers. If Griff O’Ferrall wasn’t enough, you have sophomore second baseman Henry Godbout, who has been UVA’s hottest bat, as of late. In the last ten games, Godbour is batting .432 (18-for-41) with four homers, 11 RBI, and 13 runs scored. 

Then you face freshman first baseman, Henry Ford who bats cleanup for UVA and who ranks 2nd in RBI, fifth in home runs (17), 3rd in hits (75), and 7th in runs (55).

On the mound, the Seminoles should face Saturday starter in right-handed grad transfer Joseph Savino who is 2-1 on the season with a 2.00 era. Savino was injured for most of the season but since returning has only allowed four runs (two earned) on 15 hits, while striking out eleven. Savino is primarily a sinker guy, working in the upper 80s and up to right around 90 mph, at times, and filling up the strike zone. He’s command-oriented with a solid slider and changeup combination, and in his six appearances, opponents are batting .224 against him. 

Friday will honestly be this team’s best measuring stick to see if they have what it takes to make a deep run in postseason play and hopefully make it back to Omaha. Now with the returning arms of Ben Barrett and Conner Whittaker, who have been injured up until recently, this should provide the Seminoles with quality arms to use in regional and in super regional play. But no matter what the outcome, at the end of the day, this team is vastly improved from last season when they didn’t even make it to the ACC conference tournament. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!

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