5 Things to Know: Florida State vs Tennesse

Florida State baseball is making its 24th College World Series appearance following an impressive turnaround season. However, what happens next in Omaha will define their success, or at least that’s what head coach Link Jarrett thinks. In a recent press conference, he said that putting a trophy in the cabinet after so many missed opportunities is what really matters to him. (see below)

The Noles will have their work cut out as they face the number 1 national seed Tennessee Volunteers to open things up. I had the opportunity to sit down with Michael from The Vol Fanatics Show to gain insight into this Volunteers team. So, let’s look at what’s in store for the Noles ahead of their prime-time showdown.

1) Tennessee is the #1 seed for a reason, but FSU is no slouch.

The Vols enter the CWS with an impressive 55-12 record and are the only team that currently has over 50 wins this season. Tennessee has cracked the 50-win mark in 3 of the last 4 seasons, the only team in college baseball to do so in the same period.

They reached that mark this year against a top-25 schedule (SOS: 24th). They have notable series wins over Georgia, LSU, Kentucky, Florida, Vandy, and S. Carolina. They also have single-game wins over Miss. State, Kansas State, Texas A&M, and Southern Miss. The Vols have won a whopping twenty one Quad 1 games. However, it is worth nothing their non-conference strength of schedule ranking was 132nd compared to Florida State’s at 38th.

The Seminoles may have struggled in the past few years, but they have found their footing in 2024. FSU has won 47 games this season, the most since 2013, which they also did against a top-25 schedule (SOS: 23rd). The Seminoles have won nine Quad 1 games with notable series wins over Florida, Duke, and Georgia Tech. They also racked up quality wins over UCF, UConn, UVA, NCST, and Wake Forest. These are two really good teams that are about to face off!

2) Tony Vitello is good. But so is Link Jarrett.

Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello took over a struggling Vols program that hadn’t won 40 games or made a postseason appearance since 2005. Since taking the reins in 2018, the “Tony-V” led Volunteers have won 40+ games and made the postseason in 5 out of 7 years. (The Vols only played 17 games during the 2020 COVID season finishing 15-2 and no postseason was held).

He’s led the Vols to a College World Series appearance in 3 of the past 4 seasons. His success in Knoxville earned him the Perfect Game National Coach of the Year honors in back-to-back seasons (2021 & 2022).

The Seminoles have a proven leader of their own. Link Jarrett led the Notre Dame baseball program to back-to-back postseason appearances in both of his seasons as head coach. He led the Irish to a Super Regional in 2021 and the College World Series in 2022, the program’s first since 2002. During that 2022 run, Link Jarrett’s Irish team upset the Tony Vitello-led Volunteers in the Knoxville Super Regional. It was an impressive feat considering that Vols team had a 58-9 record and was the #1 ranked team in the country. Link earned the ACC and D1 Baseball Coach of the Year honors at Notre Dame in 2021.

Despite having a tough first year in his return to FSU, he’s now got the Seminoles program rolling again with the most wins (47) in over a decade and the first CWS appearance since Mike Martin’s final run in 2019. Does Link have the formula to pull off the upset again? This FSU team is statistically better than the Notre Dame team that he beat Tennessee with in 2022. This is a matchup of two of the best coaches in the sport, and they have a little history, too.

3) These are two great offenses

This game has the potential to be a fireworks show with two offenses that are as dangerous as they come. Both teams rank in the top 10 in hits, home runs, scoring, and scoring margin.

There is power across the entirety of both lineups and the top 5 guys in the batting order on either side can do significant damage. The Vols have hit an eye-popping 173 home runs this season with 8 guys in double-digits. However, the Noles also have plenty of power with 123 homers and 5 guys in double-digits. The Vols offense is led by Jr. infielder Christian Moore, who won the SEC triple crown this season and currently holds a batting average of .375 with 101 hits, 32 home runs, and 71 RBI.

They are pretty close in the numbers each team has put up. Here is a comparison chart covering a few main categories. As you’ll see, each team may have a slight edge here or there, but overall, these offenses are close on paper.

4) A pitching matchup for the ages

A lot will be said about the offenses in this game, but it may end up being the battle on the mound that decides the outcome. One advantage Florida State has over just about every team in college baseball is their left-handed ace Jamie Arnold, who will start against the Vols. Arnold has been one of the best Pitchers in all of college baseball this season.

He’s put in over 100 innings of work and currently ranks top-20 in ERA, top-10 in strikeout-to-walk ratio, top-5 in victories, and third overall in strikeouts with 155. This will be a tough test against an explosive Tennessee offense, but if FSU is going to pull the upset and stay in the winner’s bracket, it feels like Arnold must be on the mound, and for most of the game.

Tennessee will follow their normal weekend rotation with Chris Stamos getting the start on the bump. Michael from The Vol Fanatics Show told me their ace is actually Junior RHP A.J. Causey, who we expect to see in this game. However, he’s told the coaching staff that he feels more comfortable coming out of the bullpen. Stamos, a Grad Sr. LHP, typically opens things up for Causey as their 1-2 punch. Sometimes that means going 3 outs or 3 innings depending on how it goes.

Stamos has a 4.02 ERA over 31.1 innings of work. He carries a 3-0 record with 35 Ks to 15 walks and has allowed an opponent batting average of just .193 this season. Stamos went 1.1 innings against Evansville but faced just three batters before getting the hook against Northern Kentucky in the regional.

AJ Causey is a sophomore right-hander who has been Tennessee’s version of Jamie Arnold. He has a 3.77 ERA over 86 innings with 117 Ks to only 19 walks. Causey has a 13-3 record and allowed a .247 opponent batting average this season. Stamos will be the icebreaker, but the Arnold-Causey matchup will be one for the ages.

Additional defensive stats

5) Each team wins if _____

FSU: I posed this question to Michael, and he told me it’s all about getting Tennessee to chase. This is why the day that Jamie Arnold has will be a huge factor in FSU’s ability to get the win. When looking at the games Tennessee lost, they were held to 5 runs or less in 9 of the 12 losses, and 6 or less in 10 of the 12. 

If Jamie Arnold and the Noles’ defense can find a way to hold the Volunteers’ potent offense to around 6 runs or less, they have a good chance of pulling the upset. FSU has averaged 9 runs per game this season and scored double-digit runs in the last three games including a 24-run explosion against UConn. It’s going to require a good day from both sides of the ball, but FSU can win this game. Personally, I feel that FSU is the most overlooked team in this tournament and can beat anyone they face. The good new for FSU is that it feels like the pressure to win primarily falls on Tennessee. If FSU can come out swinging and force Tennessee to press, the Noles can use that to their advantage.

UT: For Tennessee to take down FSU, I feel the key is to try and run Arnold’s pitch count up as early as possible, forcing FSU to dig into a bullpen that has been good, but inconsistent. In the Super Regional against UConn, Jamie threw 122 pitches in only 5.1 innings. To put that into perspective, Carson Dorsey threw 121 pitches in 8.2 innings vs. Stetson in the Regional.

The Noles eventually turned to Conner Whittaker to close the game out and seal their trip to Omaha, but this is a different situation and FSU will need Whittaker for later in this tournament. In my opinion, FSU needs to get 6-7 innings from Arnold before they turn to the bullpen. I would even go as far as saying that if things were to go sideways for FSU early in the game, I’d consider pulling him to save his arm for a lengthy battle out of the loser’s bracket, but we aren’t there yet, so let’s just focus on getting this win. 

Tennessee does have a little more experience on this stage by the players and coaches currently on their roster with trips to Omaha in 3 of the past 4 seasons. FSU may have seventeen more CWS appearances than Tennessee, but this team and staff have never played together in Omaha. FSU must stay focused and not let their emotions get the best of them.

Final Thoughts

Florida State vs. Tennessee looks to be one of the best matchups of this tournament. We have two teams with an explosive offense, a dominant arm, good coaching, and a little attitude to go with it. Can the Noles find a little Mike Martin magic and take down the giant? Is this the year FSU finally gets put a trophy in the case? The Vols will also look to bring home their first title after falling short in seven previous trips. It’s going to be a fun matchup that will take place in prime time at 7 PM ET on ESPN/ESPN+. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!!

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