Baseball tops Jacksonville to finish their midweek home slate

The Seminoles ended their mid-week home schedule Tuesday evening taking the final game against Jacksonville by a score of 7-6 in extra innings. After trailing nearly the whole game and down to their final three outs, the Seminoles would load the bases off three walks before a wild pitch scored Drew Faurot and a sacrifice fly from Marco Dinges would allow Ross to sprint home and tie the game.

In extra innings, the Seminoles would have two base runners in scoring position with a chance to end the game in the tenth but that wouldn’t be the case. And wouldn’t you know it in the bottom of the eleventh with Cam Smith, who extended his on-base streak to 56 games, the seventh-longest in FSU history, an unlikely hero would emerge for Coach Jarrett and the cardiac kids? But not one of the ones you would think like Cam Smith, James Tibbs III, Daniel Cantu, or even Jaime Ferrer. 

The question is, if not them, who?? In the bottom of the eleventh, the Noles would have runners on second and third when the unexpected hero would come to the plate in sophomore utility player Lance Trippel. Tripple wouldn’t waste any time attacking the first pitch and hitting a walk-off RBI single down the third-base line to secure the Noles’ 7-6 victory over Jacksonville. This was Trippel’s first RBI, and only his second hit of the season. The Seminoles have won 36 games this season and are now set to face the Pittsburgh Panthers in a three-game series starting Friday. 

However, before we delve into this weekend’s matchup, it’s worth asking if this game revealed any concerns about whether this team is well-positioned to win 40 games, perform well in the ACC tournament, and possibly host a regional in Tallahassee. Achieving these goals would be a significant accomplishment being it would mark the first time since 2018 that the team has done so. 

Looking Ahead

Well, honestly this game left me concerned about the bullpen situation. When you look at the mound and who puts toe to rubber this team has had some issues once the starter exits the game. The bullpen has some capable arms but has also had issues at times this season.

The only issue when called upon is that they sometimes struggle to find the strike zone. The bullpen has walked 146 batters this season on 217 innings of work, that’s about two per inning. Now, this could be fixed as early as this weekend as Ben Barrett has returned on a limited pitch count. In his two short appearances, Barrett has impressed, striking out nine batters in eleven innings of work.

Coach Jarrett also provided some good news to the Seminole faithful, announcing that Conner Whittaker is ‘ready to go’ for FSU’s upcoming weekend series at Pitt after missing his last four starts. When asked about his potential role, Jarrett responded, “I think bullpen.” He added, “He’s done that here. I like him in that. He seems to come in and throw strikes, and he’s going to control the run game and field his position. He’s got the changeup and the breaking ball, so whether it’s a righty or lefty, you don’t feel like there’s a matchup concern. You trust the guy. Pitch-count-wise, we’re not ready to just turn him loose. We’ll have to manage it. But I think his progression back is well on the way.”

Whittaker’s addition to the pen provides the Seminoles with another dependable pitcher in their bullpen. Although he started seven games this season pitching a total of 39 innings with a 5.31 ERA, he has consistently pitched for at least five innings in each of those starts. Throughout his career at Florida State, Whittaker has pitched 154.1 innings and recorded a 4.14 ERA. In 2022, he was an impressive full-time reliever with a 2.48 ERA. In the last season, Whittaker split his time between the rotation and the bullpen, finishing with a 4.33 ERA. So, with two of our three arms healthy what about the third, Cam Leiter? Leiter last pitched against Louisville on March 28th and has missed his last five starts. The right-hander has a 4.63 ERA in 35 innings. 

Coach Jarrett was asked if he is optimistic about Cam Leiter’s situation.

He said, “No, we’re still fighting that one a little bit. I’m optimistic, but it’s not at the point where we’re moving him into the game this weekend, but we’re better. It’s better.”

FSU has two capable starters, Jamie Arnold and Carson Dorsey, who have proven they can win you games, but the issue is who steps up when they’re out of the game. Now you have two pitchers who can come out of the pen and give you extended middle relief and will take the load off some of these young arms. 

When Cam Leiter returns, does he come out of the pen or move to the day three starting roll? I do not envy Coach Jarrett or pitching coach Micah Posey for having to make that decision. Honestly, I would move him to a closer role. He would be coming back on a pitch count anyway and even with a small window he would provide you with an inning or two of solid stuff off to end the game. 

The Seminoles are scheduled to play the Pittsburgh Panthers in a three-game series starting Friday. 

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