FSU Baseball vs. Clemson Series Preview

The #12 Florida State Seminoles (19-0, 3-0) have passed every test this season and are currently the only undefeated team remaining in college baseball. That could change this weekend as the Seminoles face arguably their toughest in-conference challenge of the season when they visit Doug Kingsmore Stadium to take on the #3 Clemson Tigers (19-2, 3-1).

The series was supposed to get underway Friday night, but now, due to inclement weather in the forecast, Friday’s game has been postponed. The Seminoles and the Tigers will now play a doubleheader on Saturday, with game 1 starting at 1 p.m. and game 2 starting approximately one hour after Game 1 ends. Sunday’s Game 3 will still be at 1 p.m. as previously scheduled.

Now, if someone were to say that Florida State and Clemson were on top of the ACC standings, we would likely be booking tickets to Charlotte for the ACC football championship, but that isn’t the case this time around. Clemson is heading into this series on a three-game winning streak after taking the final game of their weekend series against a ranked Duke team by a score of 8-6 and demolishing both Winthrop 13-3 and Presbyterian 11-1 in their midweek games this week.

The last time the Noles stepped onto the diamond, they faced off against the Stetson Hatters (13-9) in what turned out to be a 1-0 midweek pitcher’s duel at Dick Howser Stadium. Both teams would have great showings on the mound and only give up six hits combined (FSU-4, SU-2), and both pitching staffs would combine for a total of 117 strikeouts (FSU-12, SU-5).

What was more intriguing about the game was that the Noles, who have averaged ten runs per game, were held in check and did not have a baserunner reach third base until the home half of the eighth inning when James Tibbs III hit a sacrifice fly to deep center. Max Williams would come home for the game-winning run, giving the Noles a 1-0 lead and the win. This was the first 1-0 victory for the Noles since Florida State’s 1-0 win over Arkansas at the 2019 College World Series when Nander De Sedas hit a sacrifice fly into right in the top of the ninth inning to drive in Carter Smith for the game’s lone run. Now, the big question is whether the Seminoles can stay at the head of the ACC table or will they fall to the eye of the tiger.

By the numbers


 Saturday GM1: RHP Cam Leiter (3.38 ERA) vs. RHP Austin Gordon (7.90 ERA)

 Saturday GM2: LHP Jamie Arnold (0.33 ERA) vs. LHP Tristan Smith (2.55 ERA)

 Sunday GM3: RHP Conner Whittaker (3.75 ERA) vs. RHP Aidan Knaak (3.42 ERA)

Team Preview

The Tigers have performed exceptionally well this season and head into this weekend’s series with a record of 19-2 and 2-1 in ACC play. They currently sit just one game behind the Seminoles, who are at the top of the Atlantic division with a record of 3-0. Clemson is a strong team that has defeated almost everyone they have faced, from Xavier to in-state rival South Carolina down to UNC Greensboro. However, they have suffered two losses this season, one against Kennesaw State (1-18) and the other against Duke (2-5). Despite these losses, they have hit their stride early in the season and have a well-rounded team.

I have to give them credit, the Tigers are good on offense. They’ve scored 174 runs on the season and are scoring, on average, 8.2 runs per game. If you look at the stat sheet, you might think I’m lying as they are not ranked in the top 30 in most categories. However, four players are batting above .300 on the season.

Leading the Tiger offense is a dangerous bat in senior third baseman #8 Blake Wright, who is having his best season yet. He leads the team in batting average (.356), slugging percentage (.733), runs (31), hits (32), home runs (10), and RBIs (28). He also hits .412 with runners in scoring position and has a team-high ten multiple-hit games, including four games with three hits and another four with four hits. His ability to get on base has been crucial for Clemson, as he has only struck out 11 times this season while also drawing six walks.

Wright is just one of many Tigers that can do some damage at the plate. Another name to watch is Grad transfer catcher #11 Jimmy Obertop who is second on the team in both batting average (.333) and slugging percentage (.619) and leads the team in on-base percentage (.543).

As good as they have looked, the Tigers have yet to face a complete defensive unit or starting pitching rotation as good as what FSU has, so far this season. Regular Friday starter, now Saturday game one starter Cam Leiter has a 3.38 ERA, allowing eleven runs on 21 hits, walking 14, and striking out 41 in 26.2 innings.

Team preview

Then, they will face the best arm on this staff, LHP Jamie Arnold, who is coming off an impressive 12-strikeout performance against Notre Dame and has only surrendered one earned run in 27.2 innings. Arnold has allowed 18 hits and struck out a team-leading 44 batters while walking only five.

Then you have Sunday starter Conner Whittaker, who rounds out the weekend starting rotation with a 3.75 ERA and has allowed only 11 runs on 17 hits, walking five and striking out 26 in 24 innings. The Noles defensive unit has been night and day different since last season. They currently rank 2nd in the country in fielding percentage (.985), led by Senior Right-fielder James Tibbs III, who has a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage and also has 21 putouts. As a unit, the Noles have only committed ten errors and have turned 11 double plays this season.

My biggest concern about this weekend is that Clemson’s pitching staff has been strong this season. The Tigers starters have allowed just three earned runs or fewer in 10 of their 21 games, and the team has held opponents to five runs or fewer 15 times this season. Left-hander Tristan Smith leads the starters in ERA (2.55) and strikeouts (36). Freshman righty Aidan Knaak is second among the starters in ERA (3.42) and strikeouts (31).

Right-hander Austin Gordon, who has a 7.90 ERA, will start in the series opener on Saturday, followed by Smith and Knaak. Clemson ranks fifth in the conference in ERA (3.79). Its four starters have a combined 4-1 record. The Tigers’ bullpen is also versatile in critical innings. Lucas Mahlstedt has pitched the most innings out of the bullpen (14) and has posted a 3.21 ERA. Joe Allen is next with 13 1/3 innings and a 5.40 ERA, and Matthew Marchal has pitched across eight innings with a 3.55 ERA.

As good as the Tiger’s staff has been, the Noles offensive production could be their kryptonite as FSU has 11 players batting above .300 and are top 10 nationally in 5 different offensive categories – batting average (2nd, .376), sacrifice flies (2nd, 19), strikeouts per nine innings (2nd, 13.1), scoring (6th, 10.4 runs/game), and slugging percentage (6th, .594).

The Noles offense is led by Sophomore third baseman Cam Smith, who dating back to last season, has reached base safely in 29 straight games and leads the team in batting average (.476), on-base percentage (.543), hits (39), and runs (26). Senior Right-fielder James Tibbs III, who unfortunately saw his 24-game hit streak come to an end against Notre Dame on Sunday, still leads the Noles in slugging percentage (.827), RBIs (33), and home runs (8).


This matchup is a big test for FSU, and while we certainly don’t want to look ahead, I would love to see this team extend its win streak and go into Tuesday’s matchup against the Gators at 22-0. I do not see a sweep in the old crystal ball for FSU, but if the Noles can take two out of the three games this weekend, it will cement that Coach Jarrett and this team are the real deal.

Now, if there was a reason I don’t want to see a sweep this weekend, it has to do with history. The last two teams that started a season with 16 or more wins, 2007 (23) and 2013 (16), failed to make it to Omaha. So, if they drop a game this weekend and can still take the series, it’s a plus, in my opinion. The Noles would still be at the head of the table, and the rest of the ACC would have no choice but to acknowledge them. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!

Share this Article with other Nole fans!

Check out the Plant The Spear Podcast for those who bleed garnet and gold!

Continue Reading