FSU baseball player kneeling in a prayer circle on Mike Martin Field

FSU Baseball vs Notre Dame Preview

For the first time in a few years, there is a buzz of excitement around Florida State and Dick Howser Stadium that burns hotter than the flame on Chief Osceola’s spear. The Seminoles baseball team is off to the third-best start in program history with an impressive 15-0 record after beating the Florida Gators 12-8 Tuesday night. 

I can bore you to death and write about how the Noles dominated the Gators inside Condron Ballpark, in front of 8,142 fans. I can mention that this was FSU’s first win in Gainesville since March 10, 2020, or how this is the first time FSU had defeated the Gators since they shut them out 5-0 on April 12, 2022. But I won’t bore you with those details. 

Do you really want to read about how the Noles scored 12 runs on 13 hits, or how James Tibbs III hit a ball so far it nailed the gator statue in front of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for his 8th home run on the season? Or how this pitching staff led by Andrew Armstrong held the impressive Gator bats in check by only giving up 8 runs (2 earned) on 8 hits, striking out 15 of the 42 UF batters they faced, which happens to be the most strikeouts in a game this season for the Gators. 

Now, I will state that the Noles performance Tuesday night showed everyone that the Link Jarrett era might not have started on the right foot, but in year two he has them looking like the best team in the country. This team still has a long way to go to reach their goal of making it back to the conference tournament, let alone Omaha.  But the Seminoles have passed their first big test this season and in the eyes of all the animals the biggest eye test so far this season.  And we all can say that this team is good, or downright elite. Yes. I said elite.

I know after last season that’s a word that we didn’t think we would hear or speak when referencing Florida State baseball.  Yet, this season the Seminoles are Top 10 nationally in 11 different categories – batting average (2nd, .376), sacrifice flies (2nd, 19), strikeouts per nine innings (2nd, 13.5), hits (3rd, 207), scoring (4th, 12.0 runs/game), shutouts (4th, 3), slugging percentage (4th, .627), ERA (6th, 2.93), doubles per game (7th, 2.73), on-base percentage (7th, .468), and total runs scored (9th, 180).

Now, the big question is can this FSU team continue their hot start as they begin ACC conference play this weekend?  The Noles welcome a team that has a place close to head coach Link Jarrett’s heart, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. When coach Jarrett led the Fighting Irish from 2020-22, he led that program to its third College World Series appearance in school history before taking the job at Florida State replacing Mike Martin Jr. 

So, grab a bowl of Lucky Charms, or a pint of Guinness (Legacy Lager is better), and let’s get into how the Seminoles are, going to shillelagh the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame this St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

By the numbers

On the Mound

  • FRIDAY, March 15, 2024 at 6:00 p.m. – ACCNX

FSU: RHP Cam Leiter (3-0, 2.70 ERA) vs. ND: RHP Tobey McDonough (1-1, 5.62 ERA)

Promotions: First 2,000 fans receive a free Chick-fil-A coupon when entering Howser

  • SATURDAY, March 16, 2024, 3:00 p.m. 

FSU: LHP Jamie Arnold (4-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. ND: RHP Matt Bedford (1-2, 5.28 ERA)

  • SUNDAY, March 17, 2024, 1:00 p.m. 

FSU: RHP Conner Whittaker (2-0, 3.63 ERA) vs.ND: TBD

Promotions: St. Patrick’s Day toys hidden around Howser; find one and redeem it for free popcorn at the concession stand.

Notre Dame Team Preview

Notre Dame enters Dick Howser Stadium on a two-game winning streak after taking a midweek home series against Radford. 

The Irish are no team to overlook, especially on the offensive side, which is their strength. They have seven hitters with a slugging percentage over .600, the Irish have scored double-digit runs in eight of their 16 games and are averaging 9.8 runs per game this season. This will be the matchup to watch as the Noles have one of the best weekend rotations in the country now that Coach Jarrett and Coach Posey have moved Conner Whittaker back to the Sunday slot. 

Going into the weekend, the Notre Dame offense vs. the FSU pitching staff is going to be the matchups that intrigue me the most. Friday starter Cam Leiter has a 2.70 ERA, allowing seven runs on 15 hits, walking 12, and striking out 31 in 20 innings. Then Saturday you have Lefty starter Jamie Arnold, who has not surrendered an earned run in 22 innings. He has allowed 14 hits, struck out 32 and walked five. And now you add the original Sunday starter in Conner Whittaker who rounds out the weekend starting rotation with a 3.63 ERA. He’s allowed eight runs on 13 hits, walking three and striking out 23 in 17.1 innings. Combined they have a 2.11 ERA and allowed a total of 42 hits and striking out 86 batters while only allowing 20 walks in 59.1 innings pitched this season. I honestly see the Irish bats having a hard time getting going against the starters this weekend.

Now, just because we think that the pitching staff will be dominant against Notre Dame doesn’t mean there are still some players on the offensive side that I am concerned about. Senior center fielder TJ Williams leads the team in batting average (.396), and on-base percentage (.491). Then you have Sophomore second baseman Estevan Moreno who leads the Irish with six home runs and a .721 slugging percentage. Right fielder Tito Flores, a graduate transfer from Michigan, has a team-high 21 RBIs, and junior shortstop Jack Penney has slugged four homers and worked a team-high 14 walks.

While its offense has been good, Notre Dame’s pitching has left a lot to be desired this season with the 194th ERA in the country at 6.73. The Irish pitching staff has also surrendered double-digit runs in eight games, including three last weekend against Virginia Tech (3-11, 5-10, and 8-11). 

Newfound Friday starter Tobey McDonough has a 5.62 ERA in 8 innings, but the other member of the rotation, and new Saturday starter Matt Bedford, has struggled this season. His last outing against Virginia only lasted 2.1 innings after Bedford gave up four runs on three hits, and only struck out one batter. So far this season Bedford has an ERA of 5.28 in 15.1 innings pitched. Now, while the Irish starters haven’t been up to snuff, they do have a gem in the bullpen in Bennett Flynn, a graduate transfer from Davidson who was D1Baseball’s No. 24 relief pitcher in 2023.  The former two-time All-Atlantic arm has an impressive 3.00 ERA in 15 innings of work. He has only allowed eight hits while giving up five runs, walking four batters, and striking out a team-leading 24 this season. 

Final Thoughts

With two powerful offenses in the spotlight, this figures to be a series won on the mound. These staffs are almost the ying to each other’s yang, with the Irish having a stronger bullpen than rotation and vice versa for Noles who have a strong starting rotation but have somewhat struggled in the bullpen at times.  Notre Dame’s offense has been able to make up for the shortcomings of its starters, but they haven’t faced a rotation like the one they will face this weekend in Tallahassee, especially with how locked in those three arms have been all season. 

If the Noles want to start conference play with another feather in the spear, they will need better relief appearances out of the bullpen. The Noles offense should have a great weekend, especially with how poor Notre Dame’s starters have fared so far in 2024. But it’ll be the execution down the stretch in games that dictates how the opening ACC series of the year goes for the Noles. Suppose I had to throw out a prediction for how the weekend will go after seeing how Notre Dame played against Virginia Tech. In that case, I see the Seminoles getting their first sweep in conference play this season and extending the win streak to the best start in program history at 18-0. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!

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