FSU Baseball at Wake Forest Series Preview

If there is one team who can say they started from the bottom now they are here, it is Florida State. The Seminoles, one of the worst teams in college baseball last season, have been on fire in 2024. Since getting swept by Clemson in March, the Noles have won 11 out of their last 14 games, with two of the three losses coming against ACC foes Louisville and Boston College. In the Louisville game, FSU beat themselves primarily by committing several errors. The Boston College loss came in the form of a challenging extra-innings game in which they lost 6-7 after 11 innings.

Then, on Tuesday night, FSU dropped their first non-conference game against Mercer 13-6. How crazy is it that we are this far into the season and just dropped our first midweek or non-conference game? At least we are not like Florida, who drops almost every midweek game.  Speaking of our rivals, let’s talk about the Seminoles successful 4-game stretch last week. FSU won the season series against Florida with another dominant victory before sweeping the Miami Hurricanes in a three-game series. This earned them the State Championship for the first time since 1960.

However, now they must turn their focus to the upcoming gauntlet of conference games which will be a test for this team. In the next three weeks, they will face two teams ranked in the top 15, and a team that won last weekend’s series against the only team to beat FSU multiple times. The Noles will take on the seventh-ranked Duke Blue Devils (April 26th-28th) before welcoming the Wolfpack of NC State to Tallahassee (May 3rd-5th).

But first, the Noles must prove that they can get back on track against a team that has been one of the top teams in the nation for years and was ranked number one at the start of the season as they travel to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to take on the 12th-ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The series starts this Friday at 6 pm. So, how will the number 8 Seminoles do against the Demon Deacons? Let’s dive into this Series and see. 

Wake Forest By the numbers

On the Mound

FRIDAY, April 19, 2024 – 6:00 p.m. – ACCNX

FSU: LHP Jamie Arnold (7-1, 1.32 ERA) vs. WF: RHP Chase Burns (7-1, 3.00 ERA)


SATURDAY, April 20, 2024 – 4:00 p.m. – ACCNX

FSU: LHP Carson Dorsey (2-2, 4.34 ERA) vs. WF: LHP Josh Hartle (4-1, 5.52 ERA)


SUNDAY, April 21, 2024 – 1:00 p.m. – ACCNX

FSU: TBD vs. WF: RHP Michael Massey (4-1, 2.00 ERA)


The 12th-ranked Demon Deacons (24-12, 9-9 ACC) are coming off a midweek matchup against UNC Wilmington. The Deacs had a chance to win when they brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, but ultimately fell 8-5 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Tuesday night.

Wake Forest is led by Head Coach Tom Walter, who leads the Demon Deacons in his 15th season as head coach and is a proven program builder and player developer and has his team clicking on all cylinders.  Coach Walter is one of just three active head coaches in the country to lead three different programs to the NCAA Division I Tournament and just the seventh coach all-time to do so. He joins the ranks of Larry Cochell, Augie Garrido, Sunny Golloway, Andy Lopez, Ron Polk, and Jack Stallings, while Randy Mazey and Jim Schlossnagle joined that group after Walter.

We cannot forget that Wake Forest, despite their record, was the number-one team in the country to start the season. As an offensive unit, the Deacs rank middle of the pack in most statistical categories, however, they rank fourteenth in the nation and are tied at the top of the ACC with the Seminoles in home runs (68). But when you look at the rest of the categories, they are ranked outside of the top 30 in six offensive statistics as a team. The Deacs are 114th in batting average (.284), 60th in on-base percentage (.406), 38th in runs per game (8.4), and 86th in hits (351). Now, this team does have some pop on the offensive side of the plate.  

The Demon Deacons are led by two dangerous players in junior first baseman #8 Nick Kurtz, who has outstanding bat speed, strength, and a left-handed stroke designed to drive balls in the air. He is more than just a slugger. He’s a complete hitter with no real weakness; he crushes left-handers, right-handers, and all types of pitches. He controls the strike zone, covers the entire plate, and hits the ball with authority all over the ballpark. Kurtz leads the team in home runs (17) and on-base percentage (.527), and is second on the team in RBIs (40). Now, the category that scares me and impresses me is that he has a .903 slugging percentage, which is third in the country in that category. 

Then, just when you think Kurtz is already enough to deal with, you have grad transfer #3 Adam Tellier, who has the power to change a game and leads the team in batting average (.347). Tellier, in his 147 at-bats this season, has driven in 32 runs and hit 10 home runs while only striking out 30 times.   

Now, this will be only one side of this matchup I am concerned with. The Noles led 2-1 against the Mercer Bears Tuesday night, but after the third inning, the Bears put up seven runs in the top of the fourth to pull away. The Noles would use nine pitchers in that game, a season-high, and allowed 13 runs (all earned) on 14 hits and struck out 12. 

Even though the Noles had brain fog during their mid-week game, this team is in the top 20 in most categories. The Noles rank seventh in ERA (4.04), fifth in strikeouts (409), and eleventh in hits allowed (269). The Noles are led by veteran left-handed pitcher Jamie Arnold (7-1), who leads the team with a 1.32 ERA, which is good for third in the country in that category. Arnold also leads the team in innings pitched (54.2) and strikeouts (78), which is good for seventh in the country behind Wake Forest pitcher Chase Burns… but we will get to him in a moment. Now that we have looked at their offense, let’s see what their defense looks like.

As good as the Wake bats versus the Seminole pitching staff will be, the opposite is the matchup to watch. This can only be compared to Holyfield versus Tyson or Balboa verse Creed. Wake Forest’s record does not reflect how good this weekend pitching staff is. So far this season, the Deacs rank 56th in the country and 6th in the ACC in ERA (4.85). As a staff, they have allowed 202 runs (171 earned) this season. They rank top 10 in two other categories as they are 9th in the nation and 2nd in the ACC in hits allowed (266) and 2nd in the country in strikeouts (415). 

Team preview

This could be the best starting rotation the Noles will face all season. The Demon Deacons will have their regular weekend rotation with Friday starter Junior RHP Chase Burns (7-1, ERA: 3.00) being the arm that worries me as he can overpower hitters. So far this season, he leads the nation in strikeouts (105) and is in the top 10 in both hits allowed per nine innings (10th) and in walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP). 

The reason for Burns’s success is he has an elite arsenal of pitches. He has an elite fastball, which hits 97-99 mph for six innings. During the weekend series against Duke, he bumped triple digits a few times and topped out at 101 mph on his 98th and penultimate pitch. He can locate the fastball to both sides of the plate. But he also can land his signature pitch, a devastating slider for a strike whenever he wants, or use it to expand the zone and get chases. His slider hits the gun at 86-90 mph with a tight spin into the 3000 rpm range; Burns’ slider serves as the putaway pitch On about 60% of his strikeouts.  And to give hitters one more thing to worry about, Burns can also drop in the big-breaking 79-84 mph curveball for a strike or hit you with a very impressive change-up—so far this season. 

Then you have Saturday starter LHP Josh Hartle (4-1, 5.52 ERA), who has an excellent feel for his four pitches; starting with a fastball, he averages 90 mph and tops out at 94 but misses plenty of bats because of his angle, sinking and boring action, and command. His plus low-80s slider with two-plane depth is his best secondary pitch, though his upper-80s cutter isn’t far behind, and his mid-80s changeup also has its moments. This is the arm that the Noles should be able to take advantage of and have a good performance against, as Hartle leads the team in earned runs allowed (27). 

Then on Sunday, you face a big, athletic solid RHP Michael Massey (2-3, 5.44 ERA). Massey has a compact delivery and arm action, especially for his size, short cross-body stride out front, good arm speed, and repeats his mechanics and release point well. Fastball topped out at 92 mph with good life to the pitch and threw it to spots with some intent. He throws a soft curveball with sweeping depth and a short slider/cut change-up when working to the glove-side corner. Massey has some feel for a change-up that he turns over and fades well; the slider and change-up resemble each other except for different break directions at the plate.

But, as this may be the best pitching rotation the Noles will face, the same can be said about the Noles’ offense as this could be the best offense the Demon Deacons’ pitching staff has faced this season.  The Seminoles come into this series ranking in the top 10 in the country and the ACC in many categories. The Noles are fifth in the nation in batting average (.332), sixth in slugging percentage (.581), and are tied in the ACC with Wake Forest in home runs (68).


The big question around this program is whether it is a coincidence that the same season that Plant The Spear started covering Florida State baseball they have the best turnaround in possibly the history of the sport….. I think not!!!   

The main concern is whether the pitching staff can perform well without two of their weekend starters for the second week in a row. Additionally, the Seminoles need to recover from their loss to Mercer on Tuesday and return to their usual style of playing Florida State baseball. The upcoming weekend series will showcase which team can execute all three game phases flawlessly.

Ultimately, I’m not trying to be biased, but this is a Florida State website, and I cover the Florida State Seminoles, so I guess I will be biased. I see the Seminoles winning the series, but I don’t see him sweeping the series. I think Coach Jarrett has his team focused. I believe that the mid-week hiccup has refocused this team on what the goal is, and that’s making it back to the ACC tournament, winning the tournament, ultimately hosting a regional, and making it back to Omaha. Be sure to visit plantthespear.com and check out our content and coverage of Florida State athletics and Go Noles!!!

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