Opening Day Preview: Florida State vs Butler

Just when you thought the Seminoles might have been the worst team in college baseball last season, the Butler Bulldogs said “Hold my peanuts and cracker jacks!” Butler is coming off a dismal season that saw them post a record of 12-42 and 5-16 in conference play, which was worse than the Seminoles record last year at 23-35. The Noles could use some early season momentum in year two under head coach Link Jarrett. It all starts with a game that the FSU should win against Bulter on opening day.

Team preview

The Butler Bulldogs baseball team, just like the Seminoles, is going through a transition, especially on the mound. The Bulldogs have 12 new faces joining the program and 11 leaving from last year’s roster. There are questions to be answered about who will be starting and who will be coming out of the bullpen. Two newcomers, Tyler Banks, and Justin Hornschemeier, as well as returner Grant Brooks, have already secured starting roles as the team prepares for opening weekend at Florida State.

However, there are many other players fighting for starting roles and clutch situations, including Seth White, Nate Rosser, Cooper Robinson, and team captain Cole Graverson. Coach Blake Beemer is excited about the competition among all the pitchers and believes this year’s group is deeper than last year’s. The team is also confident in all four catchers on the roster, including returners Cade Vota and Keegan Connors, as well as newcomers Zach Munton and Drew Charney.

The Butler team has some exciting competition brewing in their infield for the upcoming season. Junior shortstop Carter Dorighi is a key player and team captain for the Bulldogs, having started in all 55 games in 2023 and finishing second in both hits and RBIs. Evan Parks is also set to receive a larger role with the team in 2024 as the starting first baseman. AJ Solomon is the lead candidate for second base and has been praised for his strong work ethic and versatility on the field. Billy Wurch and Kade Lewis are competing for the third base spot, with Lewis showing promise as a freshman. Ian Choi, Brett Sherrard, and Jace Eslinger are also in the mix, providing the team with options at multiple positions. Head Coach Blake Beemer is excited about the team’s potential and is looking forward to seeing how the infield comes together.

The Bulldogs have a lot of talent in their outfield for the upcoming season. Joey Urban, who was named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year, is expected to play a big role for the team after leading the club in several categories in 2023. Head Coach Blake Beemer also mentioned Xavier Carter, Jack Moroknek, and Ethan Vecrumba as strong options for the outfield. With seven outfielders on the roster, it seems like the team has a good amount of depth and competition for spots. Additionally, the Bulldogs brought in three talented freshmen who could see some playing time as the season progresses.

Taking the Mound

Head coach Link Jarrett announced the three pitchers who will start in the rotation this weekend when FSU hosts Butler for a three-game series.

Friday: #30 Cam Leiter- Leiter had a solid season at UCF in 2023, finishing with a 3-2 record and a 4.92 ERA. He appeared in 15 games, starting 14 of them, and managed to strike out 80 batters in 56.2 innings. He was even named to the AAC All-Freshman Team, a unanimous selection. Notably, he struck out a career-high 11 batters in back-to-back starts against Tulane and Cincinnati in early May. Leiter also had a strong showing in the AAC Tournament, where he struck out nine batters in 7.0 shutout innings against Cincinnati. Before college, Leiter was a first-team All-State high school player and the Shore Conference Player of the Year at Central Regional, with a .479 batting average and eight home runs. He comes from a baseball family, with his dad having played at Oklahoma State and professionally in the Orioles organization, and his uncle’s having combined for 30 seasons in Major League Baseball.

Saturday: #16 Jamie Arnold- Arnold had a mixed season, pitching in 24 games and finishing 2-5 with a 6.34 ERA. He made eight starts and was able to strike out 49 batters in 44.0 innings. Arnold was also part of a triple play at No. 8 TCU (2/25), which was FSU’s first triple play since 2009. His season-high was 5.1 innings pitched against No. 1 Wake Forest (5/14) where he struck out six Demon Deacons. Arnold made his first career start and appearance against James Madison (2/19) during the opening weekend. He earned his first win against Pitt (3/10) and beat Virginia Tech (4/23) with 3.0 shutout innings. Arnold even pitched a scoreless inning in relief at Louisville (5/20). During his time at Cape Cod League, he was able to become an All-Star for Hyannis Harbor Hawks finishing with a 2.94 ERA and 21 strikeouts over 18.1 innings pitched.

Sunday: #13 Conner Whittaker- Conner appeared in 17 games and started the last eight series. He had a record of 5-6 with an ERA of 4.33. Conner also struck out 65 batters in 79.0 innings. He even pitched for a career-high 8.0 innings in a game against Mercer (5/6), which was the only shutout of the season for FSU. Conner’s first nine appearances were as a relief pitcher, but he made his first career start against Miami on April 1st. He had a career-high nine strikeouts against Pitt on March 10th and teamed up with Jackson Baumeister to become the first teammates in FSU history with at least nine strikeouts in the same game. Conner also won his final start of the season at Louisville, allowing only one earned run in 6.0 innings.

New threads

Florida State baseball will be debuting some new uniforms on Opening Day. The Noles will be wearing all garnet uniforms, including a garnet top and garnet pants for Friday games. They are also expected to have garnet, gold, and grey tops with a fresh design. They will also be getting some pinstripe uniforms at some point in the season! Get a look at the new all-garnet uniforms below! Thanks for reading and Go Noles!

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