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FSU set to face outstanding Gator pitching trio

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The Florida State baseball team knows they have a tough mountain to climb this weekend. To get to their first College World Series since 2012, all they have to do is beat the top national seed Florida Gators twice in Gainesville.

It has been well documented that the Seminoles are having trouble beating their arch-rival anywhere over the past three seasons. The Gators have prevailed 13 of the last 17 times they have met in either Gainesville, Tallahassee or Jacksonville.

Game 1 will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday at McKeithan Stadium.

Florida State is hitting the ball well of late, but assistant coach Mike Martin, Jr. feels other factors will decide who advances to Omaha for the College World Series.

“It boils down to pitching and playing defense,” he told the Tallahassee Democrat. “That’s what we are focused on, putting pressure on them. Nobody likes pressure put on them. That’s our objective.”

Out-pitching the Gators is no easy feat. Among the pitching talent they will face is the projected top pick in Thursday’s Major League Baseball draft, hard-throwing left hander A.J. Puk.

If that is not enough of a challenge, consider that Puk is the team’s number two starter. Before getting to Puk, the Seminoles will face Logan Shore, who sports an 11-0 record and 2.45 earned run average. Shore was the 2016 SEC Pitcher of the Year.

If the Seminoles could scratch out a split of those first two games, right hander Alex Faedo (13-1, 3.19 ERA) will be ready for a Game 3. FSU went 0-3 against Florida this year without facing these three.

There is some reason for optimism for Seminoles’ fans. Florida State is on an offensive roll, having reached the championship game of the ACC tournament.

They lost that game to Clemson, but if there is any good news, they scored 13 runs – including the last 12 – before falling 18-13. FSU has also shown they can play well against good teams, taking two of three against fourth-ranked Louisville and splitting four games against No. 3 Miami.

First baseman Dylan Busby, left fielder Jackson Lueck and catcher Cal Raleigh are hitting the ball very well. Left hander Tyler Holton is pitching well of late and his probable matchup with Puk in Game 2 will be interesting to watch.

The Gators are deservedly favored. Whoever said “good pitching beats good hitting and vice-versa” could have had a series like this weekend’s Super Regional in mind.

Florida was also favored last year and rolled to two big wins. To stay competitive this year, Florida State’s starters have their work cut out for them.

Keep your team in the game, or start warming up the bus on Sunday evening for the trip back to Tallahassee.

 

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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