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After a Brutal Exit From Durham, Florida State Facing Plenty of Questions

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There's a possibility that if you got up at the wrong time on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday- as Florida State battled in the ACC Baseball tournament- that by the time you sat back down the game was already over and the Seminoles had lost.

That's about how long it took Florida State to go from leading a game or being tied late, to being defeated in the most deflating way possibe: roughly the time it takes to make a trip to the kitchen.

It was a brutal trip to Durham for the Florida State Seminoles.

On Wednesday after weathering Buck Farmer, the Seminoles took a 3-2 lead into the top of the ninth against Georgia Tech before the usually reliable Robby Coles gave up back-to-back homers and the Yellow Jackets stole a win.

Then, with the taste of the opening loss still in their mouths Florida State lost to Virginia Tech the next night on a walk-off shot against Gage Smith. 

On Saturday, against Virgina, the Seminoles attempted to notch their first win of the tournament and took a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the 6th inning. But Virginia clawed its way back into the game and walked off in the 12th on a three-run home run against Jameis Winston.

As if that wasn't enough to stomach, sophomore 3B Jose Brizuela- one of the team's most consistent hitters- was sent home after the Georgia Tech loss for violation of team rules.

Brutal.

Now heading into NCAA Regional play (and hopefully still hanging on to their national seed), Florida State is facing plenty of questions.

1.) What is the mindset of the bullpen?

Three times in Durham the Seminoles took a lead or a tie into the 9th inning and they lost all three. There isn't a glaring deficiency in the pen, FSU just got roughed up a little by some good teams. But given the stage and the moments at which Coles, Smith and Winston gave up big home runs, the concern is their mindset.

The stage doesn't get any smaller from here on out, the pressure continues to mount, FSU needs to make sure all three bounce back.

Winston will be fine. Anyone you talk to that has played with Jameis- football or baseball- will tell you he rolls with the punches. He'll learn from his mistake and put it behind him. And frankly, of the three, he had already worked a couple of innings of strong baseball and was starting to get into uncharted territory. He pitched 25 innings across 16 appearances this year. He's gone three innings before, but not with regularity and never in that sort of situation. Winston will bounce back.

Gage Smith will likely be alright too. He's been through ups and downs and has demonstrated an ability to handle them in the past too.

The one to be concerned with is Robby Coles. Coles will likely be fine too, he's just the lesser known quantity. Coles hadn't given up a home run all season. Then he gave up back-to-back jacks in his loss to Georgia Tech on Wednesday. The Seminoles really need him to bury those.

2.) Is Marcus Davis' rough week just that- a rough week- or is it indicative of a bigger issue?

I wrote heading into the ACC tournament that Marcus Davis being left off the All-ACC team was a huge snub. Then he went one-for-12. Davis has been a huge part of the Seminoles' offense this year and his slump, coupled with Brizuela's early departure, did little to help the Florida State lineup push across runs in Durham.

What could be troubling though was the amount of breaking balls Davis saw over the course of those three games and how little success he had hitting them. Davis is a deadly fastball hitter. Between the power his bat generates and any power the pitcher brings, he can hit some tape-measure shots on the heater. But after getting a chance to play Florida State this season, the teams he saw in Durham had the book on Davis and it sure seems like what's written in that book is that he struggles with the curve.

It could have just been a bad week and he'll be back to his usual self next weekend. Or it could be more ominous than that. Either way, Davis will likely see plenty of breaking balls in Regional play. Florida State needs Davis' bat to be hot from here on out if they want to be successful there.

3.) What's Going on With Jose Brizuela?

All season Jose Brizuela has giveth, and Jose Brizuela has taketh away. The guy hits a lot, he walks a lot and more than anything, his bat is timely. He also made 21 errors and was the cause of more than a few unearned runs.

In Durham, Brizuela 'taketh away' in a different manner though, he broke a team rule and took his bat out of the lineup when he was forced to leave and head back to Tallahassee, really hurting his teammates in the process.

I'm not trying to dump on the sophomore, he's a good kid and heck of a ballplayer. But he did do his teammates a disservice by taking himself out of the lineup and weakening the Seminole offense. Florida State has declined to comment on the issue beyond simply announcing he was sent home, so while it's likely he will be available for Regionals, it's also possible he may have to sit a game or two there as well.

It doesn't seem like the ramifications of this past week were lost on Brizuela though, teammate Marcus Davis tweeted this upon arriving home in Tallahassee after what was likely a very long, somber bus-ride home from Durham:

Come next weekend the Seminoles need Brizuela to have put this behind him. They will need his bat in the lineup.

4.) Is FSU in trouble?

No.

This is pretty much what happened last year. Scratch that, this is just a crueler version of the same events that took place in Greensboro. The losses may not have been as brutal, but the Seminoles have now lost seven straight ACC Baseball tournament games, so this isn't even a new phenomenon at Florida State.

As long as the Seminoles can flush the past week (and that's been the theme this whole article), they will be fine. Keep in mind that Florida State has a definitive homefield advantage in Tallahassee where they will, at the very least, host a regional.

In front of the fans at Dick Howser, Florida State is 32-3 this year.

While nothing is guaranteed, Seminoles fans shouldn't expect a repeat of Durham in Regional play. But that doesn't mean Florida State doesn't have plenty of things to straighten out in the week leading up to it.

 

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(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)

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