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13 posts from May 2013

May 31, 2013

Florida State Crushes Savannah State 10-0, Moves into Winner's Bracket

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The best cuts taken by anyone in Savannah State colors on Friday evening may have come from a few of their fans mocking the tomahawk chop in the top of the 2nd inning. 

Beyond that, it wasn't a very good outing for the Tigers. 

DJ Stewart and Marcus Davis lead the way for Florida State offensively, both went 3 for 4, Stewart drove in three and scored three runs himself while Davis drove in four on a pair of doubles. Behind Davis and Stewart's output and a stellar outing from senior Scott Sitz, the Seminoles routed Savannah State 10-0.

"It was a good win for us. A lot of positive things from the offensive side, but of course this is just one game," cautioned Florida State head coach Mike Martin.

Savannah State ace Kyle McGowin, a Golden Spikes finalist who entered the game 12-1 with a 1.33 ERA, got absolutely rocked by the Seminoles early on and the game was out of hand by the end of the 3rd inning. 

"I didn't have my fastball at all so I had to go with my secondary [pitches]," admitted McGowin after the game. "They're just a really patient team."

After scoring one in the bottom of the first, Florida State blew the game wide open with a five run second inning.

Seth Miller doubled to lead things off and reached third on a wild pitch, but McGowin buckled down and struck out the next two Seminole batters. He unraveled when he came too far inside on Josh Delph and plunked him though, putting men on the corners for DJ Stewart- who made him pay. A two-out double brought in Miller and effectively opened the flood gates for the Seminoles.

Marcus Davis followed Stewart's RBI sigle by hammering a double to bring in Delph and Stewart, the next batter Stephen McGee crushed a ball over the left-field wall to make it 6-0 Florida State.

McGowin's struggles continued into the third as well when Florida State tacked on four more and pushed their lead out to 10. Once again Seth Miller started things off, this time with a leadoff walk. After John Sansone singled and Delph walked to load the bases, back-to-back doubles by Stewart and Davis brought in four more runs and all but cemented the game for Florida State.

For all the hype coming into the game, McGowin looked uncomfortable at times once things got started. All season the biggest crowd McGowin had played in front of was smaller than 1,500 people. On Friday with Dick Howser nearly full there were several times that many people on their feet, screaming loudly and trying to rattle the SSU starter. 

It may have worked.

McGowin threw 132 pitches but lasted just five innings, giving up nine hits and ten earned runs while walking six in the process. It earned him just his second loss of the year. That sparkling 1.33 ERA was up over two by the end of the evening, now sitting at 2.02.

Conversely Scott Sitz was excellent for the Seminoles, throwing 7.1 innings of shutout baseball, giving up seven hits, walking no one and striking out eight. It was more than enough to earn his 10th win of the season. 

"I think obviously it was the Scotty Sitz show tonight," said Martin. "He did an outstanding job of spotting his fastball, he had the curveball and the change-up going, and anytime you can shut out a team of the ability of Savannah State you have to be very pleased."

Brandon Johnson replaced Sitz in the 8th and stayed on to close out the 9th for Florida State as well.

The Seminoles did get a scare when starting catcher Stephen McGee injured his hand on a catcher's interference early on. McGee stayed in to belt a two-run homer just a few moments later, but Ladson Montgomery replaced him in the top of the 7th.

After the adrenaline wears off and the swelling really picks up, it's possible McGee could be down for the rest of the weekend, FSU will revisit that tomorrow.

"It just goes to show you the mental and physical toughness that he possesses," said Martin. "We're just prayerful that he's going to be OK and will return to the same Steve McGee."

Florida State will take on Troy tomorrow evening in the first Winner's bracket game, Troy knocked off Alabama in the early game, 5-2. 

Savannah State will play Bama at noon in an elimination game.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)

Trojans Defeat Crimson Tide in Game One of Tallahassee NCAA Regional

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Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said before the Tallahassee NCAA Regional that this would be a special weekend for him.

In addition to the family reunion on deck for the Pierce's this weekend (Bobby's son Logan is a third team All-American for the Trojans and one of his other son's families lives in the Tallahassee area), Pierce has a connection to three of the four schools involved in the Regional.

In the 80's, after completing a couple years at junior college Pierce played on a summer team at Florida State- alongside then player-coach Mike Martin- in anticipation of signing with the Seminoles for the Fall. But a last minute call from Bear Bryant to Pierce's grandfather changed his course and he wound up playing the rest of his college ball at Alabama.

On Friday in game one of the Tallahassee Regional it all came together beautifully for Pierce. His son sparked a five-run fourth inning with a leadoff double and the Trojans beat the Crimson Tide 5-2 to advance into the Winner's Bracket tomorrow evening.

"All of it's a tremendous blessing, I don't know if words can really describe it," said Pierce after defeating his alma mater. "I really like this team as well and then for this team to be with me here where I kind of grew up so to speak, and to have my son playing well is always a great thing. I had a lot of family, a lot of friends here today.

"So to play a baseball game as a head coach with that kind of environment is certainly a blessing. No doubt."

The Trojans' 4th inning would prove completely back-breaking for the Crimson Tide. Bama starter Charley Sullivan was chased with just one out and Troy pushed five across in the frame to go up decisively, 5-1.

After Pierce doubled to lead things off, Danny Collins drew a walk on a full count to put two on for 1B Trae Santos. The junior didn't wait long to connect with his 17th home run of the season, rocketing Sullivan's very first offering well over the left field wall for his first opposite field shot of the year.

After Josh McDorman's second hit of the day and a fielding error that once again put two on, Ali Knowles hit a one-out single to make it 5-1.

Brandon Brown added a single of his own the very next at-bat and officially ended Sullivan's day. He lasted just 3.1 innings, gave up five runs, four earned, six hits, two walks and struck out one for the Tide in game one.

He also took the loss. 

Alabama got a couple of runs, one each in the 3rd and 7th, but never managed to mount the kind of rally needed to pull them back into the game after losing their 1-0 lead in the top of the 4th.

Their best chance came in the bottom of the 7th inning when they managed to chase Troy starter Shane McCain. After Austen Smith hit a solo home run to lead off the inning the Tide managed to put two on with two outs. But Nate Hill came on for Troy and bailed the Trojans out with a big strikeout to end the inning.

McCain's final line was 6.2 IP, two earned runs, seven hits, a walk and six strikeouts.

"When we've got guys that cover ground like Ali [Knowles], I just throw strikes and get after them," said McCain. "Especially when we've got that four run lead, it's just about throwing strikes... just keeping the ball down and locating."

The Tide tried to put together one final rally in the bottom of the ninth when Hill walked a couple of batters to bring the tying run to the plate with two outs. 

Tanner Hicks came on for the Trojans to try and get the final out of the inning and managed to induce a towering pop-out from Tyler Vaughn to give the Trojans the win and pick up his second save of the year.

Troy will take on the winner of Savannah State-Florida State tomorrow. Alabama will play with their season on the line in the loser's bracket tomorrow against the loser of game two.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and analysis follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)

May 30, 2013

A Quick First Look at the Tallahassee NCAA Regional

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It's NCAA Regional time.

On Monday the NCAA announced its field of 64 teams, including all eight national seeds. Even despite a rough final week of the season the Seminoles found themselves holding on to their ninth national seed in program history– the most of any school in the country.

The Seminoles will be a seven seed nationally and will be seeded first in their pool when the Tallahassee Regional begins this Friday. 

I'll be back with a more in-depth preview of the regional later tonight after all four coaches speak at the opening press conference, but for now, here's a quick first take on the four teams that will be competing in Tallahassee next weekend.

1.) Florida State University (44-15, ACC Atlantic Division Champions)

Manager: Mike Martin (34th year, 1768-609-4)

Despite a rough final week the Seminoles will play in the friendly confines of Dick Howser Stadium– where they are 32-3 this season– for the first couple rounds of the NCAA tournament.

2.) University of Alabama (34-26, 5th in SEC West)

Manager: Mitch Gaspard (4th year, 342-251)

Alabama went 2-2 in the SEC tournament (including an extra innings win over no. 21 Ole Miss), both of their losses came at the hands of nationally seeded LSU. 

3.) Troy University (40-18, Sun Belt Champions)

Manager: Bobby Pierce (11th year, 393-252)

After a down year in 2012, the Trojans returned to their 2011 form this season and are once again trending upwards in college baseball, having won 40 games and the Sun Belt conference for the second time in three campaigns.

4.) Savannah State University (33-22, MEAC Champions)

Manager: Carlton Hardy (8th season, 364-363)

Savannah State's ace Kyle McGowin is as good as any pitcher in the Tallahassee regional- maybe better. The 6-3 junior RHP went 12-1 with a 1.33 ERA, threw four complete games and struck out 129 batters in 115.1 IP while holding opposing lineups to just a .215 average against him. He will likely face Florida State on Friday.

I'll be back with something more in-depth after tonight's press conference. Check back then.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)

May 27, 2013

Seminoles Grab Seven Seed, Will Host Regional

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Florida State fans can breath easy now.

After a brutal week that saw the team lose an exhibition match-up with UNC and then go 0-3 in Durham in the ACC tournament, some thought the Seminoles may have played themselves out of a national seed in the NCAA tournament and a potential chance to host a Super Regional.

Not so, on Monday at noon the NCAA field was announced and the Seminoles will be a seven seed, in line to host both a Regional and Super Regional. 

FSU's credentials appeared rock solid before they went 0-4 in the final week of the season. Apparently the hiccup wasn't enough to dissuade anyone, and the Seminoles will still be able to play the first couple rounds of the NCAA tournament in front of their fans at Dick Howser Stadium where they are 32-3 this year.

Joining the Seminoles in Tallahassee for the first round of pool play will be Savannah State, Troy and Alabama. 

The Tallahasee Regional is paired opposite the Bloomington, Indiana Regional that features Indiana, Florida, Valparaiso and Austin Peay in a pool.

I'll update shortly with quotes and reaction, and I'll have a preview of the Tallahassee Regional coming up this week.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)

May 26, 2013

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.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)

FSU All-Time Great Derrick Brooks Honored with Prestigious "Great Floridian" Award

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Last night in Tampa, Florida State alum and future NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks was honored by Governor Rick Scott with the "Great Floridian" award.

Alongside former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, Brooks was honored for his work in the state of Florida and his commitment to charity and social work in the Sunshine state. 

“It is my distinct honor to present these two ‘Great Floridian’ awards to former Buccaneers Coach Tony Dungy and former Buccaneers Linebacker Derrick Brooks," said Rick Scott. "Tony and Derrick represented Tampa Bay with pride, on a national stage, during their tenure with the Bucs, and have each gone on to improve the lives of Florida families.

“Derrick has devoted his post-football career to positively impacting Tampa Bay’s families by providing better opportunities in our classrooms. And Tony has extended his helping hand to those youth in-need, striving to give each child the chance to live their American Dream.”

Only 67 individuals since 1981 have been given the honor, those honorees represent former governors, civil rights activists, military heroes, Florida Supreme Court Justices and others. 

Said Brooks: “It is a humbling honor for me to receive an award of such distinction today from Governor Scott and I am grateful.  I take pleasure in doing all I can for our community and I am proud of everything we have been able to accomplish through my Foundation. I look forward to continue making a difference where I can, especially for the young people in the State of Florida.”

Brooks starred at Florida State from 1992-1994 and played a large role on the Seminoles' first national title team in 1993. He was drafted in the first round, 28th overall by the Buccaneers where he would play his entire NFL career, from 1995-2008.

In the NFL Brooks was an 11-time Pro Bowler, was named all-Pro nine times, was the Walter Payton NFL man of the year in 2000 and is on the NFL all-decade team for the 2000's.

In 2010, Florida State retired Brooks' number 10.

Since retiring Brooks has gone on to work for the Arena-league Tampa Bay Storm while continuing his philanthropic efforts in the Bay area. 

Check below for a couple videos of Brooks receiving his award:

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

May 20, 2013

EJ Manuel Says FSU Offense Harder to Learn than Buffalo Bills'

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Jimbo Fisher is fast developing a reputation as an NFL quarterback guru. Despite the massive bust that was Jamarcus Russell, Fisher's last three starting quarterbacks have all been picked in the first round of the draft, Russell, Christian Ponder and most recently EJ Manuel by the Buffalo Bills.

Manuel recently finished his first organized team activities up in Buffalo and met with the press afterwards. He had some interesting things to say about how he's learning the offense up there.

"I've done great. The learning curve for me is a lot shorter simply because of what I had at Florida State," Manuel told Sirius XM NFL Radio. "[FSU's offense is] more complex and a little bit harder to catch on and learn. This offense is very simple. I've done a great job with it."

Now is that more of an indictment on the Bills or could that actually be an issue at Florida State?

It could be that it's way too early for him to have any concept of just how complicated the Buffalo offense is or isn't. Regardless, I'm sure it can't make the Bills coaching staff feel all that great that their new quarterback, the man they hope will be the face of the franchise, basically just told the world they're being out-schemed by a college coach. 

Manuel did clarify a little bit, "It's a true West Coast-type progression offense. That's really what I wanted when I was coming through the pre-draft process. I wanted something that I could just go in and say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, check it down and run it. That's it, it's that simple. I love it."

But aside from the fact that- at least according to Manuel- it's easier to be the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills than to run a Jimbo Fisher offense, that doesn't necessarily mean Buffalo's coaches are drawing up plays on construction paper with crayons and magic markers either. Simpler doesn't necessarily mean worse. 

And that's where we pivot to Florida State.

First of all, when I first read that EJ Manuel said, "the funny thing is it's easier to learn [Buffalo's offense] than the offense I had at Florida State," my take was that he would have never made a comment like that at FSU.

Manuel has been noticeably looser in months following the end of his career at FSU. A big reason for that could be that Fisher runs a program a lot like he runs an offense. Much like Nick Saban (whom Fisher coached under at LSU), Fisher controls almost every aspect of the program at Florida State. From the seating arrangements at team meals to the required garnet polo at player interviews, no detail is beyond the notice of Fisher- especially the things players say to the media.

Florida State's offense being harder to learn than an NFL offense shouldn't really even be all that surprising. In fact, I doubt that's the only college offense like that. The question is whether that's actually a good thing.

It is in a lot of ways, it prepares players for the NFL better on both sides of the ball. Offensive players learn a complicated system that requires a lot of them physically and mentally on every play. More than that, they learn how to learn a complicated system, which is something they'll have to do again in the NFL (except maybe in Buffalo). Defensive players also benefit from practicing regularly against an offense that is highly nuanced and complex.

But at the same time, a complicated system is a tool for (most) players on an NFL trajectory. But not every player is on that path. Not every player is capable of that. And certainly not every team that wins a championship consists of just those kinds of NFL-made players.

Even in the NFL, not every player is capable of functioning in a complicated system. Ever seen a player that just couldn't make it work on one team sign somewhere else and absolutely explode? It happens most often with wide receivers and the biggest reason is that they got into a system that either fit them better or- more often- one that was less complicated and just let them go make plays.

In college, unless a guy can transfer the way that typically manifests itself is that a highly-touted recruit comes in and does nothing. There are countless stories of athletic guys with all the measurables that make lots of plays in practice and then can't make it happen on Saturday.

In a lot of those cases the common denominator is that the scheme is just too complicated. 

You can coach them up, scheme yourself to death and try to do everything in your power to win the game on paper. But once the stadium fills up and the ball gets kicked off, it's about who makes plays. And if some of your best athletes can't make it on to the field because they can't get the system, you're going to have some issues.

I'm not saying that's the case at Florida State. 

But comments like Manuel made last weekend lend themselves to the perception that it may be. And for every smart, talented kid that is attracted by that, there's going to be others that are turned off. 

More than a few NFL scouts commented during the draft process that at FSU, for all his talent, EJ Manuel looked constrained at times. That there were moment where it looked like Jimbo Fisher had really gotten inside Manuel's head. 

EJ Manuel is one of the brightest young men you'll ever talk to. He graduated FSU with his masters, he'll succeed off the field if he doesn't succeed on it. But it's possible he never flourished at FSU- at least in the way many people hoped he might when he came to campus a highly-touted recruit out of Virginia Beach five years ago- because FSU's offense is just too complicated.

If Manuel has a lot of success in Buffalo that question could be worth re-examining.

Of course Jameis Winston could also show everyone that the problem was entirely Manuel's by then too.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Four Seminoles Earn All-ACC Baseball Honors

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The ACC announced their all-conference teams earlier today, just a few days ahead of the conference tournament in Durham, and four Seminoles were honored for their contributions to the Seminoles' 2013 season.

Scott Sitz was Florida State's lone first team all-conference player. The senior RHP was superb for the Seminoles all season going 9-1 in 13 starts with a 1.66 ERA. With the honor Sitz now makes it 20 consecutive seasons that Mike Martin's teams have had at least one player earn first team all-conference honors, dating back to 1994.

Sitz has established himself as a fan favorite at Florida State. On Saturday, during Senior day, fans donned fake mustaches in honor of his trademark Nacho Libre mustache. The Sitzstache, as he's been dubbed, is currently on pace to finish with the lowest ERA of any Seminole starter since 1995 (Scooby Morgan).

Also honored were Luke Weaver, DJ Stewart and Stephen McGee. All three were named second team all-conference. 

Weaver has been a revelation for the Seminoles this season. Originally a mid-week starter, he moved into the weekend rotation when Mike Compton was lost for the year to Tommy John surgery. By mid-year Weaver had pitched well enough to earn the vaunted Friday night spot in the rotation. Brandon Leibrandt had occupied that spot since the beginning of last season but Weaver doesn't seem to have any intentions of giving it back now that it's his.

The sophomore went 6-2 with 2.08 ERA in 14 appearances (12 starts). When he was on, he was lights out, striking out a team-best 91 batters in 78 innings of work while walking just 16 and holding opposing teams to a .218 average against him.

Stewart, a true freshman, has become one of the Seminoles' most reliable bats in just his first year. He hit a team-best .328, belted four homers and drove in 51 runs.

Stephen McGee, the team's veteran leader, is a Johnny Bench award finalist (given annually to the nation's best catcher). McGee batted .299 with eight home runs and 45 RBI's. He also lead the team with a.462 on-base percentage.

But the bigger contribution he made- and one that isn't as obvious in the stats- is his work behind the plate. Despite missing Compton (considered by many to be the team's top starter), McGee helped the Seminole pitching staff to post the lowest team ERA (2.68) in the 34 years Mike Martin has been the head coach.

Notably missing? Marcus Davis. The junior OF/DH has an extremely interesting story, but also had an extremely good case to be made for why he should have been selected too.

Davis hit .312 this season, good for fourth on the team, but he lead the Seminoles in hits (63), runs (53), home runs (9) and RBI's (52). After starting his collegeiate career at LSU, Davis left the program, went to community college and then enrolled at FSU this past Fall. 

He exploded for the Seminole offense this year. Without his bat, the loss of Justin Gonzalez- not to mention losing so much from the year before- could have crippled Florida State's lineup. Instead, Stewart, McGee and Davis were able to form a potent middle of the order. 

McGee and Stewart were both honored for that, Davis deserved to be.

Florida State wrapped up the Atlantic division on Saturday and will play a tune-up game with Coastal division winner (and the number one team in the country) UNC later today before they get to square off with Buck Farmer and Georgia Tech on Wednesday morning for the start of the ACC tournament.

I'll have more baseball coverage coming up all week, keep checking back.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)

May 18, 2013

Seminoles Clinch ACC Atlantic with 6-1 Win Over Clemson

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Florida State clinched the Atlantic division of the ACC for the seventh year in a row on Saturday afternoon with a 6-1 win over Clemson during Senior Day at Dick Howser Stadium.

Starting pitcher Brandon Leibrandt was steady and the Seminole offense provided more than enough run support to help Florida State take the series and the division, as they captured a two-seed in next weekend's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Durham, NC.

"Those guys deserve all the credit," said head coach Mike Martin of his team. "You go to NC State, you lose the first game, you've got to win two to give yourself a chance. You come home, you lose the first game [to Clemson], you win the second one to give yourself a chance and you win the third one.

"That was a very interesting baseball game that was just played, we got a couple of key hits but no question the key to the game was the sixth inning."

Clemson wasted no time putting the pressure on Leibrandt. Despite just four batters coming to the plate in the top of the first, Clemson worked counts and set the pace early.

Maleeke Gibson lined the third pitch of the game down the rightfield line for a double and moved up on a productive out by the Tigers' two hitter, 2B Steve Wilkerson. Steven Duggar, the Clemson leftfielder, singled through the right side of the infield to score Gibson the next batter.

But the Seminoles evened the game in the bottom of the second on a one-out double by SS Giovanny Alfonzo. After 3B Jose Brizuela laid down a bunt for a basehit, Alfonzo roped a 2-0 pitch over the third baseman's head and down the line to the corner in left, scoring Brizuela from first.

An inning later the Seminoles pulled ahead behind a few Clemson mis-haps and some opportunistic base-running. After LF DJ Stewart singled to start the inning he charged hard into second, forcing the second baseman to fumble with the ball and miss the tag. Florida State's three-hitter, C Stephen McGee singled to move Stewart to third with no outs for DH Marcus Davis.

Davis had battled Clemson pitcher Zack Erwin in his first at-bat and timed his fastball. In their second meeting, Erwin tried to stay away from Davis with the fastball but was forced to come in on him when he fell behind 3-1 and Davis roped it to right to score Stewart and give FSU the lead.

That was also it for Erwin, who left the game after giving up three runs on six hits in two-plus innings of work. He was replaced by Jonathan Meyer who let in the other run Erwin was on the hook for when John Nogowski doubled on a strange play to third to score McGee and make it 3-1.

But Florida State failed to press the advantage further and that almost came back to bite them a few innings later.

After forcing Leibrandt to throw 75 pitches in his first four innings, Clemson relented a little and gave him a pass with an eight-pitch fifth. They turned the heat back up to start the sixth inning though, stringing together a couple of singles with no outs to knock him from the game. Leibrandt finished the day having pitched five-plus innings, given up nine hits and an earned run while walking two and striking out three.

LHP Billy Strode came in to replace him and immediately allowed CF Thomas Brittle to drop a bunt and load the bases.

"A lot of times you bring a guy in [to] that situation and he's like a deer in headlights," said Martin. "Billy took the ball, the guy put down a perfect bunt and all of the sudden it's bases loaded.

"Billy just took the bull by the horns though."

Strode buckled down and got the next hitter, LF Tyler Slaton, to strike out looking before inducing a shallow pop-fly from PH Jay Baum for the second out of the inning.

With the bases still full and two down, Strode worked ahead of Wilkerson in the count before getting him to line out softly to second, allowing the Seminoles to escape the inning with their lead in tact.

"The situation itself is not what you want to come into," joked Strode. "But the opportunity they gave me was pretty big and to come out of there with no one scoring, that's big."

In the bottom of the 6th the Seminoles added a little insurance. Brizuela singled to left-center to lead the inning off and Alfonzo reached after getting plunked. John Sansone moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt down the third baseline. 

Then with one out, Seth Miller broke the game open on a 1-2 pitch that he lined up the middle for a two-RBI single. 

"The guy left a changeup over the plate and I was able to stay inside of it, drive it up the middle," said Miller, who before the game participated in FSU's Senior Day festivities. 

In the top of the 7th, trailing 5-1, Clemson squandered a chance to cut into the Seminole lead when Boulware was gunned down at third by Jameis Winston following a Shane Kennedy single. Rather than have two on with one out, Clemson had a man on first with two down and Florida State got out of the inning a few pitches later on a fielder's choice.

A wild pitch allowed Marcus Davis to score in the bottom of the 7th to make it 6-1 before Strode came out and worked a perfect 1-2-3 eighth.

He worked the ninth for Florida State on Saturday too. The sophomore went four strong for the Seminoles, giving up just four hits and no runs while striking out a couple and holding the Tigers without a walk over that time.

FSU will play a one-game non-ACC exhibition against UNC in Chapel Hill before heading to Durham for the ACC tournament next weekend.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)

May 14, 2013

Andrew Wiggins Picks Kansas, Twitter Explodes

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Andrew Wiggins is widely regarded as the best recruit in years. The 6-8 Canadian forward who most recently played ball at Huntington Prep (WV), has also been an unknown quantity on the recruiting trail for months.

Wiggins remained tight-lipped on his intentions through the end of the recruiting process. After narrowing down his options to four finalists, he left the coaches and fanbases of each of those schools dangling for weeks while he enjoyed several high school All-Star events and the end of his school year.

On Tuesday he finally ended the speculation and chose Kansas.

That left many Florida State fans feeling the hurt. Both of Wiggins parents attended Florida State, his father was a star basketball player himself and his mother ended up being an Olympic track athlete. Also working in Florida State's favor was Wiggins' friendship with G Xavier Rathan-Mayes. 

The two players grew up together, their fathers played at Florida State together and they had long talked of playing together in college. Rathan-Mayes was already signed at FSU.

But Wiggins went his own direction on Tuesday, picking Bill Self's Kansas Jayhawks over the Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles for what will likely be his lone college season.

Things started to look bleak for Florida State early in the week when XRM tweeted that he had no idea where Wiggins was headed, and indicated he didn't have much influence over that decision.

Then about 15 minutes before the decision, another tweet went out that Wiggins had just informed his parents of his choice. That was essentially the nail in the Florida State coffin. The decision to not tell his parents until the last minute could mean very little, but it could also indicate that he wanted to avoid being talked out of his own decision.

Surmising that Wiggins parents may have wanted to see him attend their alma mater, keeping them in the dark until the end kind of gave the indication his choice may not have been their first pick for him.

A few minutes later he was a Jayhawk.

Beyond the family ties and XRM, there wasn't much reason for Wiggins to come to Tallahassee if you're being objective about it. While Kentucky, UNC and Kansas have all had major college basketball success, FSU's program is far less established nationally.

While the other three schools have a basketball-first mentality in their athletic programs, FSU is a football school. As the football team finishes work on its brand new, state-of-the-art multimillion dollar indoor practice facility, The Leon County Civic Center still sits in serious need of upgrades and renovations. 

Short of the quixotic desire to bring FSU a basketball title, Wiggins is far better served heading to Kansas to play his year of college ball.

FSU meanwhile has some questions facing its basketball team. Despite a solid recruiting class that features Rathan-Mayes and F Jarquez Smith, RS SR F Terrance Shannon is rumored to be headed to VCU for his final year of eligibility and JR G Terry Whisnant is also seeking a transfer. 

Even with Michael Snaer graduating, the Seminoles have a decent group of players coming back, but would be seriously hurt by the loss of Shannon inside.

Getting Wiggins would have been the magical duct tape to fix some of the problems that a young, still somewhat inexperienced Seminoles team could face in a brutal Atlantic Coast Conference schedule next season- especially without a veteran presence like Shannon's. 

But now, some of those question marks seem to loom larger than ever...

 

For all the lastest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...


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