Few teams in the ACC boast the rich baseball history of the Florida State Seminoles. With the second-highest winning percentage behind only Texas, FSU hasn't missed an NCAA Tournament since 1977. They've advanced to the the national tournament 52 times, advanced to the College World Series 21 times, and advanced to the College World Series Championship three times.
Despite this, FSU also has a dubious distinction. The ACC itself has only one national crown, by Wake Forest in 1955. That makes the Seminoles the most successful team without a national championship. Last season, FSU failed to advance to the Super Regionals for the first time since 2007, and they went out in two straight in a regional they hosted.
The third-ranked team in the bracket, the nationally-ranked powerhouse lost in the first round to Georgia Southern, 7-0, in the opening game. They then drew second-seeded Alabama, who themselves lost to Kennesaw State in the first game. An anticipated matchup for the regional final, it was instead the first elimination game of the bracket, and it ended with the Crimson Tide winning a one-run ballgame, 6-5. Florida State was out with a shocking 0-2 finish.
Make no mistake about it, though. This is one talented ballclub. They're a team with a deep lineup, and they're more than likely going to be a team contending for the ACC crown. They're an institution, and while they might not be as strong on paper as they were a year ago, they're still more than likely going to be light years ahead of Boston College. But with an early season chance to score some major shock points, that's what will make this one compelling matchup.
Record: 10-3 (0-0 ACC)
Last Time Out: Defeated South Florida (24-1, 7-3)
Around The Horn
This is an incredibly good hitting lineup, led by DJ Stewart. Boston College was able to avoid him last year when he was suspended for inciting a bench-clearing brawl between the Seminoles and archrival Florida. This year, BC isn't missing him. Stewart is the team's leading hitter at .350, and he's arguably playing for a slot in June's Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. Eight of his 14 hits are for extra bases this year. Five of those eight are homers. His slugging percentage is .800 and he's scored 16 runs on the year. He's quite simply the best pure hitter any Eagle pitcher will face all year.
Stewart's not alone. Three Seminoles have 10 or more RBI already, including John Sansone's 15, Danny De La Calle's 12, and Dylan Busby's 10. Taylor Walls is hitting .326, and Darren Miller is hitting .300. Several athletes have averages well over .300 on the bench, thanks in part to their activity after games are out of reach. Florida State in general has already scored 102 runs in 13 games with a .269 clip.
When they're on, this lineup is one of the best in the nation. In sweeping Oakland University, they scored 7, 15, and 5 runs. In their win against Georgia, they scored seven. This week alone, they've scored 37 runs in three games, dropping nine on UNC-Wilmington on Sunday and 24 and seven on South Florida in their last series.
What's that mean? It means that BC will get absolutely annihilated if the pitching isn't on. You simply can't have a bad inning, as the Eagles found out last season. Up five going into the ninth inning against the Noles, Florida State scored nine. That turned a 7-2 lead into an 11-7 loss. That's going to hang over this bullpen if they can't close the door late in the game.
On The Bump
There is hope for the Eagles to steal a game at the dish. BC's had success over the past few seasons against the Seminoles at the dish. This year's senior class will remember a freshman year win over FSU in which they scored 17 runs. They dropped four on them the next year, and last year scored seven in that aforementioned loss. This year, they're playing an FSU team that's been suspect when playing good hitting offenses.
Florida State's given up five runs or more in five of their 13 games. On Sunday against UNC-Wilmington, they committed five errors and gave up 12 hits. In their 10-5 loss to then-unranked Georgia, the Bulldogs pounded the Noles for 13 hits and 10 runs. Both of those games were started by Cobi Johnson.
Of the four pitchers who've started multiple games for FSU, only one has an ERA under 2.00: Mike Compton. Compton missed all of 2013 after having Tommy John surgery, then returned last year to go 7-3. This year, he's opened up with a 0-0 record in three starts, but he has a 1.98 ERA. He's struck out 17 to just three walks, and he's only allowed three earned runs out of six runs total. His only hole is his hittability—opponents are batting .268 against him.
Boomer Biegalski is 1-1 in his three starts, having thrown 18.2 innings. He's a strikeout machine with 20 K's to just five walks, and opponents are only hitting .217 against him.
Johnson's been a mess this year, having gone 1-1 in his three starts but with an 8.49 ERA. In just 11.2 innings thrown, he's allowed 11 runs. Opponents are crushing the ball off him to the tune of a .306 clip, and he's already thrown three wild pitches (which, I know, BC averages that amount per game or just about).
Taylor Folsom's been solid out of the bullpen with a 2-0 record in six appearances, and Billy Strode has five saves in six appearances. But if BC can avoid getting to face those guys, which they might be able to if they rough up some starting pitching, anything is possible.
As a team, Florida State has a 3.47 ERA. That's good but not great. It's substantially better than the 5.94 team ERA of Boston College, but where opponents are hitting .256 against them, BC is coming in hitting nearly .300 as a team.
With the ACC conference play opening up, there are always some great storylines. Notre Dame—yes, THAT Notre Dame—is 10-1 on the season, but they really haven't played anyone decent outside of Oklahoma. They'll be tested this weekend when they run into the brick wall of Georgia Tech. If they can take three games from the Yellow Jackets, I'll be impressed.
There are some other noteworthy series, including the ACC opener for Louisville. A national powerhouse in their own right, they'll take on Miami in a series that will be fascinatingly awesome to watch.
Duke makes the super long trek to North Carolina, where the Tar Heels will look to bounce back from a loss to Rhode Island. That must've been fun to watch—baby blue vs. baby blue with the ram mascot beating the ram mascot. Since URI won, UNC should be disallowed from using those uniform colors and mascot for a year or something.
That's the same URI team that gave up 22 runs to Florida, by the way.
Clemson opens up at NC State, and Pitt heads to Virginia for what could be a massacre. Virginia Tech takes on Wake Forest in an absolute pillow fight of a series.
Syracuse is off until forever. #seewhatididthere
Music To Listen To As You're Trying Really Hard To Not Offend FSU Baseball Fans
This goes out to all the FSU fans who showed me so much love over the past year.
Fun Facts Of The Week
The 24 runs put up by the Seminoles against South Florida were the most runs scored by their program since FSU dropped 37 against Ohio State in the Tallahassee Regional Final back in 2009. In that game, the Noles scored 37 runs on 38 hits and 66 total bases.
The 2009 NCAA Tournament was also where Boston College took part as an at-large bid. Playing out in the Texas Regional against the host Longhorns, the Eagles lost 3-2 in the 25-inning game. That was the longest game in NCAA history, lasting over seven hours. Completely out of gas, BC lost their second game and was eliminated before anything really got started.
The 2009 NCAA Tournament—where weird happened.
Just because I haven't mentioned him yet, and because I have to fill the FSU game clause in my contract—Jameis Winston was actually suspended from the baseball program for the crab legs incident. Banned from all baseball activities until he completed his community service, he served a three-game suspension from the Seminoles in baseball. I'm not saying anything about him as a human being, only pointing out that he was suspended from baseball for what happened. You can say whatever the hell you want about it, and I'm not saying anything. Been there, done that. Not doing it again.
Prior to the season, I hypothesized that the Eagles would need 13-15 conference wins to get into the ACC Tournament. I factored in that they would be swept by Florida State as part of that. So any win in any capacity is a bonus advantage here, and I'm sticking to my prediction that the Eagles will be swept down in Tallahassee.
I say that with a caveat, though, and I mean this sincerely: this is not a series I feel particularly intimidated by. Florida State's offense is good, but they're very much a high-production, low-production team. They peak and valley. If the BC pitching can outsmart hitters and vary pitch selection and location, they can keep the score down. If they can keep the score down, I like the Eagles' bats' chances. I think this is a series that can go any which way, especially this early in the season. And if BC can pick up a win or two, don't be surprised.