Every now and then, a golden opportunity comes along.
Boston College hasn't beaten Florida State in baseball since 2012. The Eagles are 4-28 lifetime against the national powerhouse, who ride a nine-game winning streak into the series in Chestnut Hill, and that 2012 win? It's the only time Mike Gambino's ever picked up a victory against Mike Martin's Florida State team.
But something about this weekend feels different. FSU is still a powerhouse, but they lack the true superstar they've had in past years. Boston College will never be able to touch the Seminoles on raw talent, but the team itself is stronger than in recent years. The pitching could be even an advantage for the Birds, as long as everything spots successfully.
Then there's the facility. This series is being played at Shea Field. Two years ago, when FSU last came up to New England, weather forced moving the games down to the University of Rhode Island. This time around, these are true home games at the wind tunnel behind Alumni Stadium.
Shea Field lacks the perks FSU is going to be used to, and even though they're a much more talented team on paper, that stands as the great equalizer. This is a New England weekend in the spring, one where weather changes hour-to-hour, on a field that's nothing like anything the Seminoles on the roster have ever played in. For some, this is their only trip to Shea Field. For others, it's a rude awakening as to how the other side, the one without the plush dugouts or training facilities, live. And that, for what it's worth, may be the one thing BC has on their side that is a true wild card.
Record: 18-6 (6-1 ACC)
Last Time Out: FSU won the only game they played last weekend over NC State, with two games cancelled last weekend. Those two cancellations allowed them to schedule two midweek games against Texas Tech, to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday next week following this series.
In a midweek game this week, FSU played their intrastate rivalry in Jacksonville when they took on the University of Florida. The top-ranked Gators and top-10 Seminoles had an instant classic with Florida coming out on top with a 3-2 victory.
Around The Horn
Make no mistake about it, this is a lineup that can rip the cover off the ball. The team itself comes in with a .307 batting average, 247 hits, 207 runs scored, and an average of 8.9 runs per game. They've done it by slugging only 14 homers, a scary thought considering this is a team known for having at least one true power hitter.
Taylor Walls enters on a 12 game hitting streak, and Cal Raleigh has a four game hitting streak - and they aren't even the top players to watch. John Sansone leads the team with a .385 batting average including 37 hits and 31 RBI.
He's one of three players with 20 or more RBI entering this weekend. Raleigh enters with 25 RBI and Dylan Busby has 20. Raleigh is also the team leader with four homers and a .600 slugging percentage.
Walls, meanwhile, has 11 doubles to lead the team and 51 total total bases. He's also worked 19 walks, tied for second on team with Raleigh. Matt Henderson, who is only hitting .232, has 22 walks for an on-base percentage of .443. So even the guys who are struggling to hit are capable of getting on base consistently.
When you compare some of the stats to Boston College, they dwarf. But remember that Florida State pounded teams in the beginning of the year. In three games against Rhode Island to open up the season, they scored 40 runs, winning 19-1, 8-1, and 23-4. The next weekend, they dropped 20 runs on College of Charleston, including 19 in the final two games after they lost the opener. They added 27 in two wins over Pittsburgh.
But there are times where good pitching can shut down this lineup. Jacksonville beat FSU, 7-3 and St. John's took one of three with a 5-1 victory. Pittsburgh rallied from getting slaughtered to get a win. So even though the Eagles will have their hands full all weekend, a good pitching performance from their starters can go a long way to picking up a victory or two against one of the best teams in the nation.
On The Bump
This is where, honestly, Florida State has a slight weakness. The starting pitchers aren't overpowering, even though their wins totals are high. Mike Compton gets the call against Mike King in what should be an epic duel between aces on Friday, with Drew Carlton going on Saturday and freshman Cole Sands getting the call on Sunday.
All of the starters have at least one shortened start in the past couple of weeks. Compton only lasted 4.1 innings against Pitt and 3.1 innings against NC STate, giving up four runs in both starts. Against Pittsburgh, he battled control problems, surrendering five hits and walking three while only striking out two.
Carlton didn't pitch great against Georgia Tech back on March 12th, so he bounced back for five strong innings against Pittsburgh. And Sands, although he threw 5.1 innings against the Ramblin' Wreck in a win, still gave up three runs. Against PIttsburgh, he walked five to only two strikeouts while taking a loss.
The point is that the starting pitching has elite talent, but BC has a good shot, if they can work those counts and get on base, on really doing some damage to this pitching staff. The question is what BC offense shows up - the one that jumped on Pittsburgh on Friday or the one that didn't show up against UConn this week.
As for the rest of the staff, we talked this week with Andrew Miller from Tomahawk Nation about how elite the bullpen is. Jim and Ed Voyles are ridiculous, and Chase Haney is 3-0 with a 1.15 ERA in 11 appearances. Matthew Kinney is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in 11 appearances as well. So for all of the talk that the starting pitching could be susceptible? The team itself has a 2.74 ERA.
So maybe they're not that bad after all.
BC is going to counter with with the usual suspects. Mike King gets the call on Friday against Compton, with Jesse Adams throwing against Drew Carlton and Jacob Stevens going on Sunday.
This is going to be fun.
So Friday's game is going to be cool and humid with scattered thunderstorms across the area. It's actually going to be pretty nice for baseball weather, but the mid-afternoon start means the wind tunnel should be picking up with the gusting breezes that have been around New England this week. Pack an extra sweatshirt or two for the late innings.
Saturday's forecast calls for rain and temperatures in the 50s. Seasonable weather for the whole "April showers bring May flowers" reputation. Since the temperatures are going to get steadily colder, you might want to pack a jacket or a pair of gloves for Shea Field.
But the temperature is going to continue to drop through Saturday, and Sunday's forecast? SNOW.
There's an 80% chance of snow on Sunday in the morning, with winds still kicking up into 30 mph gusts. It won't necessairly leave the field with more than inch, and conditions should still be playable, but I can't wait for FSU players to get out on the turf in temperatures under 40 degrees and snow falling when they wake up.
The temperature this weekend in Tallahassee? Temperatures never really getting below 70 during the day with overnight lows hovering around 50. Sure it'll rain, but consider this - Sunday's high will still be 10 degrees colder than FSU's overnight low.
Music To Tomahawk Chop To
Aerosmith - Dream On.
If there's one thing about this series, it's that a team can't be intimidated by Florida State. They're incredibly impressive as a team. Mike Martin has over 1,800 wins as a head coach, and their raw talent year-in and year-out is unsurpassed. They're an incredible program run by an incredible person, and they're at the point where each season is a self-fulfilling trip that proves their dominance over a season. After all, in baseball, averages usually win out over the course of the season.
If you let yourself not be intimidated by this team, you can believe you can win. If you believe it, it can happen. And if it can happen, it's up to you to go out and do it. I really believe BC has a golden opportunity in front of them, but they have to be willing to grind out every pitch, let alone every at-bat.
Random Fact(s) Of The Week
Jacob Stevens' 0.53 ERA is the best in the ACC as of this weekend. It ranks fifth overall in the nation behind only Thomas Hackimer (St. John's), Robert Garcia (UC Davis), and Erik Dowse/Troy Rallings (Campbell/Washington). Dowse and Rallings are the only pitchers who still have not allowed an earned run.
As a team, Boston College ranks 38th in the nation in team ERA at 3.33. They are directly behind Southeast Missouri State and directly in front of Gardner-Webb. Florida State ranks 18th in the nation, directly in front of Florida and directly behind Ole Miss. St. Bonaventure is #1 in the nation.
BC is actually a better fielding team heading into this weekend. They enter at .972 in their fielding percentage compared to .966 for the Seminoles.
Michael Strem has a base hit in 17 of BC's 23 games this season. In the last three games, he's 7-12 with five RBI.
Boston College has seven pitchers with ERAs of below 4.00, including two starting pitchers and their three top options out of the bullpen.
FSU has used the same starting infield for their entire season. They've used only 11 players for their starting defense this season, with Nick Graganella being used once in right field. Everyone else has been the same steady diet of players. The DH position, however, has seen more than one starter behind Quincy Nieporte.
In the past four games, the FSU bullpen has been used for a minimum of six innings (NC State being 5.2 innings - so close enough).
Florida State is in for a culture shock this weekend. Boston College's home baseball field might be the source of humor for opponents, but it's something the Eagles accepted and made their own. In order to win at BC, you need to be a little bit hardened. Once the winds kick up and the day starts melting away behind Alumni Stadium, it gets colder than cold, but it's something that the Eagles accept and make their own.
When you take away virtually everything FSU might be used to and even some things they didn't know they could lose, it opens the door for an opponent to jump on the apprehension.
For that reason, I really think BC can win a game this weekend. When you factor in the snow, the cold temperatures, the wind, and everything, I think there's reason to be optimistic. When you factor in the actual baseball, natural ability tempers the expectations but at the same time, we've seen Boston College playing at a high level. Again, there needs to be cause for optimism.
Can BC win this weekend? Honestly that's going to be asking a lot. Even with everything they have going for them, FSU is still FSU. But this is going to be an interesting weekend, and the next three days are going to be extremely compelling between an ultra-talented team and a team seemingly ready to start punching up out of its weight class.