The dejection of a disappointing finish to the regular season has turned into optimism for the NCAA Tournament after Florida State dominated at the ACC Tournament to capture its sixth ACC crown on Sunday. The Seminoles went a perfect 4-0 in Durham wile outscoring their four opponents by a 23-7 margin.
FSU will begin the NCAA Tournament on Friday at home against Mercer as Seminole fans hope this will finally be the year the school brings home that first College World Series championship.
With 38 straight 40-plus win seasons and the most appearances in the College World Series without a title, FSU fans are always cynical come Regional and Super Regional time, but here are five reasons to be optimistic this year:
1. Starting Pitching is Returning to Form
During Florida State’s 5-game skid to close the regular season, only once did a FSU starting pitcher go past the fifth inning. Over the four games in Durham, starters allowed just four earned runs in 22 innings pitched and that doesn’t include Boomer Biegalski’s 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief on Sunday against N.C. State. Biegalski opened the tournament by throwing 6 1/3 shutout innings against Clemson on Wednesday and on Saturday, freshman Drew Carlton tossed 7 scoreless innings in a 6-0 win over Louisville. Mike Compton took a shutout into the sixth inning against North Carolina on Thursday and Bryant Holtmann might have made it through his Sunday start unscathed had it not been for a bizarre infield fly rule call and a passed ball.
2. Bats Are Coming Around
Coming into the ACC Tournament, FSU had scored just 12 total runs in the previous five games. In Durham, the Seminoles scored 23 runs in four games and defeated the ACC Pitcher of the Year in Clemson’s Matthew Crownover and the ACC Freshman of the Year in Louisville’s Brendan McKay. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that the Seminoles averaged nearly six runs-per-game with their third and fourth hitters, D.J. Stewart and Quincy Nieporte, going just a combined 6-for-29 during the ACC Tournament. The damage could have been much worse had FSU not left 27 men on base over the final three games in Durham.
3. Production Throughout the Order
With Stewart and Nieporte going just a combined 6-for-29 in Durham, Florida State got production from other parts of the order which will be critical for FSU to make a College World Series run. Ben DeLuzio, who had been one of the Seminoles’ biggest liabilities in the lineup, went 8-for-15 in Durham and against very good pitching. Chris Marconcini, Danny De La Calle and John Sansone were all productive in the tournament as well.
4. Playing Up to Competition
Many were disappointed that Florida State was not given one of the eight national seeds on Monday, but against teams that were, FSU was 6-4 this season. The Seminoles took two of three from both Florida and Miami and split four games with Louisville. Against teams in the field of 64, FSU went 19-12 this year. Getting to Omaha won’t be easy, but there is no doubt that FSU is good enough to play with the nation’s elite.
5. Depth and Versatility of Pitching Staff
The starting rotation was stellar for Florida State in Durham, but as a staff, the Seminoles have enough depth and versatility to go far in the tournament. While Biegalski, Compton and Carlton will be used primarily as starters, senior lefty Bryant Holtmann and freshman right-hander Cobi Johnson have each worked both as a starter and a reliever this year. Lefty Dylan Silva has done a great job pitching out of jams of late, Jim Voyles is tough on right-handers and at the back end of the bullpen, Billy Strode has been outstanding all season long. And on Sunday, Biegalski showed what he could do in his first relief appearance and on just three days rest. A shortage of arms will not be an issue for FSU and with the double-elimination format for both the Regional and College World Series, having Biegalski as a bullpen option could make a huge difference.