March 21, 2013

Baseball: FSU ready for toughest test yet

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As the Florida State baseball team filtered onto Mike Martin Field for some pre-practice batting practice, there was a noticeable pep in the player's step.

That's because the No. 5 Seminoles (20-1, 5-1 ACC) play host to No. 11 Georgia Tech (17-3, 5-1 ACC) for a three-game series starting with a doubleheader on Friday at 3 p.m. ET.

"I think you can definitely tell there's a little more excitement when you've got a top program like Tech coming in," said sophomore John Nogowski. "We know a bunch of their guys and that's always fun playing against guys you know. We know there's going to be more people in the crowd, the intensity is a little bit higher, so yeah there's definitely a little bit more excitement. A little bit more intensity in practice in getting ready to go."

The Yellow Jackets will certainly provide FSU with its stiffest test so far this season. GT as a team is hitting .352 (best in the nation) with 12 homeruns and an average of 9.7 runs per game.

Junior catcher Zane Evans has been a run-producing machine with nine homeruns and 32 RBIs. Senior outfielder Brandon Thomas has the second-best batting average in the country at .487, he's scored 29 runs this year.

"Well their numbers are staggering," FSU head coach Mike Martin said. "In this day and time for them to go out and hit as many homeruns, and gosh they're averaging 10 runs a game. That's just extremely impressive, but it just goes to show you what a great coach Danny Hall is."

GT also has one of the premier starters in the ACC in ace Buck Farmer. The senior righty is 4-0 with a 1.64 ERA in five starts in 2013. He has struck out 44 batters, while walking just seven.

"He's nasty," Nogowski said. "He's got good stuff. But we're going to do what we do all year. Try to get his pitch count up, get him out of the game, get to their bullpen early on Friday and hopefully it will pay off."

Last season Farmer and FSU Friday starter Brandon Leibrandt faced off in one of the better pitching duels of the year. Farmer allowed just one earned run on five hits in eight innings while striking out eight as he didn't factor into the decision.

Leibrandt, an Atlanta native, didn't allow a run, gave up just three hits and struck out four in 7.1 innings as he also earned a no decision in the 2-1 FSU win. The sophomore said it was one of the better starts of his freshman All-American campaign and he hopes to replicate it on Friday as he faces off against plenty of familiar faces again.

"That was one of my better games last year," Leibrandt said. "I'm hoping to come out and pitch like I can, mix it up and hopefully throw some zeros up there for our offense."

Martin said he's looking forward to seeing Farmer and Leibrandt square off again in the first game of Friday's doubleheader.

"Should be a very good match-up," Martin said. "Certainly Buck has been impressive over the years and Brandon coming off the outstanding year he had last year, it could present a very fun time for everybody."

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