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April 4, 2013

Baseball: Weaver ready for weekend debut vs. UM



When Florida State head coach Mike Martin announced he was shuffling his starting rotation, it was no surprise when sophomore Luke Weaver was being moved from a midweek role to the weekend.

It was the size of the promotion - moving all the way up to the Friday slot - that caused a double take.

Martin announced that Weaver would start on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET in the opener of a three-game series at rival Miami (20-12, 5-7 ACC) for the fifth-ranked Seminoles (25-4, 8-4 ACC).

With Weaver getting the ball on Friday, sophomore Brandon Leibrandt (4-2, 4.89 ERA) will slide down to the Saturday spot and senior Scott Sitz (5-0, 0.69 ERA) will start on Sunday. Junior Peter Miller (3-1, 3.77 ERA) will move to a midweek role along with sophomore Billy Strode (1-0, 2.41 ERA).

Weaver (3-0, 1.09 ERA) has been superb in five starts this season, going at least six innings in each start, allowing just four earned runs on 18 hits in 33 innings. He has a team-high 39 strikeouts.

"I think it's just one of those situations where everybody knew we needed to get Luke into the rotation," Martin said. "It was not based on how the others were pitching as it was on how Luke was pitching. It's just one of those luxuries that you have if your guy that's been pitching on Tuesday's is pitching lights out and been pitching against good competition so it was just a logical move."

As a freshman Weaver bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, going 1-0 with a 5.93 ERA. He may have had the most electric stuff on staff as he struck out 40 batters, but he was inconsistent, also allowing six home runs.

This season Weaver has allowed just two extra base hits, a pair of doubles, as opponents are hitting just .155 against the right-hander. In two starts against Florida, Weaver allowed just two runs, one earned, in 12 1/3 innings on six hits and three walks, with 14 strikeouts.

The DeLand, Fla. native can touch 94 miles per hour with his fastball, and his slider has been much improved this season, but pitching coach Mike Bell credits Weaver's start to his location early in the count.

"I think his ability to attack the zone and put himself in a situation where he can capitalize and get some early outs (has been the difference)," Bell said. "I think last year everybody saw he had an electric arm and had good stuff. His breaking ball has come on and has been just as much a weapon as his change-up, but the ability to attack with strike one and occasionally get some outs early on with the first two to three pitches has been really good."

Weaver downplayed the move to the weekend rotation, but said he was excited for the opportunity. He agreed with Bell that so far his biggest weapon this season has been his ability to locate the ball early in the count.

"The slider has come a long way, but I think the biggest thing was mental," he said. "Mental toughness and really just the fact of getting ahead of hitters early sets up the slider to do its work, and throwing a lot of strikes and commanding a lot better than last year has really helped my secondary pitches to be as effective as they are. The most credit goes to the fastball and how it's been controlling on both sides of the plate and really just attacking hitters."

Now after a few starts with is new found ability to get ahead of hitters, Weaver's teammates have said you can see a difference in his demeanor on the mound.

"He's coming into the game knowing he has good stuff and knowing he knows how to throw it," said catcher Stephen McGee. "So he comes in feeling like he's better than the other team and just throws his game and does what he can, and I think that's been the key to his success this year, is mostly his approach. He's always had the same pitches and he's really hitting his spots this year, but I think it's mostly just mentally he's a lot stronger this year and he looks really good out there as an older guy."



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