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May 10, 2013

Baseball: N.C. State, Clemson series crucial to national seeding

Through 49 games, Florida State's position for a national seed in next month's NCAA Tournament remains cloudy.

Two crucial series against ranked ACC teams down the stretch should clear things up.

The backloaded regular season slate ramps up on Saturday as FSU travels to No. 9 N.C. State. After that, it's a three-game set at home against No. 19 Clemson.

"This is the turning point of our season," John Sansone said.

What's led to some of No. 7's FSU (40-9) seeding uncertainty is its schedule to date. The Seminoles have played just six games against top 20 teams this year, goin 2-4. It took two of three from No. 11 Georgia Tech in March before being swept at No. 8 UVA in April.

FSU will play as many games against top 20 foes in the next week.

"I honestly feel that after next weekend, most of everything is going to be decided," FSU coach Mike Martin said.

Adding to the importance of the next six games, Martin believes that for the first time in years, at this point in the season, six of the eight national seeds are already locked up, leaving two teams vying for home field through the Super Regional round.

"That leaves two spots," Martin said. "And one of the teams (in the running for a final spot) is N.C. State. Another team is Florida State."

N.C. State has thrusted into national seed conversation by winning 20 of its past 21 games including a two-game split with No. 1 UNC on April 27-28. Saturday starter Carlos Rodon leads the nation in strikeouts (114) to anchor a pitching staff that ranks 9th nationally in hits allowed (7.2) and 20th in WHIP (1.19).

"They're a good team," FSU catcher Stephen McGee said. It's a big weekend for them and us."

Martin doesn't believe winning or losing the N.C. State series would cement or eliminate FSU from national seed contention on its own, though. That's where Clemson comes in. In either case, even with success in Raleigh this weekend, Martin says it has to be followed by a strong showing at home to feel good about his team's resume.

"You've got to figure that every single pitch is important, as it should be," said Martin, whose team has won nine straight since the sweep at UVA. "That's the way it is when you get to this time of year."

That doesn't figure in a final regular season game at No. 1 UNC on May 20, two days before the ACC Tournament in Durham. The schools announced the game, which will not count in ACC play, on Thursday. Martin downplayed the impact of that game in terms of national seeding.

However, the importance of the home stretch isn't lost on FSU's players.

"We know it's a big weekend," Sansone said. "Everyone in the locker room, we all know."

"They are very much aware of what's in front of them. They can read," Martin said. "They see what comes out about if this happens, if that happens."

It's exactly that - what happens in the next week - that should tell the story from here.



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