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May 16, 2013

Baseball Preview: Clemson stands between FSU, national seed

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Florida State took two of three games at N.C. State and a huge leap towards a national seed last weekend.

The Seminoles could put the finishing touches on that national seed - and the ACC Atlantic Division crown - starting Thursday as No. 17 Clemson comes to town.

"We want very much to host, we want very much to be a top eight seed," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "We have an opportunity, but we've got to win a series against one of the hottest teams and one of the best teams in the country."

Florida State (42-10, 18-9 ACC) enters with a one-game lead over Clemson (38-15, 17-10) but needs to take two of three to clinch the division and a top two seed in next week's ACC Tournament. More important, after a series win at fellow national seed contender N.C. State this past weekend, taking at least two against the No. 17 Tigers would all but cement a national seed and the opportunity to host through the NCAA Super Regionals.

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"All we've done is give ourselves a chance," Martin said. "We haven't done any more than that, we have a chance now. (The N.C. State series) was huge that we gave ourselves a chance."

The chance also includes a short rest. Thanks to a Saturday-Sunday-Monday road series against N.C. State and an early start to the Clemson series, FSU is left with just three days off. Because of the quick turnaround, Martin slid midweek starter Peter Miller (6-1, 3.04 ERA) up to start on Thursday, giving Luke Weaver (5-2, 2.17 ERA) and Brandon Leibrandt (8-4, 3.41) the normal week between starts.

"We'll adjust it a little bit," FSU pitching coach Mike Bell said. "It becomes a whole team sport, it's not about running our No. 1 back out there, it's about getting a quality start out of our No. 4 (Miller) and then doing what we do, bridge the gap to get to the closer."

The move means No. 3 starter Scott Sitz (9-1, 1.66) will get the start in the one-game ACC Championship precursor at UNC on Monday. The delay will also give Sitz the normal six days of rest since his win against N.C. State earlier this week.

Clemson counters FSU with a trio of established starting pitchers who are a combined 20-4 this season. All three starters - Daniel Gossett, Matthew Crownover and Zack Erwin - sport sub-3.00 ERA's.

"They've done a great job in all areas of the game but their pitching has really, really picked up. They're a talented bunch," Martin said.

A ranked team, a strong pitching staff and a short week of rest is all that stands between FSU and a strong position come tournament time in June.

"Everybody likes to feel like, after you've worked and practiced as long as we have, you just want an opportunity," Martin said. "Well these young men have provided themselves an opportunity."



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