Florida State baseball looking to snap recent skid at No. 8 Virginia
The Florida State baseball team doesn’t have time to dwell on its recent struggles.
After Tuesday’s home loss to Florida where FSU squandered an early 5-1 lead, the Seminoles (12-9, 3-3 ACC) have now lost six of their last seven games since their 11-3 start to the season.
Things don’t get any easier from here, though, as last weekend’s Boston College series was the start of an 11-game stretch against teams currently ranked in the top 17 of the D1Baseball poll.
That continues this weekend when the Seminoles hit the road for their first ACC series of the season away from Dick Howser Stadium against No. 8 Virginia (19-2, 4-2) Friday, Saturday and Sunday with all games at 1 p.m. (ACC Network Extra for all three games).
“You don’t get a better barometer than the stretch we’re running through,” FSU head coach Link Jarrett said after the loss to UF. “You could dig into any conference schedule, starting tonight then at Virginia then this again (Florida) then at Miami. I don’t know that it gets much more difficult than that. The barometer is right in your face. It’s staring at us.”
The Cavaliers will prove to be a remarkable test for the Seminoles’ first road conference series. UVA has been incredibly consistent this season, posting a perfect 15-0 non-conference record and starting ACC play with road series wins at No. 15 North Carolina and then-No. 23 NC State.
The Cavaliers enter the weekend fourth nationally in both team batting average (.332) and team earned run average (2.62). Led by catcher Kyle Teel (.457 batting average, five home runs, 23 RBI), six of the eight UVA hitters with 55-plus at-bats this season are hitting .341 or better.
On the mound, each of UVA’s three projected starters have thrown 24-plus innings in five starts this season and have 30-plus strikeouts and less than 10 walks. Two of the three have sub-3.00 ERAs, led by Brian Edgington at 1.98.
Before the eight-game stretch, which began Tuesday against the Gators, Jarrett’s message was one of focusing inward instead of out.
“I told them before the game, ‘This isn’t necessarily about who. Reshuffle the word, it’s how. How you play will take care of it. If you play the game properly, you’re going to be just fine,’ ” Jarrett said. “We haven’t played enough, and in part because we’ve got guys all over the map right now. But it’s how. I want them to focus more on how we’re doing this than necessarily who rolls out there.”
The good news for the Seminoles is that their lineup was at full strength for the first time this season in Tuesday’s loss to UF. Freshman center fielder DeAmez Ross returned to his position in the field after missing 13 games and returning as designated hitter Sunday vs. Boston College.
Ross vacating the DH spot allowed West Virginia transfer McGwire Holbrook to move into that spot Tuesday, returning to action after missing 19 of the team’s first 20 games of the season with first a wrist injury and then a leg injury.
Additionally, freshman Cam Smith’s injury absence was a brief one as he was back at third base Tuesday after missing the BC series with a minor back injury, smashing three hits in the loss.
This weekend’s series will provide the first extended look at FSU’s full-capacity offensive roster. And considering the offensive funk the Seminoles have been in during their recent skid, that could be just what they need to break out of it.
Pitching rotation up in the air
While the offensive injury questions have been answered, there remains one major question entering FSU’s weekend series in Charlottesville.
Will Wyatt Crowell be back in the starting rotation?
After Crowell was excellent in his long-awaited first career start two weeks ago, throwing six shutout innings against Pitt, he was scratched from last Saturday’s game against Boston College.
FSU sorely missed its most reliable pitcher, dropping each of the final two games after handily winning the series opener. Crowell is one out away from being eligible for the ACC leaderboard. If he was eligible, his 0.87 ERA over 20.2 innings this season would be the best among all qualified ACC pitchers and eighth-best nationally.
While Jarrett didn’t have a definitive update after Tuesday’s game, the update he did provide sounded promising as to Crowell’s status for the UVA series.
“He’s doing better. It’s been better every single day. He’s going to throw (Wednesday) so we’ll know a lot more. He’s going to dial it up here (Wednesday) and he’s been trending just fine,” Jarrett said. “I don’t have any idea just yet what we’ll do rotation-wise, but the positive side is he’s been better and better every day. We clearly need him. It’s hard to go through a whole week without him throwing a pitch for you, but I think he’s headed back in the right direction.”
If Crowell is available, how the Seminoles align their rotation will be a fascinating question. Do they consider someone else for the Sunday spot after Carson Montgomery’s struggles (7.11 ERA with 15 earned runs and 12 walks in 19 innings) this season?
All FSU's game notes indicate is that Jackson Baumeister will start Friday's series opener. The Saturday and Sunday starter spots are TBA.
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