June 7, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Last year it was Michael Wacha. The year before that, Sonny Gray.
Now it’s Mark Appel’s turn.
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
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For the third year in a row the Florida State baseball team must face an opposing pitcher in a super regional that was either already taken in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft or eventually would be.
Wacha and Texas A&M eliminated the Seminoles in last season’s Tallahassee Super Regional before he was selected 19th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in this year’s draft. A year before Gray was taken 18th overall in 2011 by the Oakland Athletics, he and his Vanderbilt squad beat the ‘Noles in game two of the 2010 super regional at Dick Howser Stadium.
And now Friday night Stanford’s (41-16) Appel will be on the mound, four days after the Pittsburgh Pirates made him the eighth overall selection of the 2012 draft. Before slipping to No. 8, Appel had been projected to go first overall.
If the Seminoles (46-15) are to exorcise their super-regional first-round pitcher demons, they must get past a hurler that approaches 100 miles per hour on the radar gun according to scouts.
“Ninety to 98 so whatever that means,” FSU second baseman Devon Travis said about Appel’s scouting report. “I guess he’s a lot like [Detroit Tigers ace Justin] Verlander. I guess he throws however hard he wants to throw. We’ll see. I think he’s got four quality pitches. He spots up. It should be fun.”
Travis said that Gray touched 98 miles per hour but FSU was still able to post 10 hits in a loss that could be blamed on defensive miscues.
If the ‘Noles are going to replicate that same offensive success Friday, they’ll have to follow a specific blueprint in the batter’s box.
“You’ve got to sell out the fastball,” Travis said. “If a guy has four quality pitches and he throws 98, if you’re looking for anything else you’re screwed. At least if you are looking fastball and at least if he hangs an off-speed pitch or leaves a change-up up you’ve got a shot.
“But if you’re not ready for that fastball I doubt anyone is hitting 98 sitting on a curveball.”
While the Florida State batters will do their best Friday to combat Appel’s ability to send hitters to the dugout (Stanford’s ace ranks fifth in the entire country with 127 total strikeouts this year and is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award), the Seminoles’ own pitcher will be doing his best to not get caught up in the nerve-rattling hype of a high-profile pitching duel taking place under the lights live on ESPN2.
True freshman Brandon Leibrandt is coming off one of his most dominating performances of the season when he struck out 10 batters in FSU’s 8-1 regional win over Samford last weekend.
“I’m not going to try to go outside myself to match him,” Leibrandt said about his pitching counterpart. “I’m just going to do what I’ve been doing all year. Get outs and let our offense do the rest.”
ONE LAST GO ‘ROUND
Florida State’s standout infielders will at some point this weekend — either Saturday or Sunday — play together for the final time on Mike Martin Field.
For the first time in FSU baseball history all four of the ‘Noles starting infielders were taken in the same MLB Draft as Sherman Johnson (3B), Justin Gonzalez (SS), Travis (2B) and Jayce Boyd all heard their respective names called by professional organizations this week.
Johnson is the lone senior of the group so he definitely will not return thus ensuring the group’s time together will soon end. The other three juniors will have decisions to make about their professional futures — ideally after a successful trip to Omaha.
“You know that this is an infield has been together for three years,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “They know each other very well. It’s a nice feeling from a coaching standpoint to be comfortable when you have an infield like this.”
LIVE GAME CHAT
Join Seminoles.com‘s Ryan Pensy and Brandon Mellor for the official Florida State baseball super regional chat Friday, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday.
Click here to access the chat.