Feb. 17, 2006
Tallahassee, FL – Florida State baseball just got through its first big road test of the season splitting a pair of games with Auburn on the Plains. Now it is time to take care of some business at home. With the exception of a mid-week game at Gainesville, No. 7 FSU will play 14 games at home before they open ACC play at Virginia Tech March 17. The home stand gets started this Friday at 5:00 p.m. versus UNC Asheville. Both games Saturday and Sunday will be played at 1:00 p.m.
The Bulldogs are coming off an 11-42 season in 2005 but opened 2006 with a 3-2, 11-inning win over defending Southern Conference champion Furman. This will be the first meeting between the teams since Asheville came to Tallahassee in 2004. That year the Bulldogs won the opening game of the series 2-1 before FSU took the next two. That Bulldog victory is their lone win in the series and snapped an 11-game Seminole win streak between the teams.
With the exception of Friday night’s game versus Auburn where the Seminoles were limited to just two hits, the FSU bats have been hot to start the 2006 season. Florida State has recorded nine or more hits in four of the first five games and the team’s batting average of .304 is ahead of the .299 average posted by the squad to start the 2005 season.
One of the stars early on at the plate has been right fielder Jack Rye. It shouldn’t be a surprise the sophomore is off to such a good start. In the last 25 games of 2005, Rye hit .342 and slugged .456. Overall, he finished his freshman campaign second on the team in batting average and in the top five for on base percentage, hits, doubles and total bases.
The California native is second on the team this year with six RBIs and he has driven in the winning run in two of FSU’s four victories. The right fielder is leading the team in clutch hitting as well. He has a team-leading three, two-out RBIs and his clutch hitting average is an amazing .777. He is 14-18 with runners on, runners in scoring position, with the bases loaded, with two outs in an inning and with a runner on third base and less than two outs.
“I want to be a guy this team can count on,” said Rye. “Whenever there is a crucial situation I want to be the guy hitting or in the outfield that will get the ball and make the play that helps this team be successful.”
Despite his success as a freshman, Rye didn’t get off to the best start to his Seminole career at the plate. Through five games in 2005, Rye had the same number of at bats he has this year but was still looking for his first hit. He didn’t get his first hit until his 14th at bat last season and didn’t see his average climb above .200 until the 10th game of his career. So far in 2006 Rye leads FSU in doubles (2), walks (8), on base percentage (.696) and leads all starters in slugging percentage at .923. He is second on the team in hits (7), runs (7), homeruns (1), RBIs (6) and total bases (12).
“This start is a lot different than the one I got off to last year,” said Rye. “It feels good to get off to this type of start and I have a lot more confidence than I did at this point last year. I am going to the plate with the approach that I am going to find the pitch I want to hit rather that swinging at anything that is a strike.”
Rye’s patience at the plate is showing early on. He is the only Seminole to draw a walk in all five games this season and he has also driven in a run in every game. Rye only had only one streak of consecutive games with a walk longer than the five game run this year and that didn’t come until May 13th of 2005. He has already set a personal best with his five straight games with an RBI.
“Hopefully I can keep this up,” said Rye. “This game is really tough. We will have to see how it goes.”
Another bright spot for FSU so far in 2006 has been the performance of the newcomers on the pitching staff. With the loss of all time appearance leader Kevin Lynch and the move of All-ACC closer Tyler Chambliss to the starting rotation, FSU’s new pitchers were a big part of the team’s bullpen plans coming into 2006. So far they have proven they are up to the task.
Luke Tucker, Brent Marsh, Jimmy Marshall and Travis Burge have combined to pitch 10.1 innings and have allowed a total of just one run. This group has a combined ERA of 0.87 in nine appearances with 14 K’s, just four walks and one save. Opponents are hitting .121 of the four new FSU pitchers and not a single left-hander has recorded a hit off of any one of these pitchers. With runners on base opponents are hitting just .182 off this group and with two outs in an inning these four pitchers have held batters to just one hit in 12 at bats (.083 batting average).
“We are throwing strikes. That’s the main thing,” said Burge. “We are putting the ball in play and letting our defense do the work. When you have the type of defense we have behind us and the sticks we have in the line-up as a pitcher you can’t ask for much more. We just have to go out and throw our game and let the guys behind us do their job.”
Burge is one of the names that figures prominently in the Seminoles plans as a starter at some point during his FSU career especially with number one starter Bryan Henry and number two starter Tyler Chambliss both becoming draft eligible this year. For the moment though the Port St. Joe product will be part of a committee that helps fill the void left by Lynch and Chambliss.
“Right now I want to do anything I can to help us win,” said Burge. “I just want to be part of a team. I am proud to be a Seminole and that is all that matters to me.”
First pitch is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. Friday. Steve Melewski will bring fans the call live on 1270 WFLA AM in Tallahassee. Every Seminole baseball game will be carried live on WFLA and on Seminoles.com where broadcasts are free of charge. Game Tracker will also be available for every FSU game in 2006.