TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – One of Florida State’s best power hitters may have found his stride at the best possible time. Quincy Nieporte, FSU’s hard-slugging junior designated hitter broke out of lengthy funk in grand fashion during the Seminoles’ sweep of Notre Dame last weekend. After hitting just one home run in his first 103 at-bats of the season, Nieporte unleashed an offensive onslaught that included seven hits, three home runs, three doubles and 10 RBIs.
All in just 14 at-bats. “It’s nice, having the success I had,” Nieporte said. “It was a confidence booster, for sure.”
Which is potentially bad news for FSU’s remaining opponents. The Seminoles (28-11, 13-14 ACC) begin the homestretch toward the postseason with a three-game series at Clemson (26-14, 9-12) this weekend.
During a year in which FSU’s offense continues to find success in on-base percentage (.417, seventh nationally), runs scored (315, 19th) and team batting average (.303, 32nd nationally), power has often been the one hole in the lineup.
Nieporte’s struggles were a big part of that. At 6-foot-1, 228 pounds, Nieporte is perhaps the most physically imposing player on the roster.
And, after hitting seven home runs with a .445 slugging percentage a year ago, expectations for Nieporte’s junior season were high.
Living up to those expectations, however, proved difficult at first.
After serving a six-game suspension to start the season, Nieporte struggled to find his rhythm at the plate.
He began the season by grounding into six double-plays in his first 10 games, and entering last week’s Notre Dame series, had just five hits in his previous 26 at-bats.
And when Nieporte did find hits, there never seemed to be much pop. Including a home run against Texas Tech earlier this month, Nieporte recorded just four extra-base hits in nearly three months.
And as Nieporte’s struggles continued to mount, he couldn’t help but grip his bat tighter and tighter.
“He was to trying get two hits every time he went to the plate,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “There’s no doubt he was pressing.”
Experience, though, can be a valuable tool.
Nieporte, who has earned a reputation as one of FSU’s most fiery and emotional players, admitted that this type of slump might have derailed his whole season as a younger player.
Instead, he committed himself to extra practice sessions with hitting coach Mike Martin Jr., finding a plate approach that felt good and trusting that, eventually, it would pay off.
It didn’t at first. Even when Nieporte made good contact – as he did during a recent Sunday game at Wake Forest – the ball would seem to find its way into a fielder’s glove.
That’s what happened against the Demon Deacons when, in the top of the sixth with the Seminoles trailing 4-2, Nieporte smacked a hard-hit ball to center field that would have scored John Sansone from third. Instead, the center fielder snagged it and doubled off the Jackson Lueck at first to end the inning.
“Early on in my career, I think it would definitely frustrate me beyond belief,” Nieporte said. “And it would get into my mind, psychologically and everything like that.”
This time, however, Nieporte remembered wise words from a former teammate. D.J. Stewart, a former All-American now with the Baltimore Orioles, experienced his share of frustration during his junior year at FSU.
When asked about it, Stewart gave Nieporte the kind of advice that could have come straight out of a Kevin Costner movie.
“He kind of taught me that it’s baseball. There’s nothing you can do about it,” Nieporte said. “I think, this year, I’ve really put that in perspective and gone with that. And success will come.”
So that’s it. No change in plate approach. No change in swing mechanics. No change in superstitions or equipment.
Finally, Nieporte’s patience paid off against the Fighting Irish.
It started on Friday, when he launched a homer off the left-field scoreboard that proved to be the winning run in a 12-6 victory.
It continued with a solo shot in FSU’s extra-innings win on Saturday and a two-run homer that helped the Seminoles erase a 5-0 deficit on Sunday.
By the time it was over, Nieporte had raised his batting average 31 points, from .243 to .274. And he became the first Seminole to homer in three straight games since James Ramsey in 2012.
“’Q’ can scare some people,” Martin said. “… Let’s just hope that’s all behind him (and he) continues to get good at-bats. That’s Quincy’s key: Just have good at-bats.”
If he does, it could potentially redefine Florida State’s season.
The Seminoles are already ranked fifth in the country and have a 2.5-game lead over No. 9 Louisville in the ACC Atlantic Division.
With 15 games left in the regular season and the calendar turning to May, they could have hardly asked for Nieporte’s surge to come at a better time.
“Everyone, 1 to 9 – excluding myself – this whole year has been playing unbelievable,” Nieporte said. “And I think if I can keep playing and hitting the way that I have been this past weekend, it just kind of shows how dangerous and well-rounded our lineup can be.
“If we all keep playing like that, just watch out.”