May 7, 2006
Mark Sauls makes his second start within five days after not starting a game all season before Wednesday night versus Jacksonville where he picked up his first win of the year. Sauls went five innings, allowed three hits and just one unearned run. Sauls threw just 65 pitches and is expected to come back on just three days rest to face the Deacons. Sauls pitched as many innings in his first start Wednesday as he had in the entire season coming into that game. The Panama City native has started 42 games in his career and faced Wake Forest on two occasions. Sauls hasn’t had a lot of success versus the Deacons. In one start and one relief appearance the senior has a 16.88 ERA in 5 1/3 innings of work versus Wake. He started at Wake Forest in 2004 as a sophomore. Sauls went five innings that day, gave up six runs, walked three and did not strike out a batter. He did not factor in the decision. Last season Sauls had a rough outing versus Wake going just 1/3 of an inning in relief. He gave up two hits and four runs. Despite his struggles against Wake in the past, the right-hander is off to a good start to his 2006 campaign. Sauls’ 2.70 ERA is the fourth-best on the team and he has a K:BB ratio of 4.5:1. The senior has been very tough on left-handed hitters this year holding them to a .200 batting average but righties are hitting over .300. With just 10 innings of work under his belt, it is a little difficult to read too much into Sauls’ 2006 stats but last year he made 14 starts and 18 appearances. Half of his starts in 2005 came on the road and he posted a 3-1 record in those contests. While his ERA was 5.40 in those road starts, opponents hit just .253 against him. Sauls has only pitched three innings in ACC play this season and posted a 9.00 ERA. He has given up two doubles in those three innings and conference opponents hit .308 off of him.
Florida State will be looking for a first Sunday when the team goes for the series win versus Wake Forest. FSU has not won a series this year when they have lost the Friday game and conversely the Seminoles have won every series in which they have won the first game. If Florida State can beat Wake, it will be the first time the team has won two straight games to win a series following a Friday loss. In fact in the last two years, FSU has only lost one series when they have won on Friday (at NC State in 2005) and never lost a three-game set after winning game one. The last time FSU lost the first game of a series and came back to win the series was versus NC State in 2004 in Tallahassee. The last time that happened on the road was in 2003 at Stanford. The last time the Seminoles did that in an ACC series was in 2002 at Virginia.
Saturday’s game between FSU and Wake forest was a record breaker. The 20-inning affair was the longest game in the history of either program and it was also the longest game ever played by an ACC school. It wasn’t the longest game in NCAA history but it was in the top 10. Maybe the 20 innings, 546 pitches and 132 at bats weren’t record numbers but there were some other near-record setting performances Sunday. Allan Dykstra’s 26 putouts are tied for the second-most in NCAA history in a game. The record is 29 and was set in 2002. The teams combined for 155 plate appearances, which is seventh in a single game in Division I history. Wake Forest ranks eight on the list for total chances in a game and the teams combined for 171 total chances, which is the fifth-most ever in a DI game.
This has been a little bit of a strange season for the Seminoles. Before Saturday’s come-from-behind, 20-inning win over Wake Forest, the Seminoles had not won a game in its final at bat and had never gone into the seventh inning trailing and gone on to win the game. That is a pretty big change from 2005. Last season FSU won nine games in its final at bat and six in walk-off fashion. The Seminoles have yet to record their first walk off win of 2006. The Seminoles have won a bunch of games in blowout fashion this year but they are not doing nearly as good of a job in close games. Last year FSU was 19-6 (.760) in games decided by two runs or less this year that number is just 9-5 (.643).
PITCHING, PITCHING, PITCHING
Probably the best thing to come out of this series with Wake Forest through the first two games is how good the Seminole pitching has looked. The FSU staff has posted a 0.64 ERA in the first two games versus the Deacons. In 28 innings only two earned runs have scored. The FSU pitchers have held Wake hitters to a .140 average, more than half of the team’s .292 batting average entering the series. They have limited Wake to just a .200 average with runners in scoring position and a .190 average with runners on base. Wake Forest has batted in 28 innings versus FSU pitchers in the two games and they have only scored runs in two of those innings scoring all seven runs in the third inning of the two games. The Deacons are slugging just .172 in the series and have just 13 hits in 28 innings.
THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS
When it comes to winning the series Sunday, both Wake and FSU will be hoping its starters can go deep into the game. FSU has thrown nine of the 11 pitchers they traveled this weekend. While Wake has only used five different pitchers, two of their top relievers (Ben Hunter and Kyle Young) have already pitched in back-to-back games this weekend. FSU is expected to turn to senior veteran Mark Sauls to start but expect to see a couple of young guns in high pressure situations. Travis Burge is the only FSU reliever who has not pitched in the series so far and the only other reliever who didn’t pitch in the marathon Saturday is freshman Jimmy Marshall who threw an inning on Friday. Burge and Marshall have combined for 36 appearances and both have pitched in big games. Marshall has started versus Georgia Tech on a get-away day and also faced Miami twice and North Carolina once. Same goes for Burge. Although he has never started a game, the freshman has pitched against UNC, Miami twice, Florida and Georgia Tech twice.
If you want to know why Shane Robinson is a consensus first team All-American and National Player of the Year, Saturday versus Wake Forest was just another example. Although Robinson may have gone just 2-for-7 in the game, his impact was huge. Robinson tied the game for FSU in the seventh inning with a two-out RBI single and he scored the game-winning run after a single to open up the 20th. Robinson’s two hits Saturday resulted in the game-tying RBI and the game-winning run. It is nothing new for the Seminole lead-off hitter who is getting ready to leave his stamp all over the FSU record books. While he might be playing his last season in Garnet & Gold as a projected top draft pick, Robinson is creeping up the career record charts at Florida State. Obviously he is just five steals from taking over that career record but he is also on or nearing a bunch of top 10 lists. Robinson is just 10 runs, eight hits, two doubles and two triples away from moving into the top 10 in each of those categories. No player in the history of FSU baseball has ever been in the top 10 for hits, runs, doubles, triples, hit by pitch and stolen bases. But if Robinson is able to get eight more hits, score ten more runs, hit two more doubles and triples he will be the only Seminole ever to be in the top 10 of all of those categories.