April 11, 2006
The Seminoles lead the all-time series with JU 107-33 and they are 36-23 in Jacksonville with one of those wins coming at the Baseball Grounds. FSU has won 15 straight games in the series. The last time a Seminole squad lost to JU was February 24, 2002 in Jacksonville. The Dolphins won that game 13-4. It tied the series record for the most runs scored by JU versus FSU and the widest margin of victory for JU. The record was set in 1971 in an identical 13-4 JU win on their campus. Jacksonville has had a lot of success in the series in games played on their home field. In Tallahassee the Seminoles are 71-10 for a .877 winning percentage but that winning percentage drops to .610 in games played at JU. FSU has scored 10 or more runs in seven of the last 12 meetings and recorded two shutouts in that stretch. Besides the two shutouts, JU has had success producing runs. The Dolphins have scored three or more runs in eight meetings but have never been closer than five runs in any of those 10 games before this season. The two games this year have been decided by just two and three runs. The longest win streak for FSU in the series is 18 games set between 1980-2002 while JU’s longest win streak is three games set twice (1972 and 1982).
THIS SEASON VS JU
This will be the third meeting of the year between the Seminoles and Dolphins and the second game played in Jacksonville. The first two games have both been very close with FSU winning 4-1 and 4-2. Considering the fact that JU was only within four runs of FSU once in the previous 13 meetings coming into 2006, playing back-to-back games decided by three runs or less says a lot about the way JU is playing this season. The last time Florida State and Jacksonville played two consecutive games that were that close was in 1996 when FSU beat JU 8-6 in Tallahassee and 4-1 in Jacksonville. The only other occasion since then was 2002 when FSU won 1-0 but followed that with a lopsided 14-3 loss at JU, the last time the Dolphins won a game in the series. One of the big differences in the first two meetings between the Seminoles and Dolphins was basically two big hits. With FSU leading 2-1 in game one, Ryan Strauss’ two-run double gave FSU all the cushion it would need. In the second meeting it was Ryne Malone’s two-run homer that made the score 4-0 in a game FSU went on to win 4-2.
Jacksonville enters the game fresh off a resounding three-game sweep of rival North Florida in which they outscored the Osprey 29-15. Thanks to the sweep of UNF, JU is now sitting atop the A-Sun standings at 8-4. The Dolphins were picked to finish sixth in the preseason coaches poll but as of today they are two games ahead of Mercer in the loss column for second place and four games in front of UNF in the loss column, the third place team in the A-Sun. JU isn’t just doing well in their conference. The Dolphins are stacking up with the best teams in the state of Florida. JU’s 26-10 record and .722 winning percentage is second-best to FSU among all teams in Florida.
There are only two Seminole starters hitting above .250 in the series with JU this season. Buster Posey is leading the way with a .571 average. The freshman has two doubles and is slugging .857. Ryan Strauss is the only other Seminole starter having any success versus JU as he is hitting .429 in the two games and slugging .571. Only one other starter, Tony Thomas, Jr., is hitting over .250 in the series this year. Ryan McArdle started one game and hit .500 in that outing. No FSU player has more than two RBIs and Ryne Malone is the only Seminole to homer so far. FSU is hitting just .242 as a team against the Dolphins, slugging .355 and posting an on base percentage of .351.
The biggest reasons for FSU’s success so far versus JU are pitching and defense. The Seminoles have not committed an error in either game against Jacksonville, have a staff ERA of 1.50 and are holding JU to a team batting average of .175. The Seminoles have not allowed an extra base hit to the Dolphins yet this season either. The Florida State bullpen has not allowed a run yet in the series and has given up just one hit in 6 1/3 innings of work. FSU pitchers have 16 K’s and just seven walks in the two games. Brent Marsh, Travis Burge and Luke Tucker have been brilliant but Tucker has really shined. The Seminole closer has pitched two innings, struck out five of the six batters he has faced and picked up saves in both of FSU’s wins.
As a team the Seminoles have had success when they have been able to load the bases versus JU. In four opportunities, FSU has two hits with the bases juiced. One area that is a concern though is timely hitting with runners in scoring position. Despite going 2-for-4 with the bases loaded, the Seminoles are hitting just .222 in the series with runners in scoring position but it could be worse as JU is hitting just .067 in the same situation.
Right-hander Michael Hyde will make his second straight start versus Jacksonville Wednesday night. The junior picked up the win the last time he faced the Dolphins going a season-high 6 1/3 innings while allowing just two runs on four hits. Hyde limited JU to a .208 batting average in the April 4 game played in Tallahassee. He threw five shutout innings before allowing two runs in the sixth. Hyde came back out in the seventh and retired two more batters before calling it a night. Hyde’s 4.64 ERA is the highest among the FSU starters but he is 6-0 and has gone at least five innings in five of his six starts. Teams are hitting .240 off the Tallahassee native but he has been at his best in clutch situations as he is holding opponents to a .204 average with runners on base. The biggest area of concern for Hyde this season has been extra base hits as no starter averages more doubles or homers given up per nine innings than him. This will be just the second start of the year for Hyde on the road. His last road start came on a Saturday at Virginia Tech when he was filling in for a sick Tyler Chambliss. That was Hyde’s roughest outing of the year as he lasted just 2 1/3 and gave up four runs. He allowed six hits, two of which were doubles. His ERA on the road this season is 11.57 and the Hokies hit .417 off of him. Like most pitchers, Hyde’s numbers on the road aren’t quite as good as they are at home. In 2005, Hyde was 2-1 with a 7.66 ERA in away games and teams hit .330 off of him. In four opponents batted .380 versus Hyde with runners on base and they reached base to leadoff an inning over 42% of the time. Compare that to home games where he went 4-1 with a 3.71 ERA in 12 starts and held opponents to a .259 average. Where Hyde has been especially good this season is in his mid-week starts. The junior is 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA and an opponent batting average of .171 in two mid-week starts. He has a K:BB ratio of better than 2:1 and neither lefties or righties are hitting better than .183 against him. In those two games teams are just 1-for-12 against him with runners on and only one leadoff batter has reached base safely
Winning mid-week games is crucial for any team that has hopes of hosting regionals and a super regional in the postseason. Florida State is proof of that. Of course a team needs to take care of its business in conference series on the weekend, but often times a slip-up mid-week can really hurt. This year the Seminoles are a perfect 6-0 in mid-week games with wins over ranked teams in Florida and Winthrop and three wins over the top two teams in the A-Sun standings Jacksonville and Mercer. This is nothing new for Florida State who has dominated mid-week games. Since 2000 FSU is 66-5 for a .930 winning percentage in mid-week contests. That number doesn’t count any three-game series that started on a Thursday or end on a Monday or the two trips to Hawaii. It is only a measure of those games played during the week between three-game series and it is an amazing number. The only teams FSU has lost to in mid-week action in the last seven years is The Citadel (2001), South Alabama (2002) and Florida (2004 and 2005). If you take away three losses to the Gators, FSU has been beaten just two times in seven years. That means against anyone but Florida (who FSU is 3-3 against) FSU has a record of 63-2 in mid-week contests since 2000.
GROWTH AT THE PLATE
If you are going to set a record or a milestone there is no better way to do it than with a grand slam. That is exactly what Tony Thomas, Jr. did this past weekend in Chestnut hill. Thomas’ grand slam in Sunday’s series finale gave the sophomore 33 RBIs on the year, which is four more than he had his entire freshman season where he started 71 games. The Valrico, FL native was phenomenal last year with his glove and had a solid season at the plate making the adjustment to DI ball. This year his defense is as good as ever and his offensive production is rising to that level as well. Thomas is coming into Wednesday’s game with a .315 average and his average has not dipped below .300 in 18 straight games dating back to March 11. Last season Thomas never broke the .300 mark at any point of the season. Right now Thomas is on pace to set career highs for average, hits, runs, doubles and homers on top of the fact he has already set a personal best for RBIs. Compare his numbers through the first 35 games of his career and through this season and you will see just how far Thomas has come. He is hitting 35 points higher than last year, he has 13 more hits, four more homers and 20 more RBIs.
DP’S SAVE FSU AT BC
Florida State got a big fight from Boston College in the first ACC series between the schools and that was expected. After a 7-1 win in the opener, BC and FSU played back-to-back two-run games and if it weren’t for three double plays the outcome could have been very different. In Saturday’s game FSU was in front 3-2 when Boston College got the leadoff batter on in the seventh. A sac bunt moved the runner up and then an infield single put runners on first and second. BC loaded the bases on a hit by pitch before Danny Diaz came through with a huge play on the attempted suicide squeeze. The BC batter fouled the bunt behind home plate. Diaz juggled the ball on the tough play but held on and then tagged the runner who broke to home on contact ending the inning on an unassisted double play. In the eighth inning the Eagles loaded the bases with one away again this time trailing 4-2. Brent Marsh came in to the game and needed just two pitches to end the threat as he got BC to hit into another double play to end the eighth. On Sunday it was more of the same. With the Eagles trailing 6-5 and runners on the corners Shane Robinson caught a fly ball and then gunned down the tying run at the plate to end another BC threat via the double play. Of the six double plays FSU turned on the weekend, three came with the leading run on base and ended the inning.
WHY HE’S SO SPECIAL
When you look at Shane Robinson’s stat line from the past weekend at Boston College you will never realize the impact the junior had on FSU sweeping the series. In the two closest games Robinson made a major difference. Saturday’s game was scoreless before Robinson led off the fourth inning with a double. Back-to-back sacrifices brought him home with the game’s first run. Then with FSU holding on to a 3-2 lead Robinson took advantage of BC mistakes to get FSU an insurance run. After reaching on a two-base error the center fielder swiped third and then trotted home as the ball sailed into left field making it a 4-1 game. Sunday he was an ever bigger presence. With FSU trailing 1-0 and Boston College fighting with everything they had to avoid a sweep in their first home series of the year, Robinson keyed a five-run inning. He started things off by upping his hit streak to 22 games as he led off with a sharply hit single up the middle. Jack Rye then worked out a walk versus BC ace Terry Doyle after falling behind 0-2 putting a couple runners on base. Doyle, who threw over to first eight times trying to keep Robinson from stealing, seemed to lose focus on Rye as the FSU All-American kept him occupied. A bunt base hit on an attempted sacrifice loaded the bases up and then FSU tied the game on a fielder’s choice. One batter after Robinson trotted home with the tying run Tony Thomas, Jr. hit a grand slam busting the game wide open. Robinson just didn’t hurt BC offensively he also killed them on the defensive side. With the Eagles trailing 6-5 and runners on the corners Robinson caught a fly ball and then gunned out the tying run at the plate to end the BC threat via the double play. One inning later with FSU up 7-5, the Eagles once again had a runner on third when a ball was hit to Robinson. The center fielder settled under the fly ball and gunned it to home. This time BC didn’t try to test Robinson’s arm and the run never came around to score.
Getting a sweep on the road in conference is one of the toughest things to do. Just ask Virginia and Georgia Tech who each failed to get a sweep on the road versus the two teams with the worst records in the conference this past weekend. That is why this past weekend’s sweep of a good Eagle squad in Chestnut Hill was so huge for Florida State. Since 2000 few teams have been better than the Seminoles at sweeping ACC road series. The three-game sweep at BC was the seventh for FSU in the last seven seasons, second only to Georgia Tech who has done that eight times. In the last seven seasons Florida State has recorded three-game road sweeps over Maryland (3), Clemson, Duke, Wake Forest and Boston College. Florida State isn’t just one of the most dangerous teams on the road they are the hardest team in the league to sweep at home. FSU, Georgia Tech and North Carolina have each only been swept once at home in ACC competition since 2000. Wake Forest swept the Tar Heels in 2001, Georgia Tech swept FSU in 2004 and Virginia swept Georgia Tech that same season.
LAST WEEK’S STARS
Reliever Brent Marsh had a hand in three of Florida State’s four wins last week. In three games Marsh had a 0.00 ERA pitching 2 2/3. He did not allow a hit or a walk and struck out one batter while picking up the first save of his career. In three games the transfer from South Carolina threw just 16 pitches but he made the most of them. Versus JU he threw eight pitches and retired all three batters he faced. In Saturday’s game versus Boston College Marsh came in with the bases loaded and FSU up 4-2. On just his second pitch of that game he got a double play ball to end the threat and FSU held on to win that game. Then Sunday he picked up his first career save at Florida State. With the Seminoles leading 7-5, Marsh needed just six pitches to retire three Eagle batters in the ninth and secure the series sweep for FSU.
Florida State’s first year shortstop lead the Seminoles to four wins last week with his play at the plate. The Leesburg, GA native hit .438, slugged .813, drove in four runs and had hits in all four games including three multi-hit games. He scored a run in each game and also drove in a run in three of the four games. He knocked in the game winning run in game one of the sweep over Boston College. His solo home run in game two was the difference in that game. In all four games last week, Posey combined to hit .500 versus lefties, .400 versus righties, .500 with runners on, 1.000 with the bases loaded and .400 with runners in scoring position.