March 24, 2005
A QUICK LOOK AT THE DUKE SERIES
The Seminoles last played Duke in Durham, N.C. in 2003 when they swept the Blue Devils in three games 11-6, 12-7, and 15-8. The Seminoles lead the all-time series 54-16 and 16-5 in games played at Duke. FSU currently has a 12 game win streak over Duke and has 25 wins in the last 26 games. During Florida State‘s 12 game winning-streak they scored in double digits figures in nine of those 12 games. The most recent meeting between the two schools came in 2004 in Salem, VA where the Seminoles won the game 6-3. FSU has recorded eight shutouts in the series with only one of those coming at Duke. All three games will be afternoon starts. FSU is 17-2 this season in afternoon games.
WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE
- In the four meetings with Duke last season (three in the regular season and one at ACC’s) the combined batting average for the current Seminoles was a solid .344. Ryne Malone led the team with a .462 average and Aaron Cheesman was close behind with a .385 average. Cheesman was also dominant against lefties as he went a perfect three for three. Danny Wardell and Danny Diaz each added a double in their only plate appearance against Duke to help up the Seminoles’ average.
- There were plenty of extra base hits to go around for the Seminoles as they recorded 17 as a team in 2004 and eight of those came from Seminoles on the current roster. Ryne Malone racked up two doubles and a home run while Shane Robinson added two doubles. Chapman, Wardell, and Diaz each added a double each.
- There is plenty of run production still left in Florida State‘s line-up from the four games against Duke in 2004 as current Seminole hitters recorded 18 of FSU’s 34 RBIs. Aaron Cheesman drove in six runs and was huge in the clutch as he delivered with a .600 average with runners in scoring position. Malone drove in four runs and Wardell added three RBIs.
- The current Seminole hitters took advantage of every opportunity they had against Duke in 2004 as they came through with an RBI on 10 of 13 occasions when a runner was on third. Aaron Cheesman was perfect as he had four RBIs in all four opportunities when he came up with a runner on third.
- Current Seminole pitchers threw a combined 25 innings last season against Duke and were extremely stingy as they posted a team earned run average of 2.52. Current Seminole pitching held Duke’s offense in 2004 to a .250 batting average. Seminoles’ starters Mark Sauls and Brian Schultz each recorded a one win over Duke in 2004. Sauls was the only Seminole pitcher to start two games against Duke as he went on to throw a combined 11 innings only allowing four earned runs and striking out five. Schultz pitched in the second game of the season against Duke and earned his win after pitching five innings and only allowing three earned runs on six hits.
- Current Florida State pitchers who appeared out of the bull-pen against Duke in 2004 completely shut down Duke’s offensive as they threw a combined eight scoreless innings, only allowed six hits and striking out a combined eleven hitters. Tyler Chambliss threw a combined five strong innings in relief against Duke while striking out six. He also earned the win in the ACC tournament game victory over Duke. Kevin Lynch threw a combined three innings against Duke picking up one save and striking out four. Matt DiBlasi rounds out the relief pitchers from last season against Duke as he contributed one inning of scoreless work.
For the first time since the first two weeks of the 2005 season, FSU will go with the same weekend rotation in back-to-back series. Barret Browning, Michael Hyde and Mark Sauls started the three games versus Virginia Tech and that same group is penciled in to throw in the same order this weekend versus the Blue Devils. Seven different Seminole pitchers have made starts so far this season but not since the VMI series in early February has the rotation been as settled as it is right now. With the loss of 2004 freshman All-American Brian Schultz, FSU will need its remaining pitchers to pick up the slack or the Seminole coaching staff may have to look to remove the redshirt from one of its young arms.
GET IT DOEN FROM THE START
As FSU moves into ACC play, one of the keys to success will be getting quality starts from the pitching staff. So far this season, with the exception of a couple of occasions that has been the case. Seminole pitchers have gone 14-2 when starting games while posting a 3.80 ERA. They have struck out 107 batters and issued just 58 walks. Florida State starters have gone at least five innings in 19 of their 29 starts, six innings five times and seven innings four times. There have been only two starts where the Seminole pitcher didn’t go at least three innings. No FSU starter has gone longer than seven innings yet but Hunter Jones did pick up the staff’s only complete game in a seven inning effort during a doubleheader. FSU starters have issued more walks than strikeouts just eight times in 29 starts. Five times they have not given up a single free pass and 20 times they have walked two batters or less.
GETTING ON WITH HITS
Tony Thomas, Jr. has made his reputation on solid defense, unbelievable range and an on base percentage that is third-best on the team. After reaching base four times Wednesday night versus JU (a hit, two walks and a hit by pitch), the freshman’s on base percentage grew to .460, which is 186 points higher tan his batting average. While he is still getting on base, the second baseman’s bat has really come to life as of late. He enters the Duke series with a .274 batting average, which is the highest his average has reached all season. In his last 16 games, Thomas has recorded a hit in 13 of those games. He has raised his average 98 points in that stretch while hitting .359. In that stretch, only Shane Robinson and Jack Rye have hit better amongst the Seminoles’ starters. Seven of his 12 RBIs have come in that stretch and all three of his triples. He has also slugged .564 in those 17 games, which is also third-best on the team, and reached base almost 52% of the time.
Speaking of guys that have been hot over the second part of the season, what about freshman outfielder Jack Rye. Over the last 17 games, the Californian has hit .500 in 40 at bats with five doubles and 14 RBIs while slugging .625. Only Shane Robinson has been hotter with a .514 average. In fact, the combination of Rye and Ruairi O’Connor in right has been all the Seminole coaches could have hoped for. When playing in right, Rye and O’Connor are batting a combined .343. They have slugged .481 and driven in 28 runs.
CHEESE IS BACK
It is hard to say that senior captain Aaron Cheesman was in a funk because the catcher’s average has never slipped below .319 this season but after such a hot start the Sarasota, FL native seems to be right back in a groove. After the first four games of the season, Cheesman had eight RBIs and was batting .462. In his next 11 games he drove in just two RBIs. Since then he has 11 RBIs in his last 14 games and after his average hit .319 he has brought it back up to .347 over just the last nine games. In that span he is hitting .423 with 11 runs, 11 hits and six RBIs. He has twice as many walks as strikeouts and has not made an error behind the plate.
WARDY DOING IT AGAIN
After his three run bomb at the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville versus JU, Danny Wardell became just the third Seminole this year to hit a home run in more than one game this season. Wardell’s homer against the Dolphins came on the heels of Shane Robinsons round-tripped versus Virginia Tech in that series finale. It is just the second time this season FSU hit homers in back-to-back games. The team did it twice in the same two-game set earlier in the year when two players homered in the VMI finale and then two more players homered in the next game, the Auburn opener. Despite just 28 at bats this season, Wardell is second on the team with two homeruns. He is leading the squad in average homers per game and if he gets up to 100 at bats, he is on pace to equal his career home run total coming into 2005 (11) in one season. Only back-up catcher Danny Diaz has a bigger margin when it comes to batting average versus slugging percentage. Wardell is slugging 286 points higher than he is hitting while Diaz is a whopping 417 points higher than his .333 average.
Florida State is 25-4 on the season for a lot of reasons but one of the keys is the way the team is hitting. The team’s .309 average is not record-setting (the record for a season at FSU is .337) but it is amazingly consistent. FSU is hitting .306 versus left-handers. The Seminoles are hitting .311 versus right-handers. The team is batting .300 or better with runners on (.307), with the bases empty (.313), with the bases loaded (.311) and with runners in scoring position (.300). The only category in which FSU is not hitting over .300 is with two outs in an inning where the team average is .286.