May 12, 2005 - by
WEEKLY RELEASE: No. 11 FSU Set To Face No. 8 UNC In Last Home Series Of The Season

May 12, 2005

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The last time the Tar Heels came to Tallahassee was 2003 when the Seminoles won two of three over North Carolina with victories in the first and last games of the series (8-4 and 2-1). FSU has been dominant at home against North Carolina posting a 30-7 record. The Seminoles are currently 48-19 all-time against North Carolina dating back to 1956. The two teams last met in the 2004 ACC tournament where the Seminoles were victorious 8-7. In the last two years the two schools have played eight times and have split the games four each. The Seminoles have recorded two shutouts in the series and FSU has never been shut out by North Carolina. Since joining the ACC, the Seminoles lead the series 25-12 in regular season meetings. In the last 12 regular season conference meetings, the teams are 6-6 but FSU is 5-1 over that stretch in Tallahassee.



FRIDAY: Bryan Henry gets to make another “biggest start of his career” Friday night in the opener of this huge ACC series. He will square off against UNC ace Andrew Miller. Miller will be the most formidable foe Henry has faced in a start this year. The Seminole hurler hasn’t been intimidated by any challenge yet. When he was asked to start a mid-week game against a top five Florida team, Henry responded by pitching 7 1/3 innings and beating the Gators. He was then asked to make a weekend start versus No. 5 Miami and all he did was go eight innings and allow one run in another win. Then he faced the challenge of opening a key ACC series and making his first Friday night start versus Virginia. Once again he responded with a seven-plus inning outing and one run allowed in another win. He has been named ACC Pitcher of the Week and National Pitcher of the Week over that stretch and he is now ranking among the best pitchers in the ACC and in the nation. Henry entered the week with the 13th-best ERA in America and the second-best ERA among ACC pitchers both in and out of conference games. He now leads FSU in ERA as well. This will be his third straight Friday night start for FSU. The key to Henry’s success all season has been control. In 55 1/3 innings of work, Henry has issued just eight walks and he has only walked two batters in ACC play this year. His K:BB ratio is 4.75:1 but in conference games it jumps to 14.5:1. If there is an area of concern with the Seminole’s new ace it is his penchant for giving up extra base hits. He has allowed just 40 hits all season but 10 have been for extra bases (five doubles and five home runs). The thing with Henry is that he is so good at keeping people off the bases any big hits usually result in minimal damage because nobody is on in front of them. When opponents are on base Henry rarely gives up anything as teams are hitting just .190 against him with runners on (12×63).  Another reason for Henry’s success is the way he gets his outs. Henry is the only pitcher on the Florida State staff that records more fly ball outs than ground ball outs. He averages over 11 fly ball outs per game and less then eight outs per game via ground balls. When you get that many fly ball outs the chance of your defense making errors drops dramatically. That is why of the 10 runs Henry has allowed this season, only two are unearned.


SATURDAY: Like Bryan Henry, Saturday starter Mark Sauls has really emerged as a solid weekend starter over the last month. Sauls opened 2005 as FSU’s Friday night starter. A bout with tendonitis shelved him for over a month and he is now pitching as well as he has all year. Two of his last three starts have come against two top five teams in Florida and Miami and he is yet to lose a game he has started this season. Sauls is 6-1 with a 2.94 ERA but in his nine starts the junior is 6-0 with a 2.47 ERA. As a starter, teams hit just .203 off him and in 43 2/3 innings he has allowed just four extra base hits. In fact, Sauls has allowed just five extra base hits all season meaning just one of every eight hits he allows go for more than one base, which is the best ratio among FSU’s starters. In his 13 appearances in 2005, Sauls has allowed either one or no earned runs nine times. There have been only two occasions where Sauls has surrendered more than three earned runs and those were both four run outings. Those two appearances accounted for just 2/3 of an inning combined, which means Sauls has allowed eight of his 16 earned runs in just two outings that covered 2/3 of an inning. Without those two hiccups, Sauls’ ERA drops from 2.94 to 1.49 as he has allowed only eight earned runs in his other 48 1/3 innings of work. Unlike Henry, Sauls’ weakness has been control. He is the only FSU pitcher to have more walks than strikeouts this season (24:21). His control has improved somewhat in his last four starts as he has issued eight walks and struck out eight batters.


SUNDAY: Hunter Jones will make his first ACC start since April 17 when he pitched the final game of the Georgia Tech series. He pitched five innings versus the Yellow Jackets that day and gave up four runs. Jones started this week against Stetson and had a solid outing going 5 2/3 and allowing four runs. He struck out seven batters, which was one shy of a new season high for the junior. Jones faced UNC last season and only lasted 1 1/3 while giving up seven earned runs. Jones has a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio this season but opponents are hitting .302 against. He is the only FSU starter who has an opponent batting average above .280. Jones has really struggled with runners on base as opponents are hitting .305 but even more concerning for the FSU coaches is the fact that almost 39% of leadoff hitters are getting on base against Jones this season. He leads all starters in hits allowed per game with 10.80. A key to Jones’ success is getting off to a good start. The junior has had a rough time in the first and second innings this year as he has allowed 13 of his 31 earned runs in the first two frames. If runners get on versus the leftie they have a tough time running though as only 44% of would-be base stealers have swiped a base on Jones.



Current Seminole hitters who played in the four games last season versus North Carolina hit a combined .288. Despite the sub-.300 average, they reached base at a much higher rate as their combined on-base percentage was .400. They also hit for a good amount of power as returning Seminoles combined to post a slugging percentage of .513 against the Heels last season.


Ryne Malone was the last person that North Carolina wanted to see come to the plate in 2004 as he led all of the current Seminoles in just about every single offensive category. Malone went on a tear against North Carolina as he went 8×15 for a .533 batting average.  Five of his eight hits went for extra bases as he hit three home runs and two doubles in the series for a total of 19 bases. Malone’s 19 total bases helped him to post a slugging percentage of 1.267. The Tar Heels could not keep Malone off the bases as he led all current Seminoles with four walks and a .632 on-base percentage. Malone continued his damage to the Tar Heels as he led the entire team with six runs and five RBIs. Malone was also the only Seminole to steal a base.


Shane Robinson had a solid offensive series against North Carolina as he went 6×15 for a .400 batting average. Of all the current Seminoles only Malone was on base more then Robinson as he posted a .550 on-base percentage. Robinson’s high on-base percentage can be attributed to the fact that he was hit by two pitches, which led the team and he also drew three walks in the series. Robinson came through in the clutch for the Seminoles as he hit .667 with runners in scoring position and drove in a total of four runs, three of which came when there were two outs in an inning.


Danny Wardell had several big hits in the series and came through when the Seminoles needed him the most as he hit .286 with runners on base. Wardell had two home runs in the series which help him to record a slugging percentage of .692, which was second only to Malone.  Wardell also managed to reach base often recording a .375 on-base percentage.


Six current Seminoles pitchers appeared in 2004 against North Carolina.  Mark Sauls and Hunter Jones each made starts in the series. Sauls threw 5 1/3 innings of work in a no decision as he allowed five runs to score only one of which was earned on six hits and one walk. Jones was strapped with the loss in his start as he only lasted 1 2/3 innings while allowing seven runs to score all of which were earned.


Brian Chambers, Matt DiBlasi and Kevin Lynch combined to pitch four innings of work and register a 0.00 ERA. Lynch however took a loss in the series as he allowed one unearned run to score. 



Being the lead-off guy is a tough job. When you are the first batter to hit in a game you don’t get the benefit of watching the pitcher throw before you step in. You don’t get advice from a teammate on how to approach that guy or on what he throws. On top of all that you are expected to get the offense started. No problem if you are Shane Robinson. The sophomore has been in the one hole every game in 2005 for Florida State and in the 57 games he has led off the outfielder has gotten on base 33 times via a hit, walk or hit by pitch. That is almost 58% of the time he is leading off the game by getting on base. Robinson is batting .455 and slugging .705 in the first at bat of games this season. He has 13 singles, five doubles, two home runs and 12 walks. Of the 33 times he has gotten on base in the first, he has come around to score FSU’s first run of the game 61% of the time (20 runs scored). Maybe the most amazing stat is the fact that Robinson has just three strikeouts all season when leading off a game.



While the opponent will be tougher, the Seminoles hope to get a repeat performance from their weekend starters. Last weekend versus Maryland, FSU starters posted a 3-0 record and pitched 19 innings. Bryan Henry, Barret Browning and Mark Sauls combined to allow just three runs and post an ERA of 1.42. While they only struck out seven batters and issued five walks, Terp hitters batted just .164. The FSU starters pitched more innings, gave up fewer runs and fewer hits in the three game set with Maryland than they did in any other ACC series this season. Hunter Jones will step into the weekend rotation for Barret Browning versus UNC but the coaching staff is obviously hoping for similar results.


TM          REC        IP            ER           H             ERA

VT           2-0           16            4              17            2.25

DU          1-0           12            11            15            8.25

CU          1-1           17            6              17            3.18

WF         0-0           11.2         5              11            3.86

GT           0-2           13.2         15            15            9.88

UM         1-1           17.2         5              13            2.55

VA          1-1           15.2         7              12            4.02

MD         3-0           19            3              11            1.42



After completing a four-game sweep of Stetson with two mid-week wins, Florida State improved to 43-14 on the season. The Seminoles currently lead the nation in wins. FSU’s 43 victories are one better than Tulane and Louisiana Lafayette who currently have 42 wins each. Coming into the week, Florida State‘s winning percentage was 13th best in America but the two wins over the Hatters jumped the Seminole winning percentage by almost 10 percentage points. When it comes to ACC teams, nobody in the conference was within five games of matching FSU’s win total entering this weekend’s games.



While batting averages go up and down there is one hitting record that nobody will be able to take away from All-American candidate Shane Robinson. With his two hits in the series finale versus Stetson, Robinson reached the 100-hit plateau and became the first player in NCAA Division I baseball to reach 100 hits in 2005. That is a pretty amazing accomplishment but what is even more amazing is that Robinson became the first FSU player in school history with 100 hits and 40 stolen bases. The only player to really come close to doing what Robinson has done is Edwin Alicea. In 1987 Alicea stole 39 bases and recorded 100 hits.



There really is no group that goes more unnoticed than relief pitchers especially when they are doing a good job but it is time for the FSU bullpen to get some love. Closer Tyler Chambliss and set-up man Kevin Lynch get a lot of the publicity but the entire Seminole pen is having a phenomenal season. Seminole relievers have recorded 18 wins and 17 saves this season meaning they have played a major role in over 81% of FSU’s NCAA-leading 43 victories. In 57 outings, Seminole relievers have walked more batters than they have struck out just five times (9% of the time). In the last 11 games they have been nearly untouchable. Since blowing a save opportunity versus the Hurricanes April 22 (just the fourth time that has happened all year), the FSU bullpen has an ERA of just 1.32 with two wins and three saves. In six of those 11 appearances they have not allowed a run to score and four other times they have surrendered just one run.



You have to give the Seminoles some credit. With their two mid-week wins over Stetson, FSU improved its winning streak to seven games and is now 9-1 over the last 10. The seven game winning streak is FSU’s longest since running off 13 in a row ending with a loss to Hawai’i March 10. This is FSU’s fourth win streak of six or more games this season. What makes the fact that FSU extended the streak with two wins over a good Stetson team in the middle of the week so impressive is how hard it is to win those mid-week games. Don’t believe me? Look what happened Tuesday and Wednesday night in college baseball. In those two days there were 15 games played between a top 25 team and an unranked team and the ranked teams posted a record of just 8-7. If you take away FSU’s two wins that record falls to 6-7. Top ten teams went just 1-6 in those games as squads like Florida (lost two games to USF), North Carolina (lost to Costal Carolina), Nebraska (lost to Creighton) and Georgia Tech (lost to Costal Carolina) all fell in mid-week games. Credit the Seminole players for staying focused with a huge series against the Tar Heels on the horizon.



Aaron Cheesman is a two-time team captain for a reason. Nobody is better than the fifth-year senior when it comes to doing all the little things it takes to win ball games. Cheesman currently leads the team with 14 sacrifices (4th most in a season at FSU), 40 walks and five intentional walks. He is now eighth all time at Florida State for sacrifices in a career and sixth all-time when it comes to being hit by pitches. He recently saw a streak of 38 at bats without a strikeout come to an end and on top of all the little things he is third on the team with 38 RBIs.



Coming into the 2005 season there were supposedly a lot of question marks with this young FSU team. There were position battles at almost every spot on the field. Twenty six of FSU’s 34 players had a year of experience or less and only two players on the roster had been around the program for four or more years. The Seminoles 43-14 record speaks volumes about the coaching job Mike Martin has done with this young group but it also says a lot about the players on this year’s team. The guys who came out of spring practices with a job have fought hard to hold on to those positions. Including DH, there are nine spots in the line-up each day and this season 10 guys have filled those spots on the line-up card 90% of the time. The fact that young players like Tony Thomas, Jr., Ryne Jernigan and Jack Rye have won spots and held on to them all season has provided FSU the stability it needed to win in 2005.


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