May 17, 2006
FLORIDA STATE VS. NC STATE – THE HISTORY
Florida State holds a 40-18 (.689) edge over N.C. State in the series, with an 18-4 (.818) advantage over the Wolfpack at Dick Howser Stadium. The Seminoles have only lost two games in Tallahassee since 2000 to NC State. The two teams first met in a doubleheader in April 1962, where they each took home a victory. They would go on to meet four more times until 1992, when Florida State joined the ACC. The two teams split the first eight conference meetings until the Seminoles went on a tear winning 13 of the next 14 match-ups. Florida State has taken nine of 14 season series including five sweeps. The Seminoles have never lost a season series against N.C. State at home (6-0). Neither team has swept the other since 2000, when Florida State took three in Tallahassee. The Seminoles have won four of the last six games but the Wolfpack have taken the last two heading into this weekend’s showdown. The Seminoles longest winning streak in the series is nine set from 1994 to 1997.
Junior right-hander Bryan Henry returns to his familiar role as the opening starter of a series. The Tallahassee native started the opener of 16 straight series before Tyler Chambliss opened the Wake Forest and Clemson series on the hill. In his last two outings, Henry has returned to trademarked form. Although he has not received a decision in his last two starts, Henry has been phenomenal. He has a 1.20 ERA in 15 innings of work. He has fanned seven, walked three and given up just two earned runs. Opponents are hitting just .164 against him in his last two outings. It is easy to see why the Seminole coaches moved Henry back to the opener in the rotation when you look at his last outing. The junior pitched 7 1/3 innings versus Clemson, allowed just two runs, struck out two and allowed just five hits. The right-hander did not issue a walk throwing 110 pitches. After issuing multiple walks in six straight games, Henry looked more like the dominant pitcher who earlier this season walked just three batters in seven starts. In his last four ACC starts before the Wake Forest series Henry was 2-2 with a 3.75 ERA. He had walked 11 batters and struck out 19 and opponents hit .270 off of him. He averaged a hit an inning, had given up the only three homers he allowed all season and teams hit .375 against him with runners on. Over the last two games opponents are just 1-for-19 (.053) with runners on versus Henry and right-handers are hitting just .071 (2-for-28). The resurgence of Henry will be a key for FSU if the team wants to make a postseason run. When the right-hander opens a series on the mound for FSU, the Seminoles have won 11 of those 15 three-game sets (FSU and Auburn only played two games due to weather). This will be the fifth start at Mike Martin Field for Henry this season in ACC play and he has a 2-1 record in those games. His ERA is an uncharacteristic 4.21 but he has held opponents to a batting average of just .219. The problem for Henry in those games has been the big hit. The junior gave up the only two grand slams of his career at home in ACC play and teams are slugging .323 against him. With runners on base that number jumps to .393 as ACC opponents have a hit in 11 of 28 attempts with runners on against the hurler at Dick Howser Stadium. This will be a big test for Henry as the conference’s best hitting team comes to town. The Wolfpack are hitting a league-leading .338. Virginia, who FSU doesn’t play is second, and Georgia Tech, UNC, Miami and Clemson round out the top six. Versus the top hitting teams in the ACC Henry is 0-2 with a 4.44 ERA and more than 1/3 of his hits allowed have gone for extra bases. While that may sound somewhat ominous, Henry has done very well against that group in other areas. Overall the best hitting teams in the nation’s top conference have hit just .266 against him and he also has a K:BB ratio of almost 2:1 against those teams. Combine that with the way Henry pitched in his last outing versus one of the hottest teams in America in Clemson and there is good reason to be optimistic heading into Thursday night.
Tyler Chambliss will make his third straight Friday night start this week but he moves back to the No. 2 spot in the rotation. The first two “Friday night” starts of Chambliss’ career did not go the way the All-American candidate had hoped. In those two games versus Clemson and Wake Forest, Chambliss went 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA. Opponents hit .380 off of him in those two outings and he gave up 19 hits in 11 innings of work. Those numbers are skewed by one bad outing at Clemson last week where the junior gave up a career-high 15 hits and nine runs in just four innings. In his previous start at Wake he pitched very well going seven innings and allowing just two earned runs in a hard-luck loss. Just like Henry, this will be a big test for Chambliss who has not fared well against the conference’s top hitting teams. Against Clemson, UNC, Miami and Georgia Tech, Chambliss is 1-3 with a 5.26 ERA. Those teams hit .343 against him and recorded 36 hits in less than 26 innings. In his starts versus the best the ACC has to offer, the Live Oak, FL native has been hurt by left-handers who are hitting .388 against him and when runners are on base as those teams batted .357 with teammates aboard. He is putting the lead-off runner on over 46% of the time in those games as well. Returning home will be a good thing for the curve ball specialist. No Seminole has pitched better in conference games at Mike Martin Field than Chambliss. In home ACC games he is 3-1 with a team-leading 2.17 ERA. He has struck out 30 batters and walked just 13 while allowing just seven earned runs. One of the keys to Chambliss success is how he has dominated right-handed ACC hitters. In his home park, conference righties hit just .177 against him and with runners on base ACC teams hit just .222 overall. Chambliss still must be careful at the start of innings though as he is still putting 40% of leadoff batters on base. If you take away that forgettable outing at Clemson where everything the Tigers hit found a place to fall, Chambliss has really been the most consistent starter for FSU in ACC play. Minus the Clemson start, the junior is 5-3 with a stellar 2.14 ERA versus conference opponents. He has allowed just 14 earned runs in 59 innings and opponents hit just .229 off of him. Teams hit just .227 with runners on base and Chambliss has averaged nine K’s per nine innings in those contests. Most impressive though is the fact that Chambliss has gone seven or more innings in seven of those eight starts and six innings in the other. He has averaged almost 7 2/3 innings per start in those eight games.
SUNDAY’S STARTER IS TBA
LAST YEAR’S SERIES
Florida State, who has not taken a series from N.C. State in Raleigh since 1999, once again struggled at Doak Field. After winning the opener 8-2, FSU lost the next two 7-4 and 8-3.
In game one Florida State won its 12th straight game and its eighth straight ACC game as Bryan Henry picked up his sixth straight victory taking the series opener 8-2. Henry went 6 1/3 innings giving up only one run. FSU hit four home runs in the game. Florida State started the scoring in the second inning as back-to-back home runs by Danny Wardell and Jack Rye helped FSU jump to an early 2-0 lead. Everything remained quiet until the seventh when N.C. State broke up the shutout attempt as a double and an error put runners on the corners and a single cut the lead in half. The eighth inning saw Florida State get some insurance runs. Shane Robinson started off with a home run and Ryne Malone scored when a Gibbs Chapman sacrifice attempt was mishandled putting Chapman on second. Aaron Cheesman followed with a single that put runners on the corners. Wardell then came up and hit a shot down the right field line bringing in the Seminoles fifth run of the game. In the ninth FSU scored three more runs on a Chapman home run, the fourth of the game for Florida State. For Florida State, Wardell was 2×3 with two RBIs and Chapman had three RBIs for the Seminoles. Relievers Kevin Lynch and Matt DiBlasi combined to pitch 1 2/3 innings giving up no runs and no hits while striking out three.
The second game in the three game set saw N.C. State get the win with a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to take the victory 7-4. NC State jumped out to a 3-1 lead in a game that had begun on Friday night and was continued the next day. Two errors and a RBI double gave the Wolfpack the early lead. Rain then halted the game overnight and the two teams resumed at noon on Saturday. The Seminoles struck first in the third inning using back-to-back singles and an error to put runners in scoring position for Aaron Cheesman whose two-out single tied the game up 3-3. In the fourth inning Florida State went back in front, as Brant Peacher drew a walk and Tony Thomas Jr. hit a double into left that brought Peacher all the way home from first. A play at the plate ensued but the Wolfpack catcher was unable to hold onto the ball giving the Seminoles a 4-3 lead. N.C. State would tie the game up in the seventh using a two-out RBI single off Kevin Lynch to make it a 4-4 game. In the bottom of the ninth a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt moved the runner into scoring position. A single started to bring the runner home but a strike by Gibbs Chapman to Cheesman gave Florida State the second out of the inning with the play at the plate. That brought in Tyler Chambliss who, after hitting the first batter, watched Aaron Bates end the game with a dramatic three run shot. For the Seminoles, Cheesman was 3×4 with two RBIs and Ryne Malone was 2×3 with a run scored. Hunter Jones, who came on to start the resumed game, threw 5 1/3 innings, gave up four hits, one run (one earned), walked none and struck out four.
In the series finale FSU was sent into the 2005 ACC Tournament on the heels of two straight losses. The Seminoles started off the game right as back-to-back singles and a misplayed sacrifice bunt loaded the bases for Aaron Cheesman who drew a walk to give the Seminoles a 1-0 lead. On the next play Jack Rye hit into a double play but the runner from third was able to get home extending the lead to 2-0. The lead didn’t last long as N.C. State used four hits, including a double and a passed ball, to go back in front 3-2. In the bottom of the second N.C. State opened up the game and never looked back. A solo homerun followed up by a triple and a misplayed sacrifice bunt, gave the Wolfpack a 5-2 lead. That ended starter Barrett Browning’s day and brought in Michael Hyde who gave up two more hits and a run to make the score 6-2. The Seminoles cut the lead to three in the sixth as a bases loaded groundout brought in a run and made the score 6-3. The Seminoles would get no closer as the Wolfpack scored two more to make the final 8-3. Shane Robinson was a bright spot for the Seminoles accounting for three of the team’s five hits. Ryne Malone and Cheesman each had RBIs for the Seminoles as well.
WHO 2 WATCH 4
Last season versus the Wolfpack, Ryne Malone was 5×12 (.417) with a double, an RBI and four runs scored. Shane Robinson and Jack Rye each had home runs for Florida State and Rye led the team with four walks. Bryan Henry threw 6 1/3 innings, giving up six hits, one run (one earned) and struck out three in taking a game one victory. Matt DiBlasi threw 3 2/3 innings of relief giving up only one run and striking out four for the Seminoles.
If Last Year Was Any Indication, Look for Florida State To:
— Wait for their pitch: Florida State was walked 17 times during the three-game series, compared to the Wolfpack’s seven. Jack Rye led the team with four free passes.
— Score the runner: With a runner on third and less than two outs Florida State brought the runner home 57% of the time. Ryne Malone was one of four Seminoles to be perfect in this scenario.
RACE TO THE FINISH
Both Florida State and NC State need this weekend’s ACC showdown especially since both have struggled as of late. The Wolfpack have not won an ACC series in their last three tries and FSU hasn’t won one in its last four weekends. NC State is 3-7 in its last 10 games while FSU is 4-6. Both teams have gone from a top 10 ranking in Collegiate Baseball to the low 20’s and neither appears in this week’s Baseball America Top 25. Despite each team’s struggles, both have a shot to dramatically improve the ACC Tournament seedings with a big weekend. There are three series this weekend featuring teams who will play in the ACC Tournament. Besides FSU/NC State, Wake Forest travels to Atlantic Division champion Clemson and Miami heads to Georgia Tech. Lets look at some of the scenarios. Florida State can do no better than fifth place in the standings no matter what happens this weekend. With a sweep the Seminoles can finish as high as fifth or as low as seventh. One thing is for sure, if FSU wins the series they will finish ahead of NC State in the final standings.
IF FSU SWEEPS
— The Seminoles will finish in fifth if Georgia Tech takes 2 of 3 from Miami and Clemson wins 2 of 3 from Wake Forest.
— The Seminoles will finish sixth if Miami takes 2 of 3 from Georgia Tech and Clemson wins 2 of 3 from Wake Forest.
— The Seminoles will finish seventh if Miami takes 2 of 3 from Georgia Tech and Wake Forest wins 2 of 3 from Clemson.
IF FSU WINS 2 OF 3
— The Seminoles will finish no worse than seventh.
— The Seminoles will finish fifth if Georgia Tech sweeps Miami and Clemson sweeps Wake Forest
— The Seminoles will finish sixth if Georgia Tech takes 2 of 3 from Miami and Clemson sweeps Wake Forest.
— The Seminoles will finish seventh if Georgia Tech takes 2 of 3 from Miami and Wake Forest wins one game at Clemson.
— The Seminoles will finish seventh if Georgia Tech sweeps Miami and Wake Forest wins one game at Clemson.
IF FSU WINS 1 OF 3 OR GETS SWEPT
— The Seminoles will be the eighth seed.
HOME SWEET HOME
FSU will play three of the most important regular season ACC home games in recent memory to close out the 2006 season. There is a lot on the line with NC State in town this weekend. Although the Seminoles numbers are much better at home statistically in ACC play as well, that hasn’t translated into as many wins. FSU is 7-7 on the road in the ACC but just 7-5 at home. The Seminoles hit and slug over 100 points better in ACC games at home and score nearly twice as many runs but the one difference is pitching. The FSU staff has been superb pitching home and away and in away ACC games but at home in conference play has been another story. The Seminoles’ ERA in home ACC games is close to a run higher than it is in road conference games and it is almost 1.5 runs higher than the team’s overall home ERA. Part of the reason for that is that two of the top five hitting teams in the ACC have played in Tallahassee (Georgia Tech and Miami). Florida State played one on the road (North Carolina) and didn’t face a fourth (Virginia). The fifth team is NC State and they are ranked No. 1 in the league in hitting and they will be in town this weekend.
FREAKY FRIDAY ON THURSDAY?
If you are looking for a big reason why FSU has struggled to win ACC series this season just look to Friday’s. FSU has not won any series this year when they have lost the opening game and has not lost any series this year when they have won that first contest. The Seminoles are 4-5 this season in the opener of ACC series but just 1-5 in their last six. Looking at the Seminoles’ history it is easy to see why Friday is so important. In FSU’s ACC history dating back to 1992, the Seminoles have only ever lost three series when they won the first game and it has only happened once in the last nine years. It has happened twice versus NC State (1997 and 2005) and once versus Georgia Tech (1994). FSU’s numbers in Friday ACC games have not been good. The team is getting beat in almost every statistical category. On Friday night’s FSU opponents out hit the Seminoles, score more runs, collect more extra base hits, slug higher, strike out less and pitch better. Compared to the rest of FSU’s games, Seminole batters hit almost 40 points less in an opening game of an ACC series and FSU pitchers have an ERA 1.7 runs higher in those contests.
100 COMING UP?
Both Bryan Henry and Tyler Chambliss are approaching a pretty big milestone and it’s possible they could both reach it on the same weekend. The two FSU starters are nearing 100 strikeout seasons and they would be the first to do that since Trent Peterson fanned 113 in 2003. Henry will enter his Thursday night start with 92 K’s and Chambliss with 96. While Henry has not struck out eight in a game since March 31 versus UNC, he has fanned eight or more four times this season. Chambliss has struck out four or more 12 times in 15 starts so he will have the better chance of breaking the 100 K mark in the regular season. If Chambliss strikes out four versus NC State Friday, he will become the first Seminole since Mike Ziegler in 2000 to record 100 K’s in the regular season. If both Henry and Chambliss do reach the 100 K plateau, it will be an even rarer feat. The last time two Seminoles recorded 100 or more K’s in a season was 1999. That year three hurlers broke the century mark as Chris Chavez (109), Nick Stocks (139) and Jon McDonald (123) all did it.
Although the Seminole bats have been a little sluggish as of late, don’t tell that to Ryne Malone and Jack Rye. No two players have been hotter over the last six games. Rye and Malone are the only Seminoles hitting above .300 the last six games and they have 13 of the team’s 43 hits and three of the squad’s six extra base hits as well. They are hitting .310 combined, which is pretty amazing considering the fact neither has a hit off of a left-handed pitcher (0-for-6) in that stretch. The one area the duo would like to see increase is RBIs. In this six game stretch Rye and Malone have just one RBI between them. While they need teammates to get on ahead of them, the two are a combined 2-for-17 with runners on and 3-for014 with runners in scoring position. You can’t put the blame on Malone and Rye though. Overall, FSU is hitting just .196 with runners on and .226 with runners in scoring position in the last six ballgames.
WHAT YOU GOTTA DO TO WIN
When it comes to winning and losing ballgames there is often a fine line between the two but looking at FSU’s stats in games the team has won and lost there are some obvious indicators. First off it starts at the top. Florida State is a better team when Shane Robinson is hitting. The consensus All-American is hitting almost 160 points better in FSU wins. It isn’t all on Robinson’s shoulders though. In FSU’s 16 losses not a single Seminole is hitting above .290 but in the 37 wins only two of 14 FSU regulars are hitting below .290. FSU is slugging 200 points better in wins, getting on base 10% more, hitting three times as many homers and knocking in an average of more than five more runs per game. The bottom line is pretty obvious though. When FSU wins they hit, pitch and field better. When the Seminoles win they hit 100 points better, have an ERA of more then three runs less and field for a higher percentage. It is just that simple.
Getting to 40 wins in the regular season is a pretty special feat. So far this season only eight teams have reached the 40-win plateau and FSU is just one win shy of being in the top 10 for total wins in the nation. If the Seminoles want to hit that magical number they will need a sweep this weekend versus NC State, no east task. If FSU does not reach the 40-win mark, it will mark just the second time in the last 10 years that Florida State has not won 40 regular season games. Winning 40 or more regular season games in eight of the last 10 years is a remarkable achievement. The last time Florida State did not reach the 40-win mark was in 2004 and that year FSU won the ACC Championship, hosted a regional and advanced to Super Regionals.
ANOTHER HUGE YEAR
Florida State had another huge year as far as attendance is concerned. So far 145,233 fans have come to Dick Howser Stadium this season, the second-largest single season attendance in school history. FSU set the record last season with 171,643 but that included NCAA Regional games as well. Last year FSU actually drew 154,406 for 35 regular season home games a number FSU will better following this weekend’s series with NC State. Florida State could also break the school record for average per game attendance at regular season games after this weekend. The record was set last year at 4411. So far FSU is averaging 4401 per game and would need and average of 4,500 fans per game versus the Wolfpack to set a new high.