April 20, 2006 - by
WEEKLY RELEASE: No. 5 FSU Opens Series With No. 8 Georgia Tech Friday At 7:00 p.m.

April 20, 2006

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Florida State holds a 56-34 (.622) edge over Georgia Tech in the all-time series between the teams but Georgia Tech has won six straight regular season meetings. Overall, the Yellow Jackets are 10-2 in the last 12 meetings between the teams. Florida State has been swept in back-to-back ACC series by Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are the only conference foe to ever sweep FSU in back-to-back ACC regular season series. Before 2004, the only teams to ever sweep a conference series from FSU were Clemson and North Carolina. In April of 2004, Georgia Tech became the only team to ever sweep the Seminoles at Dick Howser Stadium. In spite of getting swept by Tech the last time they visited, the Seminoles have a 32-13 record at Dick Howser Stadium versus the Jackets. The 32 home victories are the fourth most against an ACC squad. The series dates back to a Seminole 16-9 victory over the Yellow Jackets June 5, 1959.  That set the tone for the Seminoles, who took nine of the first ten games. Most recently, Georgia Tech has won the last five games, which is tied for their longest winning streak by either team in the series. The last time Florida State defeated Georgia Tech was May 30, 2004, which gave Florida State the ACC Championship. The last time FSU beat Tech in the regular season was May 4, 2003. Since joining the ACC in 1992, Florida State has taken five of seven home series against Georgia Tech, most recently April 19-21, 2002. The Jackets’ 34 victories are the third most against Florida State among all ACC teams (Miami 108, Clemson 43) and Georgia Tech is the only team to claim a winning record when playing at a neutral site (7-6).

Bryan Henry will look to get back on track versus the Yellow Jackets Friday night. The junior ace of the FSU staff is in the midst of the toughest stretch of his career as a starter. For the first time ever he has issued multiple walks in three straight games, he has given up multiple runs in three of four starts and he has lost two games in a two-week span for the first time since moving into the rotation full time. The ACC is the toughest conference in America and since moving into conference play teams have had some success versus the junior. In non-conference play this season, Henry is 4-0 with a 0.85 ERA. He has a K:BB ratio of 6:1 In ACC play Henry is a very respectable 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA and a K:BB ratio of almost 5:1. Henry’s numbers are up just slightly in ACC games compared to non-ACC competition everywhere except for ERA. Lefties and righties hit about 20 points higher but still at or below .240. With runners on base ACC teams hit almost 30 points higher, which is really the only situation where there is a notable difference. During conference play the junior does do a better job of keeping the lead-off runner off base and getting out of innings pitching with two away. Just looking at the stats, it isn’t obvious as to why Henry’s ERA is almost three times higher in ACC games. Conference teams really don’t hit him that much better (19 points higher) and his walks and K’s are almost inline with what he has done most of the season. Part of the reason for the spike in his numbers was the four runs he allowed in one inning against Maryland. FSU was already leading 9-0 and before that inning Henry had gone 27 2/3 straight innings without allowing a run. Minus those four meaningless runs versus the Terps, Henry’s ERA falls to 1.51. The key for Henry is always control. It is the reason he has been one of the winningest pitchers in college baseball. In his first eight starts he went 8-0 with just seven walks and 60 strikeouts but is his last three starts he has eight walks and 17 K’s and his record is 1-2. Henry has only walked more batters than he has fanned once in 21 consecutive starts and that came May 13, 2005 versus North Carolina.

Tyler Chambliss’ success as the Seminoles “second ace” has been one of the key’s to FSU’s 2006 season. The junior is 9-1 with a 1.80 ERA and had it not been for a ninth inning defensive meltdown with two outs at UNC, he would be undefeated. Chambliss has been brilliant this season holding opposing hitters to a .221 average. He has 73 strikeouts and has surrendered the fewest extra base hits of any FSU starter. Chambliss leads the nation with nine wins and is in the top three in the ACC for ERA. Chambliss is averaging almost nine K’s per nine innings and no starter is doing a better job versus right-handed hitters who Chambliss is holding to a .205 average. There has been only one game this season in which the Live Oak, FL native has allowed more than two earned runs and in half of his 12 starts he has allowed one earned run or less.  Probably the biggest question with Chambliss’ transition from closer to starter was stamina but the junior has proven his is getting stronger and stronger each start. In his first five starts this season Chambliss averaged about 5 2/3 innings per outing but in his last six he has averaged better than 7 2/3 innings per start. Chambliss has gone at least seven innings in six straight starts and allowed just eight earned runs in those 46 innings of work for a 1.57 ERA. The junior’s control has really improved as well. In his first five starts Chambliss struck out 26 and walked 13 but since then he has walked 19 and fanned 47. Chambliss has been dominant in ACC games where he is 5-1 with a 1.57 ERA. Conferences batters hit just .224 off of him and there isn’t a single situational category where ACC batters hit better than .250 versus the curveball specialist. One of the biggest roles Chambliss has played this year is picking his team up following a loss. The junior has pitched four times immediately following a Seminole loss and is 3-1 with a 1.57 ERA and if the FSU defense hadn’t blown the game at Carolina, he would be 4-0 in those contests. Chambliss has been almost untouchable at Mike Martin Field this season. In six starts the junior is 5-0 with a 1.13 ERA and an opponent batting average of just .194. He has allowed only five earned runs at home in almost 40 innings of work. Teams are hitting below .200 at Dick Howser Stadium versus Chambliss with men on, with the bases empty and as a right-handed batter. He is also averaging almost 11 K’s per nine innings of work at home.

For the first time in his FSU career, true freshman Jimmy Marshall will start a game for the Seminoles. The Tallahassee native does not have a decision this season but has appeared in 11 games and posted a 2.51 ERA. The right-hander gets his first start after a very impressive series versus Miami last weekend. In two games he pitched five innings and allowed two runs. He allowed just four hits and kept FSU in the Sunday game pitching a career high four innings after the Canes got out to an early lead. Marshall has not allowed a run in eight of his 11 appearances and he has not issued a walk in six of those 11 games as well.  There have been only two games this season in which Marshall has allowed an earned run and he has K’ed more batters than he has walked seven times. Marshall has been stellar with runners on base this year as opponents are just 4-for-26 against him so far. The only statistical area of concern for Marshall will be at the start of innings. As a freshman starting his first game versus a top 10 team, Marshall would obviously like to keep runners off base but so far in 2006 36% of leadoff hitters are reaching base against him. While that is the third-highest number on the team, it isn’t a huge indicator for success as Tyler Chambliss’ has a higher percentage than that and leads the nation in wins. Marshall has been equally tough on lefties and righties as neither hits better than .245 against him. The freshman has been very good in ACC play. Six of his appearances have come against conference opponents and he has a 1.80 ERA in those games. He has a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio in ACC games and conference opponents hit just .243 against him. He has had a lot of success versus left-handed batters in the ACC holding them to a .176 average. Marshall will be the first true freshman to garner a start for the Seminole in 2006 and the first since Ryan Strauss started at Jacksonville April 12, 2005. Marshall is getting a rare opportunity Sunday. The last true freshman to start a regular season game for FSU at Dick Howser Stadium was Brian Chambers March 17, 2004 versus Jacksonville.

For the second time in as many years, Georgia Tech swept the Seminoles in an ACC match up, as they took three games in Atlanta April 15-17, 2005. Tech then defeated the Seminoles on two more occasions in the ACC Tournament, becoming just the fourth team ever to beat the Seminoles five times in one year. Georgia Tech took the regular season series by scores of 6-4, 9-8, and 9-4 and won the two postseason meetings 5-4 and 18-2.

In the regular season series opener, Florida State attempted two separate comebacks but both came up short as two three-run homeruns by Georgia Tech were the difference in the 6-4 Yellow Jacket victory. Barrett Browning pitched six innings, gave up five hits and struck out seven, but took the loss.  Georgia Tech struck first with a two-out, three run home run in the second to go up 3-0, but Florida State quickly struck back in the next inning to tie the score 3-3. Ryne Malone singled in Ryne Jernigan and Aaron Cheesman hit a two-out double to help the Seminoles rally from the early deficit. Browning kept the Yellow Jackets at bay until the sixth, when a two-out double and a walk preceded another three-run home run. Florida State loaded the bases in the top of the seventh, but couldn’t get a run across the plate in the attempted comeback. A Danny Wardell solo shot in the eighth accounted for the last run for Florida State.

Game two saw Georgia Tech win on a two-out, walk off single to complete a come from behind 9-8 win over the Seminoles. Florida State was down early 5-1, but used seven unanswered runs over the course of the game to take an 8-5 lead heading into the seventh. In the seventh, Matt DiBlasi gave up his first run in 15 1/3 innings as Tech cut the Florida State lead to 8-6. Tyler Chambliss came on in the eighth looking to move into a tie for the NCAA saves lead but a bases loaded walk, combined with Danny Payne’s two-out, two-strike, bases loaded hit into center brought in the final two runs to cap the Georgia Tech comeback. For the Seminoles, Ryne Jernigan, Ryne Malone, Tony Thomas Jr., Gibbs Chapman and Jack Rye all recorded RBIs. Bryan Henry pitched three innings in relief, giving up only one hit while striking out five. He also drove in two runs for Florida State.

The series finale saw Georgia Tech complete their second straight sweep of Florida State with a 9-4 victory.  Tech came out early, using a two-run home run in the bottom of the first to take the lead. Florida State struck back at the top of the second, as a two-run single by Shane Robinson tied the game. Georgia Tech would then use three runs over four innings to take a 5-2 lead. In the bottom half of the sixth, Georgia Tech had four doubles off of Matt DiBlasi to open up the game and take a 9-2 lead. In the top of the seventh, a Ryne Malone triple and Gibbs Chapman’s fifth homerun of the season cut the lead to 9-4, but Florida State would get no closer. 

The two teams would meet again twice in the ACC Tournament with Georgia Tech taking both games. In the first meeting, Florida State took a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning, but five runs off the Seminole bullpen were the difference as the Yellow Jackets won the first game 5-4.  The two teams battled back and forth to a scoreless tie through six innings until a Shane Robinson single and steal, followed by Aaron Cheesman’s 49th RBI of the season gave FSU a 1-0 lead.  In the top of the seventh, Ryne Jernigan used a single to bring in Jack Rye from second and Ryne Malone took a 3-2 bases loaded pitch up the middle to bring in two more runs for Florida State as they opened up a 4-0 lead. Kevin Lynch came on in the bottom of the seventh for the Seminoles, but promptly gave up two runs, cutting the Seminole lead in half 4-2. Matt DiBlasi would then come on in relief of Lynch and after putting the tying run on base via a walk, gave up a two-out single to tie the game at 4-4. Another Tech single would finish the comeback and give the Yellow Jackets the 5-4 victory.

The two teams met for the fifth and final time in the consolation bracket of the ACC Tournament with Georgia Tech ending the Seminoles title defense by a score of 18-2.  Only nine runs were earned, as four errors hurt the Seminoles. Georgia Tech scored two runs in the first inning to take an early lead. The Yellow Jackets would score two more in the second, then used a seven run third inning, capped off by a three-run blast off of Barrett Browning, who came on in relief of starter Hunter Jones, to go up 11-0. In the bottom of the third, Ryne Malone doubled in Shane Robinson to put the Seminoles on the board, and in the next inning, a passed ball help bring in the second Seminole run, but that was all Florida State could plate in the ninth. 

Get some hits – Florida State had at least seven hits in all five games, and averaged over 8 hits per game.

Perform well against lefties – Florida State went 16×47 (.340) against Georgia Tech left-handed pitchers. Ryne Malone led the Seminoles going 5×7 (.714) and Shane Robinson was 3×5 (.600) against Georgia Tech southpaws.

Score the runner with less than two outs – Florida State was successful 50% (7×14) of the time when batting with a runner on third and less than two outs in an inning. Bryan Henry, Jack Rye and Ryne Malone were all perfect in that situation

Advance the Runner – When given the opportunity to advance a runner, Florida State was successful 42% of the time. Ryne Malone (61% success), Tony Thomas Jr. (55% success) and Bryan Henry (67% success) were three of six Seminoles above a 50% success rate.

Ryne Malone hit .368 (7×19) with a double, a triple and five RBIs to lead the Seminoles. Shane Robinson was 7×22 (.318) with two doubles, two RBIs and two stolen bases. Bryan Henry pitched three innings, giving up only one hit, no runs and striking out six, while also knocking in two runs. Barrett Browning stuck out eleven batters to lead the Seminoles and Brian Chambers threw two innings of two hit ball, one of five Florida State relievers who did not allow an earned run.

Since joining the ACC in 1992, either Florida State or Georgia Tech has finished in first place in the regular season standings 11 of 14 times. Florida State has claimed the regular season title six times, while Georgia Tech took home top honors five times. The two teams have also combined to win seven of the last 14 ACC Tournament Championships.  Florida State took home the title in 1995, 1997, 2002 and 2004, while Georgia Tech has claimed the title in 2000, 2003 and most recently in 2005.

Despite a disappointing week, the 2006 Seminoles are right on pace with some of the best teams in program history through 40 games as far as wins and losses. In the last 25 years only six FSU teams have posted a better record through 40 games than the 2006 club. Three of those six teams with a better record were only one win ahead of this year’s team. The Seminoles success as of late has been pretty remarkable. This is the fifth time in the last eight seasons an FSU squad has recorded at least 33 wins in its first 40 games. In fact, in the last 25 years only seven FSU teams have reached the 40-game point of a season with less than 30 victories. The only team to have more wins through the first 40 games in the last five years was the 2003 squad, which was the No. 1 national seed in the NCAA Tournament that season. As much as FSU fans, players and coaches were upset with a series loss to Miami and a mid-week loss to the Gators, FSU’s .825 winning percentage is still the third-best in the nation.

Freshman right-hander Jimmy Marshall is scheduled to make his first career start Sunday against Georgia Tech. In earning the start against the Yellow Jackets, he will become only the 12th true freshman to start a game since the beginning of the 2000 season. Marshall will join current Seminole teammates Brian Chambers (March 10, 2004 vs. Butler), Tyler Chambliss (May 29, 2004 vs. Georgia Tech), Mark Sauls (Feb. 9, 2003) and Ryan Strauss (March 7, 2005 vs. Hawaii-Hilo) who have all started games as true freshmen pitchers for Florida State. Strauss, the Seminoles’ current starting leftfielder, was the last Seminole true freshman to earn his first start when he pitched 1.1 innings in earning a no decision at Hawaii-Hilo. The last win in a starting assignment by a true freshman pitcher was earned by Brian Shultz in a 6.1 inning outing as Florida State won at No. 11 Clemson, 10-1. Since the beginning of the 2000 season, Florida State’s true freshman starting pitchers have an earned run average of 2.83 and a record of 7-0 with four no decisions in 11 first-time starts. 

This weekend’s series between the Seminoles and Yellow Jackets could involve some high scoring contests. The two teams are in the top three for runs scored and RBIs, top five for batting average, the top four for slugging percentage, total bases, on base percentage and homeruns in the ACC. Only NC State has scored more runs this season than FSU and Tech and the two teams have a combined 91 homers. What is really strange is not that they are two of the best offensive teams in the nation’s top conference but how similar the squads are statistically. There is only one homer difference between the teams, just four hits, six doubles and five K’s. The two squads have the exact same number of walks and their slugging percentages are almost identical as well. Tech hits 12 points higher but FSU has 12 more doubles, which are the only two major differences. Florida State does hold a significant statistical edge on the bases with 28 more steals and on the mound with a team ERA almost a run and a half better.

Not to take anything away from FSU’s previous opponents but everyone knew starting with the North Carolina series things were going to get tougher as far as FSU’s schedule goes. The Seminoles are facing better pitchers every weekend and it is reasonable to expect FSU’s hitters to have a tougher time. That has been the case over the last month. In the first 28 games of the season FSU was held to seven hits or less just four times but in the last 12 games that has happened on six occasions. Florida State started the season on an incredible pace at the plate and it was a little hopeful to expect those gaudy numbers to hold up as the team started to face ranked opponents every weekend. After recording double digit hits in an incredible 23 of the first 28 games, FSU has only reached that number four times in the last 12 outings. When you face pitching staffs from North Carolina, Miami, Florida, Boston College and Jacksonville the offensive numbers are going to go down but there are a few areas FSU will need to improve upon with series versus ranked teams in Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Clemson and NC State on the horizon starting Friday. During the last 12 games FSU has just not been doing as good a job in key situations. FSU is hitting 60 points lower with runners in scoring position, 67 points lower with runners on base and 122 points lower with the bases loaded. Florida State’s success in getting the lead-off hitter on has dropped by 10% and with the bases empty FSU’s average has dropped almost 80 points. Strikeouts are a key factor as well as the Seminoles are averaging almost three more per game as run production has dropped by almost four runs per contest. In the first 28 games FSU was averaging a remarkable 4.22 extra base hits per game but that number has fallen off as well to 2.50. Improving in those areas is obviously going to be a key down the stretch as the pitching staffs only get better. The four ACC teams left on FSU’s schedule are all in the top eight in the conference in team ERA but only Clemson is in the top four. FSU has already faced two of the top five staffs in UNC and Miami and they will not see the number one staff in the conference in Virginia.

Getting a series win over a team as good as Georgia Tech means getting contributions from everyone. That will be the case this weekend but no where as much as from the FSU bullpen. Last season versus the Yellow Jackets the bullpen had its ups and downs and they will need to be a huge part of FSU’s success this weekend. Last season, Seminole relievers put 41% of the Georgia Tech batters on base and only recorded a strikeout 22% of the time. They gave up 11 walks in just over 18 innings and in four of the five meetings between the teams the bullpen gave up more hits than they did in their previous appearance (2, 5, 5, 7 8). You can’t put too much blame on the FSU relievers for what happened last year versus the Yellow Jackets as they gave up 47% of the runs allowed but pitched 46% of the innings. FSU relievers did get saddled with two of FSU’s five losses though. This is one area the Seminoles expect to do better in this year as the 2006 bullpen has been nothing short of fantastic. It has been 18 games since the bullpen suffered a loss and an FSU reliever has taken a loss in just two of the 40 games so far in 2006. In nine of their last 17 appearances, FSU relievers have held the opposition scoreless and over that span they have issued just eight walks and struck out 49.

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