The No. 4 Florida State Seminoles (41-13, 21-18) looked to have the game all but wrapped up entering the ninth as FSU led 9-3 entering the final inning against conference rival Duke (31-23, 15-14). Two errors, a balk, three hits, and five runs later the Seminoles barely escaped with a 9-8 victory to clinch the series.
The Seminoles were led offensively by D.J. Stewart who tied a career high for hits as he went 4-4 with three RBI and three runs scored. Stewart has been FSU’s top hitter all season, but the added contributions from the four through six hitters in the lineup has allowed the FSU offense carry the team.
John Nogowski went 1-4 in the clean-up position, but all three of his outs were fly outs to deep areas of the outfield. Jose Brizuela went 3-4 with two RBI and three stolen bases from the five hole and Ben DeLuzio contributed with a 2-4 effort and an RBI.
The ability to manufacture runs has been key for FSU as their bullpen continues to struggle. On Friday Gage Smith, Brandon Johnson, and Jameis Winston combined to allow six runs on five hits in only two and two-third innings of relief.
Once the strength of FSU’s team the pitching staff has struggled with consistency since Brandon Leibrandt and Bryant Holtmann went down with injuries. The third and fourth spots in the starting rotation have been a revolving door for the second half of the season and the added strain has caused FSU’s bullpen to implode down the stretch.
That has never been more apparent than the ninth inning of game two against Duke when the staff struggled to put the game away and almost squandered a six run lead. Starters Luke Weaver and Mike Compton have been keeping the team afloat with multiple strong outings in a row, but come postseason play they will not be enough to carry the team.
The team desperately needs a third starter to assert himself in the coming weeks. The Seminoles have the ability to compete offensively, but it will be for naught if the pitching staff does not improve quickly. The ACC tournament kicks off next week and regionals follow soon after. The Seminoles spent time ranked number one earlier this season, but their chances of making a deep run in the postseason do not look as bright as they once did.
After Friday night’s win Head Coach Mike Martin said that he did not know who would start the final game against Duke. That uncertainty may doom FSU’s chances of competing come postseason play.
By: Brandon O’Connor