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‘Noles 9: Parker Messick emerging as ACC Pitcher of the Year frontrunner, more notes

Parker Messick tossed six scoreless innings against Georgia Tech Friday
Parker Messick tossed six scoreless innings against Georgia Tech Friday(WCTV)
Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 2:46 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Several times this season when Florida State has needed a spark, it has turned to Parker Messick, and the big southpaw has consistently delivered. Messick again set the tone for Florida State’s critical series win at Georgia Tech over the weekend, tossing six shutout innings, despite not having his best stuff.

The Yellow Jackets are second in the ACC in team batting average and third in runs scored. Messick allowed just three hits Friday night and none of them went for extra bases. FSU’s ace is beginning to emerge as the clear favorite for ACC Pitcher of the Year.

Among all ACC pitchers that have made at least eight starts, Messick’s 2.41 ERA is half a run better than the next best pitcher. Opponents are hitting just .198 against him, which ranks third in the ACC. However, the two pitchers listed ahead of him have thrown 19 and 20 fewer innings than him, respectively. He is also second in the conference in strikeouts and has allowed just two home runs in 56 innings.

Florida State’s coaching staff was expecting a breakout season from Messick after an outstanding offseason. He has more than lived up to the hype.

2. Matheu Nelson makes history

Speaking of breakout seasons, Matheu Nelson had another terrific weekend and has emerged as one of the best catchers in college baseball this year.

After inexplicably being left off the Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list two weeks ago, Nelson hit three more homers at Georgia Tech to extend his national lead to 18.

In the fourth inning of Saturday’s game, he crushed an 0-1 curveball over the left-center field wall. That homer set an FSU record for most home runs in a season since the college baseball bat standard changed in 2011, topping Drew Mendoza’s previous record of 16.

Nelson is hitting .339/.449/.868 this season. He leads the ACC in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases. The catcher also threw out his 11th runner of the season in the 3rd inning Sunday. He is as good of a choice as anybody for ACC Player of the Year right now. Florida State hasn’t had a player accomplish that feat since DJ Stewart in 2014.

If Nelson wins ACC Player of the Year and Messick wins ACC Pitcher of the Year, it would be the first time ever that both of those awards were won by Florida State players.

3. Nander De Sedas finds power stroke

Nander De Sedas had arguably the best weekend of his career at Georgia Tech. In the first inning of Sunday’s game, he hit his sixth homer of the season, marking the third consecutive weekend that he’s homered.

De Sedas also had a hit every game this series, finishing the weekend 4-for-9, adding five walks to just two strikeouts. He had a career-high four RBIs Sunday.

De Sedas made a couple of phenomenal defensive plays over the weekend too. In the first inning on Friday, the shortstop moved to his left, made a diving stop, and flipped the ball to Jackson Greene at second to end the inning. Then in the third inning of Sunday’s game, De Sedas ranged to his left and made another diving stop up the middle, before making a strong throw to first to rob Georgia Tech of a leadoff single.

For a guy who at times struggled mightily on both sides of the ball during his first couple of seasons at Florida State, De Sedas is beginning to put it all together in year three.

When he is a factor at the bottom of the order like he was this past weekend, Florida State is a much tougher team to beat.

4. Jackson Greene makes an offensive impact

Throughout the season, Florida State has had a bit of a problem at second base. Jackson Greene is an experienced, seasoned defender but had at times been nearly unplayable offensively. Freshman Vince Smith offers a bit more offensive upside but has struggled a bit defensively.

Florida State got a nice boost over the weekend with Greene’s offensive performance. He had only two hits in the three games, but one of them was a home run in the third inning of Friday’s game. It was the first homer of Greene’s career. He also drew four walks.

Greene continued to play excellent defense opposite of De Sedas as well and has yet to make an error this season.

Florida State doesn’t need Greene to be the best hitter in its lineup, but if he can supplement his solid defense at second with an occasional big hit like he did on Friday, the Seminoles will be a much tougher lineup to face.

5. Elijah Cabell slumping again

Elijah Cabell has had a rollercoaster season. It started with a hamstring injury that sidelined him for FSU’s first series of the year. He then hit a 489-foot homer against Pitt in his third game back.

However, his inability to make contact put him on the bench during Florida State’s best offensive stretch of the season against Florida, followed by the three-game series at Miami.

Later, he had a terrific two-week stretch against Wake Forest and North Carolina. Now, he is in another deep slump.

After striking out four times against Georgia Tech on Saturday, Cabell did not start game three on Sunday. He was the only starter to not record a hit for the Seminoles on Saturday. Through Saturday, he had not recorded a hit in his previous 16 at-bats.

The good news is that he finished the weekend with a pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning on Sunday. It was his ninth of the year.

Therein lies the dilemma with Cabell. His raw power is unmatched in college baseball. He is getting on base 38% of the time and is slugging .552. However, he is striking out in 54% of his at-bats, which has often hurt FSU this year.

The balancing act with Cabell has been a difficult task for Mike Martin Jr. all season. There are going to be some matchups where more contact in the lineup is needed. If the rest of Florida State’s lineup can show off the power it did throughout the weekend, Cabell becomes far more expendable.

6. Conor Grady struggles Sunday

For a while, Conor Grady was looking like one of the best Sunday starters in all of college baseball. Over the past three weekends though, Grady’s performance has fallen off a bit.

He has never been a pitcher who will consistently pitch deep into games, and that’s fine with the bullpen depth Florida State has. However, in his previous two games, he has failed to make it through five innings.

Grady’s outing against Georgia Tech was arguably his worst game of the season. The veteran right-hander lasted just one inning and had some very uncharacteristic command issues. Grady walked three batters in his brief appearance and struck out only one. It was only the fifth time in his career that Grady walked three batters.

Over his last three starts, Grady has allowed eight earned runs in 10.2 innings. Florida State has now lost three consecutive series finales with him on the hill.

For Florida State to reach its ceiling, the Seminoles need Grady to get back to his old self soon.

7. Carson Montgomery command issues

It has been an up and down first season for the No. 1 rated freshman in college baseball. At times he has been dominant, but there are other times where he’s been erratic.

The latter was the case in his outing Saturday at Georgia Tech. Montgomery was called in to pitch the seventh inning with Florida State holding an 11-1 lead.

The freshman retired the first two batters on just three pitches before unraveling. He walked the next two batters on 11 pitches. After a wild pitch, Charlie Benson drove in both walks with a double down the left-field line. Montgomery lasted just two-thirds of an inning, allowing two walks and three earned runs. It was the start of a seven-run inning for Georgia Tech.

Montgomery has electric stuff, but his command is still very much a work in progress. In 24.2 innings this season, he has walked 18 hitters. He has all the talent to eventually become one of the best pitchers in college baseball, but for him to reach his ceiling, he must cut down the walks.

8. Chase Haney usage

Chase Haney replaced Montgomery in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game and had his roughest outing of the season. He needed just one out but it took five batters for Florida State to get out of the inning.

The super senior allowed four straight hits, which cut a lead that was 10 runs at the beginning of the inning down to four. Colton Vincent finally ended the inning as he picked a throw from Robby Martin and gunned down a runner at second base to end the inning.

Haney’s ERA is now up to 4.79. He has made 25 appearances, which leads the NCAA. Before Saturday, he had gone eight consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run.

9. Jack Anderson finally cools off

Saturday was a bad day for Florida State’s usually excellent bullpen, as it allowed nine runs in four innings.

Coming into the game, Jack Anderson had allowed just one run and three hits in his previous 7.2 innings. Georgia Tech then hit two homers off him. In the eighth, Anderson allowed a solo home run to Andrew Jenkins to cut the lead to five. After a leadoff single in the ninth, a two-run homer cut the lead to three.

Anderson had tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning with two strikeouts on 13 pitches the day before. Over the past few weeks, he had arguably been FSU’s best relief pitcher. He finally cooled off on Saturday.

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