‘Noles 9 - Observations from FSU’s huge series win at Notre Dame
No. 18 Florida State put together one of its most impressive weekends of the 2021 season, taking two of three games from No. 7 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. It marked the first time all season Notre Dame lost a series.
The Seminoles started the week ranked 59th in RPI. After their second win of the weekend, they rose to 36th. The NCAA will announce the 20 preliminary regional sites later next week, and Florida State now has a great chance to be among that group.
Here are nine observations from the Seminoles’ big weekend.
1. Parker Messick continues dominant season
As has been the case all season, Parker Messick set the tone with a terrific outing on Friday night. The southpaw has been the best pitcher in the ACC all season.
Early on, it appeared Messick was in for a rare off night. He allowed a double down the first-base line to start the game, followed by a walk and a single to load the bases with no outs. Messick then collected a strikeout and limited the damage to only a sac-fly.
In the third inning, Messick ran into trouble at the top of the order again. He allowed a double to the opposite field to put two runners in scoring position with no outs. After a strikeout, Messick hit a batter to load the bases. He then struck out Jack Brannigan for the second out and ended the inning on a weak grounder to second with no damage done.
FSU’s ace went on to retire 10 straight batters before a two-out walk in the sixth inning. Messick allowed just three hits and one run in six innings and struck out eight hitters. Friday was his 11th consecutive start of six-plus innings and two earned runs or fewer. In ACC play, Messick has just a 1.66 ERA, along with a 12.97 K/9 rate. Florida State has won seven of its 10 ACC series openers. He is a near-lock for ACC Pitcher of the Year at this point.
2. Davis Hare adding length to the lineup at DH
One of the issues Florida State has frequently had throughout the season is its production in the bottom of the lineup. Nander De Sedas has been up and down at the plate and the Seminoles have had a hard time getting any consistency from its second basemen platoon of Jackson Greene and Vince Smith.
Davis Hare has helped alleviate some of those concerns over the past few weeks. Hare did not have a great series overall, hitting just 1-for-8 with five strikeouts, but his one hit was one of the biggest of the weekend for FSU.
In the fourth inning of Friday’s game, Hare ripped a fastball through the right side to drive in two runs and give FSU a 2-1 lead. It wound up being the game-winning hit, as the Seminoles won 5-2.
Hare is now hitting .333/.355/.600 in 30 at-bats this season. He’s had a hot start, but Mike Martin Jr. has experimented with using pitchers in the lineup multiple times this season. Messick was excellent as the DH for several weeks before eventually cooling off and no longer being a regular in the lineup. Wyatt Crowell also got off to a hot start after Martin Jr. inserted him into the lineup at Virginia Tech early in the season. However, he’s now hitting just .234/.234/.298 on the season.
Hare is likely due to some similar regression that Messick and Crowell eventually had, but he’s been a nice short-term solution at the bottom of the order.
3. Elijah Cabell hitting streak
Elijah Cabell was in a deep slump two weeks ago after an 0-for-16 stretch against Boston College and Georgia Tech, but he has been one of the hottest hitters in the ACC since then.
Cabell had five hits in the three games at Notre Dame and is now in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak.
In the seventh inning of Friday’s game, Cabell hit his 12th homer of the season to extend the FSU lead to four runs.
Cabell still had five strikeouts on the weekend, but his overall production provided a huge boost for the Seminoles this weekend. Swing and miss will always be a part of Cabell’s game, but if he produces like he has over the past two weeks, Florida State’s lineup is much more dangerous.
4. Jack Anderson consistency
Jack Anderson was not one of the more well-known names on Florida State’s roster entering this season, but no Seminole player has been more consistent than him in 2021.
Anderson relieved Messick in the seventh inning of a one-run game Friday. The redshirt sophomore quickly mowed through the seventh for a 1-2-3 inning. In the eighth, he worked around a two-out walk with two strikeouts for a scoreless eighth. The walk was his first in the last 29.1 innings. In the ninth inning, he limited the damage to one after a leadoff double to close the game out. It was his third save in the last four games.
Anderson’s season ERA is down to 2.98. Over his last 30.2 innings, he has 37 strikeouts to just one walk.
5. Matheu Nelson’s defense
Matheu Nelson had a relatively quiet weekend at the plate, going just 2-for-9 with two walks and a double, but that did not stop him from making an impact.
Nelson’s offensive prowess has often overshadowed how good he’s been defensively. On Friday, he had multiple blocks on pitches in the dirt to prevent runners from advancing on the bases.
In the sixth inning, Nelson helped Messick work around a two-out walk by picking a breaking ball from the dirt and nailing the runner at second to end the inning. It was the 14th time Nelson has caught a runner stealing.
Nelson’s most impressive play of the weekend came in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game. With two runners in scoring position and one out, Notre Dame attempted a suicide squeeze and Nelson shut it down. Nelson tagged the runner coming home from third and then gunned down the runner at second to end the inning on a 2-4 double play.
Sunday ended Nelson’s streak of 11 straight games reaching base. He’s still hitting .333/.449/.833 on the season after a quiet weekend offensively. The third-year catcher has had a terrific season on both sides of the ball.
6. Chase Haney overreliance
Chase Haney is by far the most experienced pitcher on Florida State’s staff. Martin Jr. clearly trusts him in big spots, as evidenced by his NCAA-leading 28 appearances on the season.
However, at a certain point, his usage starts to become a bit perplexing. The sixth-year senior has had a very solid career, but that experience hasn’t consistently translated to quality results this season.
He made another appearance Friday against Notre Dame and allowed three hits, including a homer, and two earned runs in 1.1 innings. Haney has now allowed three home runs this year, which surpassed his career-high of two set in 2019, where he had 13 more innings pitched than he currently does in 2021.
Haney does not have overpowering stuff but he gets good movement on his pitches and has a funky delivery that can throw hitters’ timing off. But the results just haven’t been there this season. He now has a 5.06 ERA, which is the highest among all FSU pitchers who have thrown at least two innings this season.
Florida State will need Haney to contribute down the stretch this season, but he is still being used as if he’s one of FSU’s top relievers. The Seminoles have multiple relievers who have been more reliable than Haney this year, so his continued high usage is a bit perplexing.
7. Conor Grady getting back on track
Conor Grady was terrific in game two of Saturday’s series-clinching doubleheader against Notre Dame. The veteran right-hander worked five shutout frames and averaged 15 pitches per inning.
In the fourth inning, Grady stranded two Notre Dame runners with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning. Grady allowed just three hits and two walks with six strikeouts in his outing.
Grady had struggled in his three previous ACC outings, allowing eight earned runs in 10.2 innings over that span. Since then, he has allowed just one earned run over his last 10 innings. His season ERA is down to 3.56.
8. Robby Martin slump
Robby Martin has struggled over the last few weeks. Over the past two weekends, he is just 1-for-22 and hasn’t had a multi-hit game since April 13 against Florida.
In the three games against Notre Dame, he went 1-for-11 and left seven runners on base. His slash line is down to .273/.359/.479.
The good news is that several players in the Florida State lineup have picked up the slack while Martin has been down for the last few weeks. Martin’s track record for the last three years suggests he will return to form soon. The top of Florida State’s lineup is as good as there is in the ACC when Martin is producing.
9. Nico Baldor’s breakout game
The Seminoles got an unexpected boost on Sunday. Nico Baldor was inserted into the lineup for game two of Saturday’s doubleheader, hitting seventh and playing center field. It was Baldor’s first start of the season and his first career start in center.
The redshirt senior entered the game just 1-for-10 on the season. Baldor responded with the best game of his Florida State career, hitting three doubles and drawing a walk to lead FSU to a 7-1 win.
Baldor had previously been used all season as a pinch hitter or a late-inning defensive replacement. Sunday was his first real opportunity of the year. It’s unrealistic to expect that kind of production from him regularly, but he’ll be a nice depth piece going forward if he can provide more timely hits like he did Sunday.
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