The Day After: Takeaways from FSU’s win over Southern Miss
Florida State baseball (31-22) opened the NCAA Tournament with a 5-2 win over the Oxford Regional two-seed Southern Miss (37-20). The Seminoles fell behind 2-0 in the first inning but overcame the early deficit with a trio of homers. The Seminoles collected seven hits, five of which went for extra bases and walked four times. Florida State allowed nine hits but walked only two hitters and stranded 10 on base. The Seminoles will move on to play top-seeded Ole Miss Saturday at 6 p.m. That game will be televised on ESPN2.
Here are a few takeaways from Friday’s matchup.
Parker Messick turns in quality outing after slow start
Parker Messick has had a tremendous season overall, but he stumbled a bit in his last three starts heading into the Oxford Regional. From February 26 to May 7, Messick allowed just 12 earned runs, but he was tagged for a combined 13 earned runs in his previous three starts before Friday.
As the first inning progressed, it appeared Messick was in for another bumpy outing. He allowed two soft hits through the hole, and the Florida State defense committed two errors, which led to two early Southern Miss runs. The Golden Eagles had an opportunity to extend their lead further with two runners on base, but Messick induced a 6-3 double play to end the inning and limit the damage to just two. For the next five innings, he looked like the pitcher who dominated ACC competition for most of the season.
He bounced back in the second inning with a quick 1-2-3 inning. After two softly hit singles to open the third, Messick struck out the next three batters looking.
Messick later worked around a two-out double in the fourth inning for a scoreless frame. Against the top three hitters in the Southern Miss order, Messick turned in a crucial 1-2-3, seven-pitch fifth inning.
Finally, after two one-out singles in the sixth inning, Messick finished his day with a fly out and another strikeout looking. It was a crucial scoreless frame for Messick after the Seminoles scored three runs in the top half of the inning to take the lead.
Messick completed his afternoon with five straight scoreless innings. He finished with a line of 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K and 103 pitches. The Seminoles needed Messick to return to his ace-level form that had been missing in his previous three starts. He gave them exactly what they needed in their first NCAA Tournament game.
Logan Lacey takes advantage of key defensive miscue
Logan Lacey is not the most prominent name on the Florida State roster, but his versatility and consistency on both sides of the ball have made him one of the more valuable players on the team this season.
The Seminoles struggled to generate any offense through the first five innings against Southern Miss ace Hunter Stanley. Florida State had just two hits up to that point, but then the top of the FSU order quickly shifted the momentum.
Tyler Martin lofted a routine fly ball to right field to begin the top of the sixth inning, but Southern Miss right fielder Reece Ewing lost the ball in the air, causing Martin to reach second on an E9. Stanley was visibly frustrated after the error and looked vulnerable for the first time all afternoon.
Lacey subsequently made up for his first-inning error and took advantage of the miscue in a massive way. Stanley threw him an 0-2 fastball up in the zone and Lacey cranked a homer down the left-field line to tie the game.
The homer was Lacey’s eighth of the year and his fifth in his last 11 games. In that span, he’s had five multi-RBI games.
He then laced a first-pitch fastball down the left-field line for a leadoff double in the eighth inning. It was his 13th of the season, good for second-most on the team. Lacey is now hitting .299/.371/.500 for the season. He’s been as consistent as it gets at the top of the Florida State lineup.
Reliance on the long ball
Florida State’s lineup has been prone to strikeouts all season, but on its best days, it’s a lineup that can slug as well as any in college baseball. The Seminoles were third in the ACC in homers during the regular season, and all five of their runs Friday came via the long ball.
After Lacey’s homer, Elijah Cabell cranked his 15th bomb of the season to give the Seminoles a 3-2 lead. On a two-strike breaking ball outside the zone, Cabell simply threw his arms out and poked the ball over the left-field wall.
This homer was just another example of the rare raw power he possesses. It wasn’t quite as impressive as the 480-foot blast he hit earlier this season against Pitt, but there aren’t many hitters who have the ability to put this kind of pitch over the wall.
Matheu Nelson later joined the home run party in the eighth inning when he connected on a 2-0 pitch down the heart of the plate and drove it into the FSU bullpen. The homer was his 23rd of the year, putting him back in a tie for the nation’s lead.
Florida State likely will not be able to rely solely on the homerun to produce offense in the postseason. The pitching will only get tougher, starting with Ole Miss on Saturday. The Seminoles’ offense has struggled at times on days where they’re forced to score without the long ball.
The good news for Florida State is that it struck out only seven times on the afternoon against one of the best pitching staffs in the country. When the Seminoles slug the ball and limit their strikeouts simultaneously, they’re extremely tough to beat.
Bullpen tosses three scoreless innings
The Seminoles bullpen, namely Jonah Scolaro and Jack Anderson were terrific down the stretch to put Southern Miss away on Friday. Hunter Perdue was the first arm out of the FSU bullpen in the seventh inning. He struck out his first batter with a 97-mph fastball on the corner but was then pulled after a one-out walk.
Scolaro retired his first hitter on one pitch and walked the next batter before stranding two runners with a huge strikeout on three consecutive curveballs.
Scolaro began the eighth inning and retired the first two hitters in the inning before being replaced by Anderson. His season ERA is down to 2.31 after tossing 1.1 scoreless innings Friday. Anderson closed the game out with 1.1 scoreless innings of his own for his fifth save of the season.
Florida State’s bullpen depth has been a strength all year and it will be an advantage throughout the postseason.
Defensive question marks remain
Florida State overall has been much improved defensively this season after being struggling mightily on that side of the ball in the abbreviated 2020 season.
However, the two errors in the first inning Friday were a reminder that this team is still prone to occasional defensive lapses.
Messick’s second pitch of the afternoon went through the glove of the normally reliable second baseman Jackson Greene for an error. It was Greene’s second error of the season. Messick later forced a ground ball to third base that should have been a double play, but the grounder went off of Lacey’s glove into left field. The two errors led to two unearned runs.
Later in the eighth inning, Tyler Martin mishandled a pop-up to shallow right field with his back to home plate. The play was not ruled an error, but it was one Martin probably should have made.
The defensive mistakes did not cost Florida State Friday, but it will be tougher to overcome such mistakes if they recur throughout the tournament. Opportunity windows shrink deeper into the postseason as the competition level increases.
The Seminoles will need to be cleaner on the defensive side against Ole Miss Saturday night.
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