Our friends over at Tomahawk Nation, Florida State's excellent SB Nation site, were kind enough to answer some of my questions about this weekend's baseball series between Wake Forest and Florida State. Many thanks to RaysnNoles who provides some outstanding baseball coverage for TN.
Blogger So Dear: First and foremost, the Noles have had a pretty solid year so far. They enter this weekend's series ranked 5th in the most recent coach's poll and boast a record of 28-8 (14-4 ACC). How have fans felt so far about this season? Is there a lot of excitement surrounding this team as April begins to wind down?
Tomahawk Nation: This season came with lofty expectations as this Florida State team was one of the most complete in their recent history and stacked up well against any other team in the country. Intelligent and realistic fans know that a title can’t be won in March or April nor does past success play a large role in the future’s. The goal at the beginning of the season was a National Seed and the Noles are still in great position to earn one.
BSD: FSU entered last weekend's series against Georgia Tech having won each of the first five conference series, but the Yellow Jackets were able to piece together a much-needed series win by taking the first two games of the set. What was Georgia Tech able to do against FSU's pitching that others teams have struggled with? Similarly, was the FSU offense just slow to get going, or was this potentially symptomatic of underlying problems that have surfaced throughout the year?
TN: The Jackets caught Florida State at a bad time, they were coming off a loss to rival Florida, their third of the season. The Seminoles are in a bit of a funk now and there are two main reasons for that, one is every team goes through them during the stretch of a sixty game season and two the Noles are battling injuries. Georgia Tech capitalized on some big innings and a slumping offense but overall the Noles didn’t play that poorly.
BSD: D.J. Stewart has consistently been one of the ACC's best hitters this season. He is hitting .374 with 7 home runs, 30 RBI's, and 13 doubles. How important has Stewart been to the team's offensive success, and do you expect him to continue his torrid season?
TN: DJ Stewart is the best hitter in the ACC this season. With him in the lineup the players around him have more success because he is just so disruptive. The Noles managed to win without him albeit against poor competition but even at 80% right now (ankle injury) he is so dangerous. Stewart is currently riding a 57 game on base streak dating back to last season and is slugging .125 points higher than anyone else in the conference. The kid is an amazing athlete, hitter and leader for the Seminoles.
BSD: Having at least two, if not three, solid starters for the weekend series is one of the most important parts of navigating the college baseball season. How have the FSU starters been handling the weekend appearances, and how good have Leibrandt, Weaver, and Compton been this year at staking out good starts for the Seminoles when healthy?
TN: At the beginning of the season Florida State had one of the best rotations in the country, not many teams can boast three All-Americans on their pitching staff let alone three weekend starters. While this season has not been as stellar as last years Luke Weaver has still pitched like an ace and gives the Noles seven solid innings every time he starts. A huge concern for the Noles right now is the health of Brandon Leibrandt who was pitching the best of the three before his injury. He suffered a shin contusion about a month ago and has not pitched since, lucky Deacons. Redshirt sophomore Mike Compton is pitching well after sitting out all of 2012 with Tommy John surgery, his numbers are practically identical to his freshman season and give the Noles a great chance of winning against the opponents two or three.
BSD: Wake has been up and down throughout this season and has benefited thus far from a relatively easy conference slate. This is a critical series for the Demon Deacons as far as the potential for quality wins and a chance to increase their RPI to enhance their tournament resume. If the Deacs are swept it will likely mean no postseason for Wake barring a remarkable finish or an ACC Tournament title. On the other hand, a series win or sweep would almost certainly put Wake on the fringe, or even into, the tournament if the season were to end on Monday. What do you believe will be the outcome of this series?
TN: Going on the road in conference and sweeping a team is a difficult task regardless of the opponent and I think a sweep from either teams this weekend is unlikely. Part of my thinking here is that the Noles really didn’t look like themselves last week and until I see them play like they did earlier in the season I can’t pick them to sweep. Due to their style of play and talent differential I think the Noles will take the series.
BSD: No ACC team has brought home the NCAA title since Wake Forest did it in 1955. Fill in the blank. If Florida State is to break the ACC's unbelievable streak this year it will have to [BLANK].
TN: Remain healthy.
Thanks again to Tomahawk Nation! For those Deacon fans in Winston-Salem get on out to Wake Forest Baseball Park to enjoy the nice spring weather and cheer on the Diamond Deacs. This is one of the better baseball teams the Deacs have had in a while and this is a critical series. Blogger So Dear will have a recap of the series so stay posted for more information on the Wake baseball team. As always, go Deacs.