Thursday, March 17, 2011

series preview: Florida State

Date/Time: March 18-20; 6:00, 1:00, 1:00

TV: none

History against the Noles: 13-42

Last matchup: UVA series win, 2-1 (5-0, 9-8, 8-9); 3/12-3/14, 2010; Tallahassee

Last game: UVA 7, JMU 3 (3/16); UF 5, FSU 4 (3/15)

Last weekend: UVA 3-0 over Clemson; FSU 3-0 over BC

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #7; FSU #6
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #6; FSU #4
Perfect Game: UVA #4; FSU #3
Coaches: UVA #5; FSU #4

Opposing blogs: Tomahawk Nation, Scalp 'Em

Thanks to scheduling gurus who I'm sure are very smart people, the two ACC divisional favorites will play each other in March. You'd think it would make a lot better TV if this was in, say, early May, but that's OK, it's not on TV. I'm sorry for getting sarcasm all over your keyboard.

Anyway, no matter who you ask, it's a top-ten matchup, and to most, it's a top five. Even with Florida visiting LSU, it's the only series this weekend with two top-five teams, and with FSU's ace Sean Gilmartin going against super-ace Danny Hultzen on Friday, you can totally see why the ACC wouldn't think it's worth it to find a way to get this on TV.

Florida State is one of the country's top teams partly because they're Florida State. They're hard to figure, though. They swept Boston College - one of the conference's bottom-dwellers - but had a hard time with it. Then they took Florida to extra innings. The big matchup, of course, is Hultzen vs. Gilmartin. Gilmartin's stats are outstanding, but nothing like Hultzen's. The series could well hinge on Friday's game.

On Saturday, we'll send out Tyler Wilson against the underachieving Brian Busch. Busch was a better pitcher last year, but even if he returns to last year's form on Saturday, Wilson is the better hurler. This year, opposing hitters are batting .343 against, Busch, so Saturday's game is the likeliest for a UVA win. Sunday, Cody Winiarski goes against the semi-surprising Scott Sitz.

FSU's bats, frankly, are better than ours at this point, but not overwhelmingly so. Hultzen vs. Gilmartin is the exciting pitching matchup, but our pitching vs. their hitting is really what will decide the series. FSU's pitching is good, but not so incredible that the UVA batters won't be able to push runs across the plate relatively consistently.

I like how this sets up. As long as Danny Hultzen is in our corner it's nigh-impossible to conceive of losing a game that he starts. Saturday looks good too. When it comes to Sunday, the game should either be a rubber match or with a UVA sweep on the line, because of all possible outcomes, losing on both Friday and Saturday seems the least likely. It's the home conference opener and the team should be fired up for it. FSU is ranked higher no matter where you look, but after this weekend, I think that changes.

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