Series Preview: Rhode Island Rams

When: February 19-February 21

Where: Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium Tallahassee, FL

Friday Match-up: FSU RHP Mike Compton (4-4 3.55ERA) vs. URI LHP Steven Moyers (4-4 3.75ERA)

Saturday Match-up: FSU RHP Drew Carlton (5-5 4.04ERA) vs. URI LHP Tyler Wilson (6-3 2.16ERA)

Sunday Match-up: FSU RHP  Cole Sands (0-0 0.00ERA) vs. URI RHP Ben Wessel (2-3 6.35ERA)

Player to Watch FSU: C, Cal Raleigh

Player to Watch URI: LHP, Tyler Wilson

Opening weekend is finally upon us! After a long winter, and seemingly endless attention for other sports (looking at you, football), Seminole fans finally get to hear the sweet sound of a baseball hitting a mitt again. Florida State opens up as a top 25 team across all of the major college polls, ranking anywhere between 15th-20th. Rhode Island was picked to finish 3rd in the Atantic-10 conference this season in the Atlantic-10 coaches poll.

Florida State’s offense comes into this season as the biggest question mark, following the loss of first-round draft pick D.J. Stewart and the 6-game suspension of Quincy Nieporte. Nieporte is FSU’s returning leader in hits, RBI, and homeruns so this is a big loss for the FSU offense. For the Seminoles it all starts with the table setters at the top of the lineup. The top of the lineup will most likely include names such as Ben DeLuzio, Taylor Walls, and Matt Henderson. It’s going to be important to get those guys on early in the game and take a lead early on in order to shut the opposing teams down as the game goes on.

Florida State’s key player to watch for this series is freshman catcher Cal Raleigh. With the only other player getting playing time as catcher suspended, Nieporte, the door is open for Raleigh to make a statement in these first two series. Since the departure of Danny De La Calle, FSU seems poised to turn the keys over to Cal Raleigh, who coaches are already talking very highly about. Coach Mike Martin Jr. said of Raleigh on the Jeff Cameron Show on ESPN Radio, “Cal is gonna be our next great one. I’m confident in that.”

Mike Compton will be making his second opening day start of his career. Compton is the Seminoles returning leader in terms of inning pitched (71.1), strikeouts (60), and ERA (3.55). Compton will be looking to win his first career opening day start, and third career opening weekend win, having defeated Oakland last season. Florida State is also 6-0 all time against Rhode Island and 47-1 against the Atlantic-10 all time. The only loss came against St. Louis all the way back in 1965.

Cole Sands might be the most intriguing pitcher to take the hill for the Seminoles this weekend. Sands, the 6’3″ local grown talent, was selected by the Houston Astros in the 22nd round of the MLB Draft. Many speculated that Sands only dropped so low in the draft because he was so strongly committed to FSU. It’s encouraging to see Sands open the year in the weekend rotation and earning this position as a true freshman shows an advanced grip on the collegiate game and his maturity. Sands might also be getting an intangible boost from having his roommate and fellow freshman Raleigh behind the plate. Sands and Raleigh seemed to have been developing a rapport as preseason practices went on and now they get to throw to each other in live action for the first time in their careers. It will be an exciting story to follow all season of the development of FSU’s star freshmen trio of Sands, Raleigh and Tyler Holton.

Rhode Island’s key player to watch is left-handed pitcher Tyler Wilson. Wilson is the incumbent A-10 pitcher and freshman of the year and was named to the preseason first-team all-Atlantic 10 team. Wilson’s stats last season certainly tell the story of how dominant he was, he led the conference in ERA (2.16), runs allowed (24), batting average against (.184), hits per nine innings (5.87), and WHIP (.96). Wilson, who might be one of the most talented pitchers in the country, will pitch Saturday against Carlton. Wilson will most likely be a hot commodity by the time he is eligible to be drafted. The opening day starter for the Rams, Steven Moyers, is a talented left-handed pitcher who just missed out on getting drafted in the 2015 MLB Draft. Look for Moyers to be a good matchup against FSU and look for his name to be called in the later rounds of the draft in June, as MLB teams have a tough time refusing talented lefties. The other two Rams who were named to the preseason first-team all-Atlantic 10 team are infielders Martin Figueroa and Chris Hess. Figueroa and Hess both turned in dominant seasons offensively during their 2015 campaign. Figueroa hit .363 last season and led Rhode Island in OBP (.414) and slugging percentage (.575). Hess, a redshirt freshman last season, led Rhode Island in hits (59), multi-hit games (17), triples (6), and runs scored (34).

Rhode Island remains a talented team but Florida state is a top 20 team in all of college baseball and should be expecting a series win to get the season started on the right foot. It should be a beautiful weekend in Tallahassee and no matter the end result I’m sure all fans can agree, it feels great just to have baseball season back.

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