College World Series: FSU vs. Arkansas preview

Haylee Blitch

The Noles are set to square off with the #5 national seed Arkansas Razorbacks at 7 PM on Saturday to start their CWS run. Game 1 is so important to put you into the winner’s bracket of your pool, just like the regionals, but a loss doesn’t guarantee the end of your season. The Razorbacks were one of the best teams in the SEC this year as they come into the game 45-18, while the Noles are 41-21. The Hogs are a well-rounded team, with a powerful offense and a decent pitching staff with one of the best aces in the country. The Noles come in as a hotter team with a 6 game win streak and one of only two teams who are yet to lose in the tournament. FSU and Arkansas have played 2 common opponents this year, Georgia and LSU. Arkansas went 2-2 against the 2 will FSU has run off 4 straight wins against the SEC powerhouses. The Razorbacks are trying to get back to the CWS finals for the 2nd year in a row after falling to Oregon State in 3 games last year, while FSU will try to get back for the first time since 1999.

Arkansas has been one of the most consistent teams in the country this year, hitting for a team batting average of .300, while the Noles have compiled an average of .272. But FSU’s patient offensive approach in drawing walks and working counts shows in their OBP. The Noles on-base percentage is actually higher than the Hogs’, with the Noles sitting at .398 compared to Arkansas’ .396. Both teams possess some of the most pop in the nation, as the Hogs have 85 HR’s and the Noles have 81. On the season, Arkansas has been a bit more explosive, scoring 7.51 runs/game compared to FSU’s 6.95 R/G.

The top of FSU’s order is one of the best in the nation, but their success comes when the bottom of the order contributes. Mike Salvatore has been amazing leading it off for the Noles all season long, while junior captain Drew Mendoza has come into his own this year, being one of the best hitters in the entire nation. But FSU goes as guys like Nander De Sedas, Carter Smith, and Tim Becker go. If it weren’t for the contributions of those guys, FSU wouldn’t be playing in Omaha tonight. The Noles offense will feature few righties against Isaiah Campbell tonight, as the Noles will run out 5 lefties and one switch hitter. The Noles have fared far better against righties than lefties this season. If the Hogs go to a lefty in the pen you could see Cooper Swanson or Elijah Cabell come in to pinch hit.

Projected FSU Lineup

RH SS Mike Salvatore: .341 AVG/.430 OBP/7 HR’s

LH RF Reese Albert: .299 AVG/.406 OBP/9 HR’s

LH 3B Drew Mendoza: .319 AVG/.484 OBP/16 HR’s

LH DH Robby Martin: .332 AVG/.414 OBP/4 HR’s

RH CF JC Flowers: .271 AVG/.373 OBP/13 HR’s

LH 1B Carter Smith: .247 AVG/.366 OBP/2 HR’s

S 2B Nander De Sedas: .241 AVG/.365 OBP/4 HR’s

RH C Mat Nelson: .277 AVG/.439 OBP/6 HR’s

LH LF Tim Becker: .286 AVG/.400 OBP/3 HR’s

The Razorbacks offense has been dominant all year long. The Hogs have 5 qualified hitters hitting above .300 and 5 hitters with 10+ HR’s. Arkansas’ offense can also create offense whenever they want, stealing 78 bases on the year while only being caught 15 times. Leadoff hitter Trevor Ezell gets the Hogs started at the top of the order, as he has hit .328 on the year and reaching base 43.9% of the time. Casey Martin and Heston Kjerstad provide the thump in the order, both hitting 15 HR’s on the year. This offense will be Drew Parrish’s biggest test of the season, but the Hogs have struggled against lefties this year. 4 of the Hogs best hitters are all lefties.

Projected Arkansas Lineup

S 1B Trevor Ezell: .328 AVG/.439 OBP/10 HR’s

RH SS Casey Martin: .293 AVG/.370 OBP/15 HR’s

LH DH Matt Goodheart: .356 AVG/.453 OBP/5 HR’s

LH CF Dominic Fletcher: .316 AVG/.382 OBP/11 HR’s

LH RF Heston Kjerstad: .323 AVG/.401 OBP/15 HR’s

LH 2B Jack Kenley: .324 AVG/.442 OBP/13 HR’s

S C Casey Opitz: .232 AVG/.320 OBP/2 HR’s

RH 3B Jacob Nesbit: .262 AVG/.340 OBP/3 HR’s

RH LF Christian Franklin: .267 AVG/.356 OBP/6 HR’s

Starting pitching matchup: LHP Drew Parrish (5.11 ERA, 116 K’s, 8-5) vs. RHP Isaiah Campbell (2.26 ERA, 115 K’s, 12-1)

Obviously, the numbers make this matchup look very 1 sided, but FSU has already proven that they can beat any pitcher this year. Many people will question Mike Martin for his decision to start Parrish over CJ Van Eyk, but I believe no matter the outcome, that it’s the right decision. Van Eyk threw a career-high 116 pitches on Sunday and would’ve one less day of rest than usual. A start tonight could put his arm in a vulnerable position, instead, FSU’s best pitcher will be on the hill to send them to 2-0 or to save their season. Parrish has been up and down all year, but he hasn’t been as his numbers show. The lefty has given up 15 HR’s this year if he can stay away from the deep ball he can produce a very solid start. The strikeout numbers show that his stuff still plays very well, he just needs to stay away from the middle of the zone.

Campbell is a pitcher that doesn’t beat himself and has rarely lost this year or even in his career. The big righty has posted 12 wins this year and Arkansas has won 14 of his 17 starts. Campbell isn’t the most powerful pitcher but he is a very polished college pitcher, featuring a 4-pitch arsenal of a sinker, slider, splitter, and curveball. You can read an in-depth breakdown of what to expect from Campbell here.

The Noles will likely turn to LH Antonio Velez (4.26 ERA, 5-2) or RH Chase Haney (2.73 ERA, .190 BAA) to set up their 2-way closer JC Flowers (1.40 ERA, 12 SV’s). Velez and Haney have both been on fire on the mound lately, and JC has been unhittable almost all year. Velez was the hero on the hill in Baton Rouge, taking home both W’s in FSU’s Super Regional sweep of the Tigers. The submariner Haney has been sawing off hitters all season long with the combination of his sinker and a frisbee slider. If the Noles can get to the ACC Reliever of the year, Flowers, with a lead, the Noles will be in a good position.

Arkansas will turn to Jacob Kostyshock (2.89 ERA) or Kevin Kopps (3.66 ERA) out of the pen to set up electric closer Matt Cronin (2.00 ERA, 12 SV’s). The Hogs may not have to get much work out of their pen, as Campbell has been an efficient pitcher all year and averaged more than 6 IP per start. But when called upon, the Hogs bullpen arms have got the job done throughout the year. Cronin presents a different look, coming from the left side and throwing hard up in the zone.

FSU definitely has a tough task ahead of them Saturday night, but at this point of the season, every game is going to be a battle. The Noles are probably the hottest team coming into the CWS and they’re as confident as ever. It will always be the same for this team, if they don’t beat themselves, they will have a good chance to win. Parrish will have to stay out of the middle of the zone and avoid free passes while the defense will have to play clean, allowing the offense to go to work. Mike Martin’s last one will surely be a fun one.

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