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College World Series Preview: Texas Tech vs. FSU

The Noles were stymied and game 2 of the CWS and now find them self in the loser’s bracket of pool 1. But it is not the end of the world for FSU, think about it this way: FSU has scored 1 run in 2 games and they’ve not been eliminated. If FSU can get the bats going, they could easily get back out of this. The Noles have gone through 2-game or 3-game slumps multiple times this season, but every time it didn’t last more than that. FSU has just run into 2 of the best pitchers in the country at the top of their game. Texas Tech was also stymied by a Michigan pitcher in game 1 of the CWS, as Karl Kauffman threw a gem against the Red Raiders. But Texas Tech responded, taking down 5-4 in a back and forth affair. The Red Raiders and Noles will square off Wednesday night with a chance to reach the national semi-final.

Wednesday will be FSU’s first elimination game of the NCAA tournament, while it will be the Red Raiders 3rd. Texas Tech ran through their Lubbock Regional, going 3-0, before having to go 3 games with rival Oklahoma State in the Super Regional. The Red Raiders are known for their offense, scoring 7.42 runs/game. TT has been one of the most consistent offenses all year, batting .300 as a team and having an OBP of .403. Texas Tech has also been one of the better defensive teams in the nation this year, ranking in the top 40 of the nation with a .977 fielding percentage. The Red Raiders weakness has been their weekend rotation. The weekend rotation hasn’t been awful, but it hasn’t lived up to the production of the offense or defense. The 3-weekend starters have a combined season ERA of 3.98, but the team has an ERA of 3.89 thanks to a dominant bullpen. Texas Tech has not lost a game when leading after 7th or 8th innings this year, FSU has to get on the scoreboard early.

Texas Tech is in the CWS for the second straight year thanks to HC Tim Tadlock. Tadlock took over the HC job in Lubbock in 2013 and all he’s done since is take the Red Raiders to their first 4 CWS appearances in school history. The Red Raiders have made it to 5/7 NCAA tournaments since Tadlock took the job, after not making it for the 8 years past. Wednesday night will feature’s 2018 COY and Perfect Game’s 2019 COY. The game could come down to coaching and the matchups that are decided by the coaches because these two teams are so similar. FSU and Texas Tech square off on Wednesday night at 7 PM.

Everyone knows the struggles FSU’s offense has had recently, with 2 runs in the last 26 innings, but this is only the third time all season that the offense has really gone into a slump. Midway through the season, FSU fell into a four-game slump of scoring just 2 runs against BC, Jacksonville, and Miami. Over the next 16 games, FSU averaged 8.56 runs. Then the offense went into a midweek slump against Jacksonville and Stetson, scoring 5 runs in 3 games. After that, they averaged 7.85 runs over 13 games. And now FSU finds them self in a 2 game slump, but they’ve been here before and they know it just takes some luck to turn it around. Leadoff hitter Mike Salvatore said after Michigan’s game, “I think we’ve just got to keep pushing. I don’t necessarily think something is missing. I think it’s just keep battling and hope that it turns around for us.” The senior also knows that the feel of the game and the offense can turn in one game, “Today I think it was just one of those days for us, and the ball fell good for them. Like I said, you can turn it around and anything can happen in each game.” Hitting is contagious. If FSU can see some hits drop early, the narrative of this FSU offense in Omaha could change very quickly.

4 of FSU’s starters don’t even have a hit yet, 2 of them being FSU’s most consistent hitters on the year besides Mike Salvatore. Robby Martin is second on the team in batting average and has been 1st or 2nd throughout the whole year, but so far in Omaha, nothing will drop for the freshman. So far Robby is 0/8 and has put the ball in play 6 times, and every time the ball has found a glove. If Robby continues to work at-bats and keep his opposite field approach, the hits will come. The other hitter is Drew Mendoza, FSU’s best all-around hitter and 3rd round MLB draft pick. So far Mendo is 0/8 in the CWS with 3 strikeouts, but he’s already been robbed of 2 hits. Even if Mendoza doesn’t get hits on Wednesday, he’s due for some walks. FSU’s offense has gone through this before, and they know how to get out of it. Just keep pushing.

Projected FSU Lineup:

SS Mike Salvatore: .340 AVG/.429 OBP/7 HR’s

RF Reese Albert: .292 AVG/.400 OBP/9 HR’s

3B Drew Mendoza: .308 AVG/.471 OBP/16 HR’s

DH Robby Martin: .319 AVG/.401 OBP/4 HR’s

C Mat Nelson: .286 AVG/.441 OBP/6 HR’s

CF JC Flowers: .268 AVG/.372 OBP/13 HR’s

1B Carter Smith: .239 AVG/.352 OBP/2 HR’s

2B Nander De Sedas: .234 AVG/.355 OBP/4 HR’s

LF Tim Becker: .264 AVG/.385 OBP/3 HR’s

The Texas Tech offense just hits, posting a .300 AVG and .403 OBP on the season. There’s nothing overly powerful or fancy about this offense, with just 71 HR’s on the year and 69 SB’s. The offense is led by a sophomore, junior, and senior, but one of the players may be out. Junior Josh Jung is the best offensive player in Omaha, as he was drafted 8th overall by the Texas Rangers. Jung has been one of the best players in the Nation for his entire career, posting a .347 average and hitting 32 HRs in 3 years. The big righty smashes fastballs but has an off-balanced swing that leaves him susceptible to off-speed away from him. Senior Cameron Warren is a pure slugger. The 6’3, 220 1B has broke out in his senior season, with 17 HR’s and a team-leading .353 AVG. The slugger has also only struck out 28 times compared to 38 walks. Sophomore Gabe Holt is one of the most electric players in college baseball, stealing 28 bags on the season while reaching base 41.3% of the time as the Red Raiders’ leadoff hitter. But Holt broke his thumb in the 2nd game of their Super Regional and had surgery just 8 days ago. The sophomore is questionable for the game. If he is not a go, you could see 3B Easton Murrell in the leadoff spot, who had a HR in G2 of the CWS.

Projected Texas Tech Lineup:

LH RF Gabe Holt: .320 AVG/.413 OBP/3 HR’s

RH CF Dylan Neuse: .302 AVG/.415 OBP/8 HR’s

LH 2B Brian Klein: .323 AVG/.415 OBP/2 HR’s

RH SS Josh Jung: .339 AVG/.469 OBP/15 HR’s

RH 1B Cameron Warren: .353 AVG/.449 OBP/18 HR’s

S DH Cody Masters: .293 AVG/.373 OBP/5 HR’s

RH LF Kurt Wilson: .232 AVG/.312 OBP/4 HR’s

S 3B Easton Murrell: .243 AVG/.404 OBP/1 HR

RH C Braxton Fulford: .303 AVG/.394 OBP/4 HR’s

Starting Pitcher Matchup: RHP Bryce Bonnin (4.42 ERA, 58 K’s, 6-1) vs. RHP Conor Grady (3.64 ERA, 67 K’s, 9-5)

This might sound crazy but if there is one pitcher I’d want on the mound with FSU in an elimination game, it’d be Conor Grady. Grady is the most level-headed pitcher on FSU’s staff. When Grady is on the hill, you can’t tell whether he’s given up 0 runs or 10 by his body language. Grady also has the slider to keep a lot of Texas Tech’s best hitters off the ball. The last time Grady was on the hill, he threw 7 innings of 1 run ball to send the Noles to the Supers. Grady has been confirmed the starter by Mike Martin. Texas Tech will counter with RHP Bryce Bonnin. Tadlock almost gave the nod to Bonnin against Arkansas in G2 as Bonnin transferred from Arkansas to Tech, but instead, the sophomore will take the hill against the Noles. Bonnin has had an up and down year, but when he throws strikes, he can be very good. Bonnin can get it up to 97 with his fastball, but velocity hasn’t been a problem for FSU. If I could draw up a pitcher for FSU to face to get them out of a slump, he’d be a righty, who throws mid 90’s and struggles to throw strikes. Bonnin checks off all of those boxes.

FSU went with Chase Haney and Jonah Scolaro out of the pen on Monday as they combined for 4.1 scoreless innings. Haney is on a streak of 12.1 scoreless innings while Scolaro struck out all 6 batters he faced on Monday. You could see those 2 and Antonio Velez out of the pen to set up JC Flowers with a chance to close out a ball game for the Noles.

Texas Tech’s 3 best pitchers all reside in the bullpen. RHP John McMillon (3.15 ERA) has the best stuff in the pen, reaching all the way to triple digits from time to time with his fastball, but can struggle to throw strikes, walking 31 batters in 45.2 IP. LHP Dane Haveman (2.66 ERA) has been almost impossible for lefties to hit all year. Haveman has put up 59 K’s in 44 IP and will likely be in the game to face FSU’s string of lefties late in the game. RHP Taylor Floyd (2.70 ERA) has been the Red Raiders’ closer lately and has been electric all season, striking out 80 batters in just 53.1 IP. Floyd combines his slider and fastball from a sidearm release to keep hitters off balance and away from picking the ball up out of his hand. The Noles don’t want to take their chances with this bullpen.

FSU’s magic is not over just because they lost 1 game. If you thought FSU was going to go the rest of the season without having one hiccup, you’re basically crazy. What happened to the Noles last night is just baseball, sometimes the balls fall sometimes it doesn’t. But now you have a chance to get right back to Michigan. FSU needs to get to Bonnin early and get a lead before the Red Raiders can get to their pen. Other than that, it’s the same as always, throw strikes and play clean defense.

Brett Nevitt

I am a sophomore at FSU studying Sport Management. Covering FSU baseball on twitter @brettpn.

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