Series Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

When: March 11 – March 13

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

Friday Match-up: RHP Mike Compton (2-1 2.16ERA) vs. RHP Brandon Gold (1-0 2.00 ERA)

Saturday Match-up: RHP Drew Carton (3-0 1.50ERA) vs. TBD

Sunday Match-up: RHP Cole Sands (2-1 1.84ERA) vs. RHP Jonathan Hughes (3-0 0.50ERA)

Player to Watch FSU: IF John Sansone

Player to Watch GT: OF Kel Johnson


ACC play is finally here for the Florida State Seminoles as Georgia Tech comes to Tallahassee for a three game weekend series. The Yellow Jackets come into this series as the only Division 1 baseball team who is undefeated as they enter 12-0 on the season. Georgia Tech enters being ranked in four major polls, as low as 22 (NCBWA) and as high as 9th (Collegiate Baseball), and Florida State enters being ranked in six major polls, as low as 15 (D1 Baseball & Baseball America) and as high as 11 (NCBWA). The Yellow Jackets are part of a stacked ACC Coastal division and should be a challenge to begin conference play.

Florida State is coming off a midweek sweep of South Florida and Toledo. The offense came alive and hammered USF and it took a combination of a walk-off and a no-hitter to defeat Toledo on Wednesday night. Coming into this game the Seminoles have had some injury questions. Dylan Busby missed a start against Toledo as he is nursing some injuries but he is expected to play this weekend. The biggest question mark is to designated hitter Quincy Nieporte. Nieporte exited at the end of the South Florida game and did not play against Toledo. Since coming back from suspension Nieporte has been one of the best hitters for the Seminoles and if Florida State missed him for this weekend, and any significant amount of time going forward, the Seminoles are going to be in some trouble with their lineup depth and protection of the middle of the order in their lineup.

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The player to watch for Florida State is third baseman John Sansone. Sansone currently leads the starting lineup in batting average (.431), hits (22), RBIs (20), and home runs (2). He seems to have made huge strides this offseason and it has shown not only during games but also during warm-ups and in batting practice. Sansone seems to be very confident with his at-bats, has very good bat speed, and sprays line drives all over the field. Georgia Tech’s pitching staff has had a great start to the season thus far so it will be interesting to see how Sansone, and the rest of the offense for that matter, reacts to the best pitching that they have seen thus far this season.

Another key facet for Florida State will be the health of Quincy Nieporte. If he can play this weekend he will presumably be batting third in the lineup and being the designated hitter. The fact that he is the regular designated hitter improves the chances that he will play as he doesn’t have to play the field and further risk injury. If he cannot play, the designated hitter spot will be open for young guys who have seen significant playing time early on, Jackson Lueck and Donovan Petrey, and for Cal Raleigh to get a break from catching and then Bryan Bussey will see time behind the plate.

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The player to watch for Georgia Tech will be sophomore outfielder Kel Johnson. Johnson was named to the Baseball America Freshman All-America team last season and was also named to the Golden Spikes Award Watch List this season. Johnson had ten home runs last season even though he missed 13 games down the stretch for the Yellow Jackets. He leads the team in home runs (2) and has a very high power tool as he belted 17 homers last year during the TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby. Another hitter who is tearing it up for the Yellow Jackets is infielder Connor Justus. Justus leads the offense in almost every statistical category: batting average (.435), hits (20), slugging percentage (.652), on-base percentage (.519), and stolen bases (4). Having Johnson and Justus at the top of the lineup causes pressure on opposing pitchers, especially the first time through the order. Look for Coach Mike Martin to have a short leash on his starters, as the Georgia Tech offense is one of the better offenses they have faced all season. The Seminoles also have a very deep and rested bullpen and Coach Martin is not afraid to use a bunch of pitchers in a game.

The Georgia Tech starting pitchers for this weekend have opened the season on a tear. Brandon Gold has a 10.5 K/9 so far this season and has been the ace for the Yellow Jackets to open the season. Jonathan Hughes has an astonishingly low ERA (0.50) but only has six strikeouts thus far. Gold is the pitcher who will have the better stuff but more mistake pitches allowed as evidenced by his K/9 and his batting average against (.277) and Hughes doesn’t necessarily have as dirty stuff but is more of a command pitcher who relies heavily on location as evidenced by his K/9 (2.0) and batting average against (.219). Matthew Gorst, the team’s closer, is the definition of a shutdown closer. He already has four saves on the young season and has a K/9 of 14 (!!!). The rest of the bullpen looks to be what you would expect going into conference play and we should find out much more about this team once they go up against Florida State’s talent.

As ACC play unfolds, Florida State will be facing many talented starting pitchers, a lot of whom will be drafted come June, and this is the part of the season where we will learn how explosive this offense can be against legitimate pitching. The old saying goes that “good pitching beats good hitting”, but the talent in the ACC is bar none, so ACC play is basically a brand new season how the Seminole offense and it will be interesting to keep tabs on how they respond the rest of the way out.

Friday night’s game will start at 6PM, Saturday night’s game will be at 6PM, and Sunday afternoon’s game will be at 1PM. ESPN 3 will be streaming this weekend’s slate of games online.

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