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NoleGameday

Series Preview: North Carolina State Wolfpack

When: March 25 – March 27

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

Friday Match-up*: RHP Mike Compton (3-1 3.21ERA) vs. RHP Joe O’Donnell (3-1 2.64ERA)

Saturday Match-up*: RHP Drew Carlton (4-0 3.08ERA) vs. LHP Brian Brown (2-0 3.33ERA)

Sunday Match-up*: RHP Cole Sands (3-2 2.59ERA) vs. RHP Johnny Piedmonte (0-2 2.70ERA)

Player to Watch FSU: DH Quincy Nieporte

Player to Watch NCSU: C Chance Shepard/ C Andrew Knizer

*Note: All starters are considered Probable. That is those are who is expected to start but coaches could change starters before/during a series.

Florida State baseball is entering the thick of their ACC schedule as the top-10 ranked North Carolina State Wolfpack come to town to square off with the Seminoles. The Wolfpack are an immensely talented team, as they normally are year in and year out, highlighted by all three of their weekend starting pitchers. There is no Carlos Rodon on this pitching staff, but it is loaded with collegiate and prospective major league talent. Let’s dive in and examine what will be Florida State’s toughest opponent of the season.

The players to watch for North Carolina State are their two-headed catching duo of Chance Shepard and Andrew Knizer. Shepard spends the majority of his playing time as the designated hitter while Knizer does most of the catching. Shepard has big time power, shown by his home run total (7) and slugging percentage (.602) in only 22 games thus far. Shepard won back-to-back ACC players of the week earlier in the season, and is a force to be reckoned with in the cleanup spot in the order for the Wolfpack. Knizer is better defensively, but is also very talented with the bat in his hands. Knizer is very inexperienced at the catcher position but has enough athleticism in order to potentially stick at the position. Knizer bats in the 3-hole for the Wolfpack and has excellent contact skills and gap power. Both are expected to be drafted in 2016 but in the meantime are wreaking havoc on the ACC.

Friday night has North Carolina’s ace Joe O’Donnell throwing against the Seminoles. O’Donnell, the reigning ACC pitcher of the week, threw a four hit shutout against Notre Dame in his last outing and is looking to build on that success. The Wolfpack ace has an effective fastball and sinker combination that holds hitters at bay and has them pounding baseballs into the ground. The most interesting pitcher for the Wolfpack might be Johnny Piedmonte. The redshirt junior starter stands at a tall 6’8″ and has a long stride with delivery on a downward plane. He provides a tough matchup against Florida State’s right handed hitters. It will also be interesting to see how the offense fares against lefty Brian Brown on Saturday. The Seminoles faced lefty starting pitchers the first two games of the season and after that they have yet to face one. Coach Mike Martin spoke last week about how some of the switch hitters, such as Taylor Walls and Cal Raleigh, will have to take extra swings from the right side in order to stay fresh against lefties.

The player to watch for Florida State is designated hitter Quincy Nieporte. The Florida State slugger has struggled a bit since returning from his suspension and then was hit with a nagging ankle injury in South Florida. Nieporte was expected to be the best hitter on the team after D.J. Stewart left for the draft and he has yet to produce as such. From my perspective it looks as if Nieporte is hitting a lot of hard ground balls and is struggling to get pitches in the air where he can take advantage of his big time power. Nieporte is too good of a power hitter to keep up this trend and there is no better time than against an ACC rival to return to form for Quincy Nieporte.

As for the rest of the Seminoles, what may swing the tide of the series is the Florida State bullpen. I have mentioned previously how the Seminole bullpen has been the strength and anchor for Coach Martin and for the rest of the team as well. Coach Martin mentioned that he expects to have every bullpen arm ready for this weekend’s series and if this season has taught us anything is that Coach Martin is not afraid to pull his starters early and go to the bullpen if need be. Look for Jim and Ed Voyles to be making early appearances out of the bullpen if the starters get into trouble, probably with the exception of Mike Compton. The back end of the bullpen will also be key and Matthew Kinney and Tyler Warmoth will be relied heavily upon to shut the door on these tight games.

Florida State will be facing their toughest opponent of the year so regardless of how well they perform we should learn a lot about this 2016 Seminoles team this weekend.

The Friday night game starts at 6PM, Saturday at 6PM, and Sunday at 1PM.

 


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