Junior pitcher Trent Peterson was one of three starting pitchers to earn a win last week.
The pitching staff remained the star of the team this week, with starters Glen Simon, Trent Peterson, and Daniel Davidson all having very solid outings and earned wins. Daniel Hodges picked up his seventh save of the year and extended his scoreless inning streak to 33.1, dating back to last season which includes twenty-three appearances.
Sophomore shortstop Stephen Drew remains the most feared batter in the lineup.
What was a very deep pitching has now turned into three weekend starters, five middle-relievers, and one closer. So far, FSU's bullpen hasn't truly been tested in a three-game series, Stanford Sunday not withstanding. What's going to happen when the Noles need an arm against Miami on Sunday afternoon and have to turn to Lynch or Matt DiBlasi, who haven't seen any meaningful time on the mound for months? Trust me; I've seen enough college baseball to tell you that it won't be pretty.
Junior Matt Sauls has speed to burn, both on the basepath and in the outfield.
I'm going to steal a gimmick from Steve Ellis of the Tallahassee Democrat, and give out grades for portions of the team:
Tony Richie is having an excellent season defensively, and is hitting .331 so far. When Richie gets the day off, Aaron Cheesman is a very capable backup who has a very good arm but needs to work on his receiving skills a little. While beginning to cool off, Cheesman's bat has been one of the big surprises this year.
Senior second baseman Chris Hart is easily the year's most improved player.
Jerrod Brown is about as solid of a firstbaseman as we can ask for. His bat has begun to cool as well, but the potential is there. There's also no one I'd rather have up with the bases loaded than JB.
Second Base: A-
Chris Hart has played secondbase so well this season; it's hard to believe that it took until his senior season to become the everyday starter. Combine that with his .337 batting average, and he's easily the most improved player of the year.
I asked the question earlier in the year whether Drew was in a sophomore slump or not. The following week, he put up some gaudy numbers that seemed to answer that question. Now, a few weeks later with his average up to .331, it looks like that slump was only temporary. While he may not hit sixteen homeruns this season like in 2002, Drew remains the most feared batter in the lineup and runner on the basepaths. Drew's defense is still worth the price of admission.
Third Base: B- (Hitting: A, Fielding C-)
Eddy Martinez-Esteve is now leading the team in batting average (.371) and homeruns (6). He's cut down on his strikeouts and has become much more patient at the plate. We can't ask for much more than that. Eddy's fielding however is another story. His .829 fielding average is the lowest for a Seminole third baseman that I can find in at least the last seven years, and has to improve if FSU is going to do well against the tougher ACC and postseason competition.
Junior outfielder Blake Balkcom is coming back strong after missing several weeks with an injury.
Starting Pitchers: A
The loss of Marc LaMacchia has obviously hurt the cause, but Daniel Davidson stepping up has taken up a good portion of the slack. Add in Trent Peterson and the surprise emergence of Glen Simon as a mid-week starter, and the future looks bright, as long as the Seminoles can hit the ball. Despite taking a loss in his last two outings, Matt Lynch has pitched well and is still among the better pitchers in college baseball.
Relief Pitchers: B
This is such a mixed bag, and it's hard to give a grade based on everyone. Eddie Cannon and Mark Sauls have turned in some solid performances this year, and can easily be counted on for long-relief should a starter falter. Rhett James is off-and-on; although he's also gotten more opportunities than anyone else, save for Daniel Hodges. Hunter Jones is still coming along, and is a work in progress, while Kevin Lynch and Matt DiBlasi have to get incompletes as they've pretty much been forgotten by the coaches. Hodges obviously earns an A+ with very little room for improvement. Hog has done exactly what has been asked of him every single time he's put out there on the mound.
Overall grade: B+
Much room for improvement from both the hitting and the defense, while more consistency from the middle-relief pitching is needed.
And as a side note...
During the series with North Carolina this past weekend, I stepped back a few times and just observed the crowd at Dick Howser Stadium. What really stood out was the noise level from the Animals which infects the rest of the crowd and makes them louder as well. I stood there and listened for a little while and compared it to just about any other college baseball game that I've seen on TV or been to (at tournaments and Regionals). There's nothing that comes remotely close to the noise and cheering that come from FSU baseball fans. Sure, fans of all teams cheer when something good happens on the field, but almost no other fans cheer proactively on a constant basis like Seminole fans do.
Good job, my hat is off to you.