Hitting, pitching coming into focus

While 10th-ranked FSU remains in the middle of the ACC standings, the 'Noles feel good about themselves heading into the final month of the regular season. Assistant coaches Mike Martin, Jr. and Jamey Shouppe also are upbeat. "We are getting better and through the course of the year you have to do that. It's a season of ups and downs and right now we are on an up," Martin, Jr. said.

While Florida State's sweep of fifth-ranked Georgia Tech Sunday didn't dramatically change the Seminoles' standing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, it dramatically changed their outlook for the final month of the regular season.

An additional bonus is the schedule itself -- FSU plays 10 of its final 13 games at Dick Howser Stadium, including the highly-anticipated matchup against neighbor Florida A&M Friday, May 3.

"Being at home is so huge," said starter Marc LaMacchia, who earned Sunday's 13-1 victory over the Yellow Jackets after allowing just one run in six innings of work. "I think we had a little lump on the road (earlier in the season), where everyone struggled. Our hitting wasn't that great. Our pitching wasn't that great.

"I think we are getting a lot more consistent right now. As long as we keep performing the way we've been -- we have three straight home series left -- as long as we keep winning those and get our ACC record up, I think we will be okay."

The 10th-ranked Seminoles (38-12, 6-6 ACC) certainly looked okay against the Yellow Jackets (32-8, 8-6 ACC), outscoring the visitors 31-13 in the three-game series. While Tech out-hit FSU 41-36, assistant coach Mike Martin, Jr., who works with the hitters, was pleased with the Seminoles' plate appearances.

"We are getting better and through the course of the year you have to do that," Martin, Jr. said "It's a season of ups and downs and right now we are on an up. (We are) playing pretty well. We are playing well defensively and obviously we are swinging the bats pretty well. It takes 10 guys understanding the conference and college baseball and certain pitch counts -- what you are going to get and you are seeing some better swings."

FSU had its share of better swings against 11 different Tech pitchers during the series.

Sophomore Tony McQuade knocked in a career-high five runs, highlighted by a three-run homer and a two-run double, to pace the Seminoles Sunday. At one point in the game, FSU was being out-hit 7-2. The Seminoles finished with 12 hits -- Tech had nine -- and Stephen Drew (3-for-4), Blair McCaleb (2-for-3) and Bryan Zech (2-for-3) joined McQuade in the multi-hit category.

Drew finished the series with six hits and five RBI, while McQuad and McCaleb each contributed five hits and combined for seven RBI. Martin, Jr. especially like his team's balance. The bottom-third of the order Sunday combined for four hits, five runs scored and two RBI.

"I think it's a team that's got a good balance to it," Martin, Jr. said. "You look at our lineup and you have guys throughout the order who can run. It's not just at the top or just at the bottom. You throw (Ryan) Barthelemy in the middle to put some fear in some people, we are having some good at-bats. It's like anything. Hitting is so contagious. It's unbelievable. One guy gets a base hit, the next guy has a good AB, the next guy hits a double and the next thing you know, you are rolling."

FSU's pitching staff also appears to be rolling, so to speak. The Seminoles entered the series with a 3.92 ERA, third in the ACC. They also lead the league in saves.

LaMacchia scattered seven hits, walked two and fanned two to raise his record to 7-1. It was the least amount of runs allowed by LaMacchia since he held The Citadel scoreless through seven innings in mid-March. Left-handed reliever Daniel Hodges didn't give up a run in the final three innings to earn his sixth save of the season and second of the series -- he pitched the final three innings in Friday's 4-3 win.

"We pitched out of some tough situations Friday and Saturday that really salvaged the series for us," FSU pitching coach Jamey Shouppe said.

"And then today LaMacchia pitched like, what I think he is, as good a pitcher there is in college baseball. Marc LaMacchia has great stuff. He has a fastball that's 90 to 92 (mph), he has a very good curve ball and he has a changeup that he can throw for strikes at anywhere in the count. He just has to understand how good he can be and quit trying to go out there and thinking he's not an important cog in this wheel. He is. He's a very good pitcher. And I think he showed that today he pitched well in a crucial game. That was a crucial game for us."


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