Tough Task

FSU would likely have to win nine of its remaining 12 ACC games to have a shot at the top three. Not helping matters, the 'Noles will face N.C. State this weekend without senior starter Blair Varnes because of a sore right shoulder. But that's not a new challenge. "There's always been questions asked of what's going wrong with the staff," pitching coach Jamey Shouppe said.

Good but not great.

That has been Jamey Shouppe's description of his Florida State pitching staff the entire season. His opinion hasn't changed as the fifth-ranked Seminoles (38-12) gear up for the regular-season's final push.

"College baseball is tough," said Shouppe, FSU's pitching coach/recruting coordinator.

"There's always been questions asked of what's going wrong with the staff. With college baseball and a staff that I continually say is a good staff but not a great staff, with that, you just have to have some luck and have to have some breaks go your way. You also have to have people in the right roles."

Shouppe has had to juggle those roles this season due to injuries and inconsistency. The Seminoles will face North Carolina State at home this weekend without senior Blair Varnes because of a tender right shoulder. Varnes, who shares the Atlantic Coast Conference lead in games started at 13 with teammate Matt Lynch, will next pitch against Duke May 7, a Tuesday.

Robby Read, who was bumped out of the starting rotation two weeks ago, will start Sunday's game against the Wolfpack. Lynch and Marc LaMacchia are scheduled to start Friday and Saturday, respectively.

In the bullpen, right-hander Kevin Lynch and left-hander Daniel Hodges, who picked up two saves last weekend against Georgia Tech, will continue to share the closer's role. Lynch also notched a Saturday save against the Yellow Jackets. Eric Roman opened as the Seminoles' closer but was bumped to middle relief and then to the disabled list with a sore right shoulder.

"Hodges always gives you what I call honest innings," Shouppe said. "Every time out he's going to make somebody beat him with the bat. Locates his fastball well, throws a changeup and really keeps people off balance.

"Eric Roman was doing a great job but then he started having some shoulder tenderness and he's now on the disabled list and then we had trouble finding somebody to fill that void. Hopefully, we will get everybody in the right place and we will close by committee with Hodges and Kevin Lynch looking at the majority of it."

FSU still faces a tough task. The 'Noles (6-6 ACC) are currently in fifth place in the league standings behind Clemson (34-5, 10-2), Wake Forest (33-6, 14-3), North Carolina (28-14, 13-5) and Tech (32-8, 8-6). Five league teams are ranked in Baseball Weekly's Top 25 and Boydsword.com's mock RPI ranking.

For FSU to have a shot at the top three, it would likely have to win nine of its 12 remaining ACC games against N.C. State, Duke, Maryland and Clemson. Clemson is 13-2 when hosting the Seminoles, who travel to South Carolina this season. The popular theory is the top four teams in the ACC will receive bids to host an NCAA Regional.

FSU is holding evening practices this week in preparation for the Wolfpack due to final exams. Still, LaMacchia believes the Seminoles can finish strongly. LaMacchia also feels FSU pitchers have the talent and work ethic to become a great staff.

"The whole team is working hard right now to get back and still prove we are No. 1 in the country," LaMacchia said. "Coach (Shouppe) is right. We are a good staff. But we have a bunch of hard workers and to be great, it takes practice and preparation and that's what we plan on doing."

STAT UPDATE

In all games, FSU currently ranks seventh in the league in batting (.309) but has a conference-best 113 doubles and 370 RBIs. The Seminoles also lead the ACC in walks (255) and strike outs (333). Tony McQuade is fifth in the league in batting at .392 and is the lone FSU player in the top 10. Third baseman Ryan Barthelemy has 73 hits (1.55 per game) to rank second behind Maryland's John McCurdy (77/1.92).

In team pitching, FSU ranks third in earned-run average (3.94) behind Clemson (3.66) and Georgia Tech (3.92). The Seminoles' staff also has a league-best 361 strike outs in 445.2 innings and a conference-high 16 saves.

Marc LaMacchia (7-1) ranks third in ERA at 2.60 behind Clemson's Matt Henrie (2.17) and Virginia's Jeff Kamrath (2.57). Matt Lynch is second in innings pitched (75.2) behind Tech's Kyle Bakker (80.2) -- the 'Noles pinned Bakker with his first defeat last Friday -- and Robby Read is third with 66 strike outs (8.69 per game). Lynch and Blair Varnes share the league lead in games started with 13 each. Reliever Daniel Hodges is second in league games in ERA at 1.23.

In team fielding, FSU (.964) ranks third behind Clemson (.973) and North Carolina (.965).


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