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Florida State made easy work of Appalachian State over the weekend and will likely be ranked No. 1 this week. Click here to read Drew's latest report on the Seminoles, who are one of eight schools in the country to win 40 games in each of the last five seasons. Can you name the others?

Another week and another bottom-of-the-barrel opponent down. I know it's frustrating seeing a team as talented as Florida State seems to be this season face-off against some of the dregs of college baseball like Appalachian State, but let's not lose sight that down the road, the Noles will be facing top twenty-five opponents in eighteen of their next thirty-nine games.

Of course to get to those ranked teams, FSU still has to go through the likes of Charleston Southern, Siena, Saint Joseph's, and The Citadel - not to mention the Florida Gators who despite predictions, are off to a solid 8-1 start which includes a win over Miami. Speaking of the Hurricanes, they welcomed Tony Gwynn to Coral Gables for the first time with a three-game sweep over his San Diego State squad over the weekend.

Junior right-fielder Blake Balkcom is expected back for the Siena series.
Florida State ought to be ranked number one in two out of three polls this week, since Stanford took two out of three games against previously top-ranked Texas. Unless the Seminoles go into the tank against the soft-schedule from now until late-March, they could be at the top looking down for several weeks to come.

Right-fielder, Blake Balkcom is expected back for the Siena series March 4-6. Balkcom's return means the coaches are going to have make some hard decisions about who the odd-man out will be. Derrick Smith's defense has come around a lot quicker than expected, and Daniel Wardell is really hitting the ball well. While I haven't heard anything official about it, I wouldn't be shocked to see Tony McQuade moved to center, with Balkcom in right, and Smith/Wardell platooning in left. That would mean Matt Sauls is the odd-man out. While Sauls is a good fielder, and a fast runner, he's currently hitting under .200. With the talent on this squad, there's really no reason for a hole like that in the lineup.

Marc LaMacchia continues to be a mystery.

Junior pitcher Marc LaMacchia is now projected to be out through the UF series.
One day he's doing fine and projected back next week, and now he's out until after the UF series at the earliest. I've got to believe something is a lot more serious than the coaches are letting on. Of course if I'm wrong, and Marc is back in the weekend rotation, who gets shifted to mid-week? Trent Peterson, who took over for LaMacchia, has been on fire of late with a sparkling 1.56 ERA in 17.1 innings with a team-high twenty-three strikeouts.

Mark Sauls has also pitched extremely well, while Matt Lynch has been running hot and cold so far. I know Matt is not really going 100%, as he wants to slowly ramp himself up so that he's got plenty left for postseason when it's really needed, but if the sub-par performances against mediocre teams keeps up, the coaches might have to look long and hard at his position on the staff.

Freshman left-fielder Derrick Smith is playing well in the outfield.
No serious injuries for the Noles against Appalachian State, unless you count complete boredom. Several Nole players commented to me about how boring playing an overmatched team like ASU is. Stephen Drew's 'vacation' in the second half of Saturday's game against the Mountaineers was strictly discipline-related and not due to injury. After a lecture or two by some members of the coaching staff, I'm betting Drew doesn't make the same mistake twice.

Eddy Martinez-Esteve was pulled from Sunday's game after apparently tweaking his hamstring on the way to first base, but it isn't considered serious and shouldn't take away from his playing time.

With the yearly series against Stanford ending, Florida State has had to look elsewhere for another quality out-of-conference opponent. The early word is that the opponent will be either the Georgia Bulldogs or Auburn Tigers - or possibly both.

FSU and the Tigers have been trying to work out a series for several years now without much success, but after the Tigers had to travel to Tallahassee three times during postseason play in the last six years, you'd have to guess that they're chomping at the bit to face the Noles in the 'loveliest village on the plains'. A series with UGA would be almost as good, and given the relatively close proximity of the schools as well as a little bit of history, I think adding the Bulldogs would be great for the fans, even if it wouldn't be a wonderful replacement for Stanford going strictly by schedule-strength and ranking.

Don't expect any more Seminole baseball games in St. Petersburg until the 2005 ACC Tournament. The series with VMI in early February cost Florida State around $15,000 for the stadium, hotel, and other expenses. I guess that money can technically be counted among construction and renovation costs for Howser Stadium.

Due to construction delays, the thirdbase bleachers won't be up in time for the Florida series as had been previously expected. FSU is now hoping to have them up in time for the Virginia series on March 14-16. Personally, I'll believe it when I see it. A true handicapped ramp should be in place by this coming weekend's series against Charleston Southern. Anything has got to be better than the makeshift construction 'lift' they've had in place for the past two weeks.

Did you know that Florida State is one of only eight schools in the country to win 40 games in each of the last five seasons? Wake Forest, Rice, Notre Dame, Clemson, LSU, Stanford, Baylor and the Noles are the only teams to have done it. Three of the eight teams are from the Atlantic Coast Conference - not too shabby.

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