Just as Florida was familiar with all three opponents in the Gainesville Regional, there’s no question how well the Gators and Florida State know each other. Even in a matchup that features players who played with and against each other at the high school and travel ball levels, they played three games during the regular season.
The Gators won the first game in Gainesville 14-8 before dropping the final two games. Florida State won the finale in Tallahassee on a walk-off home run in extra innings. There’s not much mystery on either side about what the opponent brings.
The Florida State offense has scored 426 runs this season, the exact number as Florida despite the Seminoles hitting .039 points lower. The difference is in the walks. As they always have in recent history, Florida State walks a lot, leading the country with 372 walks this year to only 240 walks for Florida. The Seminoles see a lot of pitches and have an advanced knowledge of the strike zone. On the mound, the Gators have limited walks. Florida is 19th in the country by allowing 2.58 walks per nine innings.
As expected with a team that walks a lot, the Seminoles also strike out a lot. Florida State hitters strike out in 25.8 percent of their at bats compared to Florida hitters striking out in 17.3 percent of their at bats. The Florida pitching staff is 10th in the country in K/BB ratio, striking out 3.16 hitters per one walk allowed.
Florida State batters have been hit by 92 pitches compared to just 62 for Florida.
Those extra base runners make a big difference. The Seminoles have just two regulars with a batting average over .290 while the Gators have eight. Left fielder D.J. Stewart leads the charge for Florida State as its best hitter and emotional leader. A projected first round pick next week, Stewart is hitting .322 with 13 home runs, 59 runs and 55 RBI -- all numbers that lead the team. His .509 on-base percentage is the third best in college baseball.
Cleanup hitter Quincy Neiporte is hitting .290 with a .389 on-base percentage, adding seven home runs and 46 RBI. Right fielder Josh Delph has moved back to the leadoff spot and is hitting .282 with a .410 on-base percentage. During the first three matchups, freshman Dylan Busby was playing third base for the Seminoles. However, his 17 errors (.888 fielding percentage) and .239 batting average have forced him out of the lineup. The Seminoles give up his home run power, his nine are second on the team, but freshman Darren Miller is hitting .279 with a .400 on-base percentage.
There are only three hitters on the Florida State roster that look like consistent stolen base threats. Center fielder Ben DeLuzio leads the way with 14 stolen bases in 17 attempts. Busby, who is now on the bench, has stolen 12 bases in 13 attempts, and Stewart has stolen 11 bases in 14 attempts. The Seminoles have stolen 59 bases as a team compared to Florida’s 76. However, Florida State has been successful on 75.6 percent of stolen base attempts compared to 72.4 percent for Florida.
Florida’s biggest advantage on paper looks to be on defense. The Gators are fielding .985, tied for the best fielding percentage in college baseball history. The Seminoles are fielding .964 as a team, but shortstop Taylor Walls has 19 errors on the season and is fielding .932. Florida has just one player with more than five errors while Florida State has five.
The Gators also seem to have an advantage on the mound. Friday night’s matchup will likely see Florida ace Logan Shore (8-6, 2.64) fac Florida State ace Boomer Biegalski (7-4, 2.80). Biegalski has allowed just 78 hits and 35 walks in 106 innings while striking out 119 hitters. However, he has given up 12 home runs compared to Shore’s five homers allowed in 95.1 innings. For a Florida offense that is tied for 21st nationally with 55 home runs, that could be a problem for Biegalski.
Florida State’s second starter is Mike Compton (4-3, 3.03). Last weekend, Compton pitched on Friday and Biegalski pitched on Saturday in the Tallahassee Regional, but it wouldn’t be surprising if that switched this week and Compton started on Saturday. He has a different arm angle that hitters aren’t used to seeing and has allowed 71 hits and 10 walks in 68.1 innings pitched.
Third starter Drew Carlton will head into his next start riding a steak of 13.2 scoreless innings. Carlton has thrown 71.1 innings, giving up 76 hits and 19 walks while striking out 60 hitters. Opponents are hitting .278 with a team-high 19 doubles allowed.
Florida State leans heavily on reliever Dylan Silva, who has made 35 appearances, six more than anyone else on the team. In 54.2 innings, Silva has allowed 48 hits and 35 walks while striking out 75 batters. Closer Billy Strode has the best numbers in the bullpen, allowing 23 hits and 17 walks in 34 innings pitched while striking out 45 batters. Strode has 14 saves this year.