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Arnold Stifles UVA Bats to Send Seminoles to ACC Semis

Photo courtesy of FSU baseball on X

ACC Pitcher of the Year runner up Jamie Arnold starred over six innings against the ACC's top offense on Friday afternoon as Florida State beat Virginia 12-7 to advance to the ACC Tournament Semi-Finals. ACC Player of the Year James Tibbs III homered and drove in five runs as the Seminole offense exploded to score 7 runs in the 7th inning.

While the final score seems to indicate an offensive ballgame, the story has to be FSU ace Jamie Arnold, who carved through a lineup that has humbled pitchers all year long and features nine regulars that hit over .300. The Tampa native pitched six stellar innings and allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out 9 and walking just one.

"I think they were attacking the heater early on, and I figured that out," said the sophomore ace. "So I tried to move the slider around, and once I started doing that, it got them off time with the heater, and off time. That was honestly the biggest thing today."

Jamie Arnold was sitting 94-97 on the fastball and mixed in a really good slider. "I only have two pitches in play most of the time," he said. "Today I used them both well."

Both pitches were working and the UVA lineup just didn't have an answer. The Virginia 3-9 hitters in the lineup were a combined 0-17 against Arnold with eight strikeouts and no baserunners. Only Griff O'Ferrall and Bobby Whalen were able to find any type of success against the FSU starter as they were a combined 4-5 with a double, homer, and two RBIs against Arnold.

When asked about the development of his back foot slider, Arnold said, "Once I started executing that pitch this year, it's been a game-changer. My strikeouts have gone up, and honestly, I just like throwing that pitch a lot. I feel comfortable with it, and I love it."

When Arnold left after the 6th inning, the Noles were clinging to a 4-2 lead with the momentum starting to shift following a Griff O'Ferrall solo home run. And that's when things went off the rails for Virginia.

It started with a leadoff single by Drew Faurot and a pinch hit single by Jordan Williams. With one out, Virginia opted to walk Cam Smith to load the bases for Florida State and set up a lefty vs lefty matchup with the conference's best hitter in James Tibbs III. Angelo Tonas has been one of Virginia's best relievers this year and was able to limit the damage by inducing a fly out to center for a sacrifice fly. After that, it just wasn't the bullpen's day.

"We didn't do what we need to do and finish off an inning with making some pitches," said UVA head coach Brian O'Connor. "But that's a credit to them, right? A couple of times with two strikes, we didn't locate the ball where we needed to. And they took advantage of it and had a big inning."

James Tibbs starred offensively by going 2-3 with a home run and five RBIs, which brought his season totals to 25 home runs and 84 RBIs. The future first rounder credited his teammates in the lineup as the key to his success.

"Yeah, I think that starts with who you have in the lineup," Tibbs said. "I'm looking at eight hits from our 6-7-8.Having guys that are just continuously getting on base and giving us at the top of the lineup opportunities to hit with men on base is seriously a refreshing opportunity. All of us enjoy it, all of us love it, and especially with less than two outs, it goes without saying how much more fun that is. We've done that all season long and it's been fun to watch."

Despite being down 11-2 at the 7th stretch, Virginia was able to respond against Carson Dorsey. Harrison Didawick, Ethan Anderson, Henry Godbout, and Luke Hanson were all able to get on base with Anderson and Hanson each hitting home runs. Dorsey was forced to depart without recording an out.

"I think sometimes when an arm like Jamie comes out of the game," Jarrett explained. "It's a little bit of a relief, and it almost gives [UVA] a little momentum. But Dorsey's better than he was today, no doubt."

Virginia would add another home run in the 7th behind a 429 foot shot by Casey Saucke to make it 11-7, but that was the lone blemish for bullpen ace Brennan Oxford. The senior lefty for the Seminoles went the rest of the way with Tibbs hitting an 8th inning homer to add insurance in the 12-7 win.

Virginia now heads home to await their NCAA Tournament seed, where they hope to be amongst the 16 hosting sites. Florida State will stay in Charlotte and prepare to play either Wake Forest or North Carolina on Saturday. Coach Jarrett assures us, however, that we will not see the highly touted sophomore pitcher Cam Leiter this week. Leiter, who hasn't pitched since the end of March, is apparently very eager to return to a game mound.

"It's hard to keep that guy from getting too antsy, man," Jarrett said. "That joker's in the dugout, ready to jump over the fence and run out there and get in the middle. He's getting on the mound this weekend, and he's airing it out in preparation for what's coming, and he's not pitching this weekend."

It sounds like the Seminoles are hopeful he'll be able to come out of the bullpen the following weekend in a Regional. But first they have an ACC Tournament Championship to play for. The Seminoles are tentatively scheduled to play at 1pm on Saturday.

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