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Is Florida State's Resurgence a Game-Changer in the ACC?

Photo courtesy of Florida State Athletics

There are just two undefeated teams left in the division one baseball and one of them are the resurgent Florida State Seminoles. They have been ranked in each of the last two College Baseball Central polls– first at #24 last, now at #21 this week. Many other college baseball polls also have them ranked in the Top 25, but the premier college baseball content site does not. D1 co-founder Kendall Rogers explained the omission on Monday following the site’s release of their weekly Top 25:

Kendall makes a very valid argument here. Florida State had a sweep of New Orleans over the weekend. It was another dominant performance but they haven’t exactly been tested this season. And who deserved to drop out of the Top 25 to make room for the ‘Noles?

I understand that FSU fans may be suffering from post traumatic stress following their outrageous exclusion from the College Football Playoff this past fall, but nobody should be mad about D1’s rankings. Their logic is sound and consistent. And after Florida State’s impressive road victory over Florida and barring a series loss in their ACC opener this weekend hosting Notre Dame, it’s a certainty D1 will have them ranked next week. 

Now that I’ve addressed the elephant in the room regarding Florida State’s ranking, let’s talk about this team. Head coach Link Jarrett’s first year at his alma mater was difficult in 2023 as the ‘Noles failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1977. With a productive offseason that brought in arguably the best transfer class in the country alongside a top 25 recruiting class, expectations were that Florida State would be in position to compete for an NCAA Tournament spot this season.

They’ve played 15 games and won all 15. Granted, they haven’t played anyone of note outside of in-state rival Florida last night. But the players cannot control who is on their schedule– they can only beat the teams that lineup against them in each game. The Seminoles have done that in emphatic fashion. FSU beat Jacksonville in their first midweek game of the year on the road by three runs. That’s their lowest margin of victory on the year. Every other game– including at Florida last night– have been won by four runs or more.

Unlike their undefeated counterparts at Texas A&M, Florida State has not been in real danger of losing this season. The team’s confidence has been growing with each win and now appear to be a threat not only to make the NCAA Tournament, but to force their way into the Regional hosting conversation. Again, we can look at the schedule and their one big test against Florida and say it’s too early to make these types of statements. Wrong.

Florida State has one of the most dynamic lineups in a loaded Atlantic Coast Conference. They’ve got everything you can ask for from an offensive perspective. The ‘Noles have speed, power, plate discipline, and contact to all fields. Star third baseman Cam Smith has a 19-game hitting streak dating back to last season and is hitting .485 on the year. In 15 games this season, Smith has recorded three or more hits in seven of them. 

Some have considered outfielder James Tibbs III a dark horse candidate for ACC Player of the Year and he has produced like one early in the year. The junior is hitting .387 with six doubles, a triple, and eight home runs. His 26 RBIs lead the team. 

Their middle infield duo of Alex Lodise and Drew Faurot are hitting a combined .380 and the latter leads the ACC in doubles with 11. The running game is led by traditional lead off man DeAmez Ross, who leads the team with six steals. Of their top 10 hitters, only Daniel Cantu is without a stolen base. The team as a whole is 26-27 on the basepaths, while their catching duo has only allowed 3 stolen bases against them.

Speaking of the catching duo, it doesn’t seem to matter who Link Jarrett puts behind the plate because McGwire Holbrook and Jaxson West will produce on any given day. The two backstops are hitting a combined .400 with 21 RBIs on the year. They are just two of the ten Seminole hitters who have double digit RBIs this season. Each of those 10 hitters are hitting over .300 and nine of them carry an OPS .973 or higher.

In the rotation, UCF transfer Cam Leiter has shown elite stuff over his four starts in Tallahassee and is paired with southpaw Jamie Arnold in what could be a special 1-2 punch in their weekend rotation over the next two seasons. Arnold is one of only four qualified pitchers across the country to have yet to give up a run this year. Both have already been named ACC Pitchers of the Week this year.

The weekend rotation will be filled out by Sunday starter Connor Whittaker, who moves into that role following three midweek starts. The trio have combined to go 9-0 with a 1.97 ERA and 84 strikeouts over 59.1 innings pitched.  All three are in the ACC’s Top 20 for batting average against.

If there’s a weakness that this Seminoles team may have, it would likely be the bullpen. And yet returners Ben Barrett and Brennan Oxford have been outstanding while freshmen Brady Louck and John Abraham have been impressive. Fellow first year Hudson Rowan has also shown flashes of great potential and Carson Dorsey, a JUCO transfer, has been dominant at times in long relief. With much of the ACC struggling with their own bullpen issues, Florida State can take solace in the fact that they have yet to show that weakness this year.

Obviously this dominance cannot continue as the competition they face moving forward will be of a higher caliber, but expect Florida State to continue to win ball games. The lineup will keep them within striking distance of any lead while the rotation features what could be the best trio of starters this side of Winston-Salem. Fans in Tallahassee should forget about the Top 25 rankings for now and start dreaming bigger. An NCAA Regional at home could be in the cards and with some luck, maybe even a 24th trip to the College World Series.  

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