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2017 Super Regional Preview: Tallahassee – Florida State vs. Sam Houston State

The Tallahassee regional features two teams who both worked their way out of the loser’s bracket in the regionals to advance to the super regionals.

With both of these teams playing five games last weekend, you have to wonder how much is left in the tank for this super regional.

This 3-game series begins on Saturday, June 10 at 12 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN 2. Game two will be played on Sunday, June 11 at 12 p.m. ET. If necessary, a third game will be played on Monday, June 12 at a time to be determined.

 

How They Got Here:

Sam Houston State – The Bearkats of Sam Houston State had an amazing regular season finishing 36-20 and 19-11 in Southland Conference play. Still, that was only good enough to earn them the number three seed in the Southland Conference Tournament. It didn’t matter as the Bearkats dominated the tournament winning all four of their games by a combined score of 37-10.

The Southland Conference championship set them up as a three seed in the Lubbock regional. They used six pitchers to pull out a 1-run victory over Arizona in game one. The bats went silent in their second game as they lost 6-0 to host Texas Tech. Moving to the loser’s bracket, they faced Arizona again and thanks to an 8-run second inning they cruised to a 9-1 win on their way to the regional finals where they got a rematch with Texas Tech. Again, Sam Houston State used six pitchers to earn a 1-run victory in this regional to force a decisive game seven. Trailing 3-1 going into the bottom of the fifth, the Bearkats got a single run in the fifth and two in the sixth to eventually win 4-3 and advance to the super regionals. Nick Mikolajchak picked up 3 saves, including one in both wins over Texas Tech, striking out six batters in 3.1 innings.

 

Florida State – The Seminoles started off the year ranked third in the nation and then dropped all the way out of the rankings after losing 2-of-3 to NC State at the beginning of April. At one point it looked like Florida State might not make even make the NCAA Tournament. They finished the regular season 35-20, 14-14 after two big wins over Louisville. They entered the ACC Tournament as the eight seed and won four straight games, including a come-from-behind win over North Carolina in the championship game.

They earned the chance to host a regional, but dropped the first game to a pesky Tennessee Tech team 3-1. However, the offense woke up and scored at least five runs over the next four games as they came out of the loser’s bracket to win the regional and advance to the super regionals. Will Zirzow threw a complete game shutout in the decisive game seven, allowing just 2 hits and recording 11 strikeouts.

 

The Matchup:

This is a pretty interesting matchup as both teams are playing extremely well right now, and both are fairly balance with Sam Houston State having a better track record offensively.

Florida State has a team batting average of just .269 and a team ERA of 3.80. Sam Houston State is hitting .305 as a team with a 3.58 ERA. Obviously, the Bearkats have faced weaker competition, but those are still solid numbers for both clubs.

Of course, you have to take into account how well these teams are playing right now. You can’t just look at the numbers from the entire season.

Shortstop Andrew Fregia is hitting .310 for Sam Houston State with 46 runs, a team-high 7 home runs, 47 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Bryce Johnson is the team’s top hitter batting .350 on the season with a team-high 62 runs scored and a team-high 33 stolen bases. It will be important for the Florida State pitchers to keep Johnson off the bases.

The Sam Houston State lineup is very deep, and it seems like someone different gets the job done every game. They won’t slug it out of the park very often, but they get on base and put a lot of pressure on the opposing pitcher.

The Florida State pitching staff was very good in the regional and will try to duplicate that success in the super regionals. Tyler Holton has been the best pitcher for the Seminoles this year. He pitched a complete game against Central Florida in the regionals allowing 1 unearned run on 6 hits and no walks with 13 strikeouts. On the year he has a 2.22 ERA in 105.1 innings pitched with 132 strikeouts.

Drew Carlton didn’t have the best regional, losing the game against Tennessee Tech, but he’s been Florida State’s best arm out of the bullpen this year. He has a 2.03 ERA in 57.2 innings with 53 strikeouts.

Other players in the Florida State pitching staff don’t have numbers this year that jump out at you, but as I said, you have to judge this team on their past month. And the Seminole pitching staff has been great recently.

As for the Florida State offense, there are three players you want to avoid if you are Sam Houston State. Dylan Busby had a great regional and is hitting .317 on the year with 52 runs, 14 home runs and 60 RBI. Jackson Lueck had some big moments in the regional and is hitting .313 this year. Quincy Nieporte leads the team with 73 RBI and had at least one hit in each regional game.

After Heath Donica, it’s really just a pitching staff by committee for Sam Houston State. Head coach Matt Deggs goes by feel with a quick hook. If a pitcher doesn’t have it, he’ll bring in somebody else that does.

Deggs used 11 different pitchers in the regional. Eight of those pitchers were used in more than game, and three of them were used in three of their five games.

Donica leads the team with a 1.91 ERA in 108.1 innings with 106 strikeouts. However, he was touched up by Texas Tech in the regionals for 6 runs (4 earned) on 9 hits and 2 walks in 6.1 innings pitched.

Mikolajchak has 13 saves on the season to go along with a 3.14 ERA in 28.2 innings pitched with 32 strikeouts. Riley Cooper has a 3.28 ERA in 46.2 innings pitched with 42 strikeouts. Those should be the top two arms out of the bullpen.

I imagine that Deggs will continue to swap pitchers in-and-out to try and keep the Florida State hitters off balance in this super regional.

 

Prediction:

This really is a difficult regional to judge. On the surface it looks like Florida State should just blow past Sam Houston State, but there is something about this Bearkat team that makes them dangerous in a postseason format.

I think this entire regional will depend on what Florida State offense we see. Is it the one that only scored one run against Tennessee Tech, or the one that scored at least five runs a game over the next four games?

And can the Bearkat pitching staff continue to keep an offense off balance with its plethora of pitchers?

If this series were being played at a neutral site with equal size fanbases, I’d be tempted to pick Sam Houston State. But it’s nearly impossible for a team to win two games in Tallahassee during the postseason.

Winner: Florida State

 

 

 

 

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