FSU Staying Afloat With PitchingWeekend Spotlight
This weekend’s showdown between North Carolina and Florida State in Tallahassee is just as compelling as everyone figured it would be heading into the season, even though the Tar Heels have been one of the nation’s best and most consistent teams, while the Seminoles have had a bumpier road. It’s a testament to Florida State’s consistent excellence in general and its lofty 2017 expectations in particular that the Seminoles are 18-8 overall, 6-3 in the ACC, ranked 12th in the country — and yet the first six weeks of the season really haven’t gone as planned.
We expected the Seminoles to be the nation’s best offensive club, but they rank 153rd in the nation in batting, though they’re still a more-than-respectable 20th in scoring. Three of their biggest stars, preseason All-Americans Dylan Busby (.265), Taylor Walls (.239) and Cal Raleigh (.235), have underperformed offensively so far. Super-talented sophomore left fielder Jackson Lueck missed eight games with the worst case of shin splints coach Mike Martin can ever remember. And the nation’s top-ranked freshman bat, Drew Mendoza, hasn’t even set foot on the field yet while recovering from a broken thumb.
“It’s literally amazing what happens when you lose a really important guy. I mean, it changes so much when you’re playing a guy who has never been in this arena before, talking about a freshman,” Martin said. “Things have been OK. We just need to get our ballclub, we just don’t have our ballclub yet. Somebody’s always out, it seems. We lose our left fielder for a couple weeks, he’s a front of the lineup guy. We haven’t had Drew Mendoza for one single pitch this year. We lost Busby for, hopefully Busby will be back (Friday) night, there’s a chance of it. He got hurt Monday, subloxed his shoulder.”
Busby has missed just one game, but he has struggled to get ahead in counts and make consistent contact, as his unsightly and very un-Seminole-like 30-4 strikeout-walk mark attests. Martin said the struggles of Busby and Raleigh, in particular, can largely be attributed to “pressing,” or being anxious in the box, and swinging at pitchers’ pitches instead of hitters’ pitches.
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