FSU Baseball Series Preview: Noles Face VCU to Open 2017 Season


The wait is over as FSU baseball starts their march towards Omaha by opening the season at home against Virginia Commonwealth University.

FSU baseball hasn’t been to Omaha for the College World Series in four years. Head coach Mike Martin, better known as 11, and company will look to return there this summer – and the journey starts today as they open the season hosting VCU.

Much has been made of the expectations facing this club as they enter the 2017 campaign. As mentioned in previous posts, the expectations are warranted. When FSU takes the field this weekend they will do so with a combination of proven veterans and dynamic young talent.

The Noles return their core of position players and all three starters in their weekend pitching rotation. Young players will be counted on to fill some holes in the bullpen and to round out the lineup. Unfortunately, highly touted freshman Drew Mendoza will miss four-eight weeks with a broken thumb, but that should allow some of the young players such as Nick Derr to gain valuable experience they otherwise might not have been afforded.

It will be interesting to see this team take shape through-out a long season, let’s take a look at their first challenge in Virginia Commonwealth University.

What to Watch for From FSU

FSU baseball doesn’t have many question marks. However, the bullpen is still somewhat of a mystery and I’ll be interested to see how the staff handles the work load early in the season. Alec Byrd looks to be the first man up after a solid 2016 season.

Chase Haney brings something different out of the pen with a dropped arm angle. Haney had a great freshman season in 2016 and will look to build on that performance coming out of the pen this season. Right handed pitcher Jim Voyles will get some looks as will his twin brother, Ed.

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It is unclear who the closer will be for FSU baseball so it will be interesting to see who gets the final frame in a save situation against VCU. I would expect Haney and Jim Voyles to get a hard look at the closer role early on.

One name to watch for at closer is freshman OF/LHP JC Flowers. Flowers throws hard and has the stuff to potentially be a shut-down closer.  I’ll be interested to see how early Flowers get his shot out of the pen as he is likely to be the starting center fielder.

Opponent Preview

Pitching looks to be the strength of this VCU outfit; they are flushed with talent and depth on the hill. On Friday FSU will likely face junior hurler Sean Thompson. Thompson started 11 games last year posting an ERA of 3.28 with a 6-1 record.

Sophomore Michael Dailey looks likely to take the mound for the Rams on Saturday to face off with another talented sophomore in FSU’s Cole Sands. Dailey managed a successful debut season for VCU with an undefeated 6-0 record and an incredible ERA of 1.57 in 10 starts.

Brooks Vial will look to get the Sunday start for VCU. Vial brings plenty of experience to the hill as he started 16 games last year and logged 93.1 innings. Vial finished 2016 with an 8-4 record and an ERA of 4.05.

The VCU bullpen will be anchored by stud returning closer Sam Donko. Donko recorded 20 saves last season while striking out 53 batters in 54.1 innings pitched.  The talented and deep VCU pitching staff will be a nice test for a potent FSU offense to start the season.

The VCU position players haven’t built up the same type of recognition as their pitching staff but the Rams should still be solid at the plate. The lineup’s main power source, senior infielder Darian Carpenter, returns for 2017 after leading the Rams with eight home runs last season.

With the loss of the top two hitters based on average, VCU will look for Logan Farrar to step up his senior season and improve on a respectable .295 average from last year. While the VCU lineup doesn’t quite match their pitching staff, they should still create a good early test for the Seminoles pitchers.

Related Story: Analyzing FSU's Weekend Rotation This Season

Where to Watch

If you’re going to be in town, it’s always nice to catch opening weekend. The Friday game will have a 4:00PM start, Saturday’s first pitch will be at 1:00, and the final game of the series will start Sunday at 12:30. If you aren’t able to make it out to Howser for opening weekend, the entire series can be streamed via ACCN Extra.