Florida State might not have the flashy lineups of old, but this offense is more than suitable to make a strong run at the College World Series. Hard-hitting outfielder DJ Stewart leads the charge at the plate with a .348 batting average, 19 doubles, seven homers and 48 RBIs, while Jose Brizuela (.325/3/38) and John Nogowski (.311/5/49) are quality bats with even guys like Justin Gonzalez (.246) and second baseman John Sansone (.228) more than capable of having strong weekends at the plate … Pitching-wise, the Seminoles should be more back to normal this weekend. They’ve gone the past few weeks without talented lefthanded pitcher Brandon Leibrandt, but indeed, he will pitch this weekend, according to FSU skipper Mike Martin. Before his injury, the lefty had tallied a 1.83 ERA in 39 1/3 innings, along with 30 strikeouts and nine walks. Veteran righthanded pitcher Mike Compton hopes to start the weekend on the right foot, while fellow righty Luke Weaver is the headliner with a fastball sitting 91-94, along with a good slider, and especially good changeup. Gage Smith (2.08), Billy Strode (2.78) and Jameis Winston, who has a particularly good slurve, are all quality options out of the bullpen.
Alabama is one of those teams you aren’t real sure what to expect this weekend. The Crimson Tide spent much of the season establishing consistency, but that all went by the wayside the past few weeks, especially from an offensive standpoint. Now, the Tide hopes to return to normal this weekend with power producers such as Austen Smith (.316/6/36), Wade Wass (.305/4/31) and Ben Moore (.305/9/35) leading the way. Even shortstop Mikey White is a power threat, while Kyle Overstreet (.278/4/30) is capable of putting together an impressive weekend … On the mound, the Crimson Tide has a solid weekend rotation. Righthanded pitcher Spencer Turnbull is a workhorse in the opening role with a fastball up to the mid-90s. And though his secondary stuff can be iffy at times, he’s, for the most part, been quality this season with a 2.28 ERA in 87 innings along with 69 strikeouts and 43 walks. Meanwhile, crafty lefthanded pitcher Justin Kamplain keeps hitters off balance and has a 3.07 ERA in 82 innings, while young reliever Thomas Burrows has a good arm with a 1.62 ERA in 22 appearances and 33 1/3 innings pitched. ‘Bama’s success will depend on how the offense performs this weekend.
Kennesaw State is one of the nation’s hottest teams and could be a handful in this NCAA Regional, much like Samford was a couple of seasons ago when it shocked the Tallahassee Regional field. The Owls aren’t an overly explosive offensive club, as winners of 23 of their last 24 contests, but are hitting .301 with 6.1 runs and 10.8 hits per game. Elite catcher Max Pentecost continues to put up a banner campaign that has him guaranteed to be a high-round pick. He’s hitting .423 with 21 doubles, nine homers and 55 RBIs, while Bo Way and Jacob Bruce both are good hitters who have a versatile element to them … On the mound, sophomores Travis Bergen (LHP) and Jordan Hillyer (RHP) are very talented arms. Bergen has a 2.74 ERA in 82 innings, along with 70 strikeouts and 12 walks, while Hillyer has a 3.36 ERA in 93 2/3 innings, along with 70 strikeouts and 31 walks. Out of the pen, James Connell (2.11) and Justin McCalvin (2.24) both are consistent options.
Georgia Southern absolutely has Florida State on upset alert on Friday. While the Seminoles will send veteran righty Mike Compton to the mound, the Eagles are countering with talented lefthanded pitcher Sam Howard. Howard has the ability to get up to 90-91 with his fastball, but it’s his quality changeup that makes him an effective pitcher, and one that has a 2.60 ERA in 86 2/3 innings. Josh Wirsu (2.33, 92.2 IP) is another quality pitcher, while it’s safe to say lefthanded reliever Jason Richman is a workhorse. Richman has appeared in 45 games and has a 1.06 ERA in 84 2/3 innings … Offensively, the Eagles have some serious power potential with Garrett Chapman (seven homers), Stryker Brown (10 homers) and Aaron Mizell (13 homers) leading the way, while Ben Morgan is a versatile hitter with five homers and 35 RBIs in addition to 22 stolen bases.