Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Florida State and Wichita State were two of the nation's elite college baseball programs, and in 1989, Wichita State's road to their first and only national championship went directly through the Seminoles, who they beat twice on the way to the title. Now, both schools are looking to break their respective CWS droughts. For Florida State, it's been eight years, as the last time Mike Martin's Seminoles made it to Omaha was 2000, and for Gene Stephenson's Shockers, their last trip to Omaha was 1996. Which one of these two storied programs will move one step closer to a national championship? Will Florida State's big bats roll again, or will it be Wichita State and their arsenal of arms?
TEAM AT TEAM
Florida State (52-11) comes into the supers with the most wins in the country, ahead of Miami and Coastal Carolina, who have 50 wins. The #4 national seed Seminoles rebounded from a surprising shutout loss to Bucknell in their opening game in the Tallahassee Regional to win four straight, scoring 74 runs in wins over Florida (17-11), Bucknell (24-9), and Tulane (17-8 and 16-7) to make their first Super Regional since 2005. As for Wichita State (47-15), they went into the Stillwater Regional as the #2 seed and swept through it, beating TCU (8-5) and knocking off #1 seed Oklahoma State twice (5-3 and 11-7) to advance to their second straight Super Regional.
This is the first time since 2003 that Florida State is hosting a Super Regional at Dick Howser Stadium. They hosted and won supers in 1999 and 2000, but in 2002 and 2003, lost to Notre Dame and Texas as the #1 national seed. This season, the Seminoles are 32-6 at home
BREAKING IT DOWN
Florida State has some quality starting arms in Matt Fairel and Elih Villanueva, but Wichita State's trio of Aaron Shafer, Rob Musgrave, and Anthony Capra is one of the best in the country. Both Musgrave and Shafer threw complete games last weekend, which made a difference when the bullpen was needed in the clinching win over Oklahoma State.
Advantage: Wichita State
The offensive onslaught that was on display in FSU's final four games of the Tallahassee Regional shows just how potent the Seminole bats are. They can get shut down sometimes, but they're a good bet to score double digits regularly (30 of 63 games), led by the #5 pick in the MLB Draft, catcher Buster Posey, who leads the nation in batting average (.468) and RBI (86), and is tied for third in homers with 24. Wichita State isn't nearly as potent at the plate, but they can put up some runs, led by Conor Gillaspie (.425, 10 homers, 79 RBI), Andy Dirks (.399/10/59), and Dusty Coleman (.319/8/71).
Advantage: Florida State
Out of the Pen
Both teams' relievers have had their struggles, but they both have arms that they can rely on. FSU has a number of arms who could be a third starter or long reliever, namely Ryan Strauss (9-1, 4.58 ERA), with their top primary reliever being Jimmy Marshall (6-2, 2.98 ERA in 36 appearances). Wichita State's most dependable bullpen arm is Khol Nanney (5-1, 1.69 ERA), but Clinton McKeever and Logan Hoch pitched four scoreless innings in the 10-inning win over OSU on Sunday.
Mike Martin and Gene Stephenson are two of the most legendary and winningest coaches in college baseball. Both coaches brought their teams to prominence in the 1980s and are still going strong today. While Martin has the edge in CWS appearances, as he's led FSU to Omaha 12 times to Stephenson's 7, the Wichita State skipper has the edge in national titles. Martin's still searching for the elusive crown, while the Shockers captured one in 1989, when, facing elimination, they beat FSU twice to advance to the championship game, where they beat Texas for the title.
There's a great deal at stake for both of these programs this weekend, as they want to end their Omaha droughts. For Florida State, there might be a little extra pressure, because they're trying to clinch a spot in the CWS on their home field. The Seminoles have played very well at Dick Howser Stadium this season, but Wichita State isn't a bad road team, as shown by their triumph in Stillwater last weekend. But, the Seminole players know what's at stake, and that they'll be playing in front of some hungry home fans, which they should feed off of.
Advantage: Florida State
It goes without saying that if Florida State can hit Wichita State as well as they hit the pitching at the Tallahassee Regional, the Seminoles are headed to Omaha. But, given the talent of the arms they'll be facing this weekend, it's going to take some pitching on their end to enhance their chances. FSU's pitching had its struggles in the regional, giving up 42 runs in five regional games, and even if the bats do keep bashing, the pitching needs to be on the right footing heading into Omaha. If Wichita State can keep the runs down, that'll be their best chance, so Shafer, Musgrave, and Capra will have to bring their best, or at least close to it.
The performance of Posey will be a key. Teams feed off of their best players, and if their stars are providing the big hits and big plays, it can be a big lift for the other guys. The better Posey does, the better it is for FSU's hopes. However, even if Wichita State's arms can slow Posey down, there are still eight other hitters to worry about. Can the Shockers go into Tallahassee and come out victorious? If they did it in Stillwater, they can do it in Tallahassee.
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