After losing to Louisville on Wednesday the Heels might be in games they have to win if they want to make the NCAA tournament after a disappointing end to the regular season. With only two more shots to impress the committee (unless Louisville loses both its remaining games and Carolina wins both) Carolina starts against Florida State. The Seminoles had a very strong season and started the ACC tournament with a 3-1 win over Clemson on Wednesday. Carolina might be catching the Seminoles at the right time as they had lost five in a row before beating the Tigers and the Noles are still only 11-12 outside of Tallahassee.
On offense the Noles will rely on DJ Stewart and Quincy Nieporte. Stewart has been by far the best hitter on FSU this year, hitting .326 with 13 home runs to lead the team in both categories. Stewart also gets on base more than 51% of the time, one of the national leaders in the category. Nieporte hits close to .300 as a quintessential contact hitter. The Heels will need to contain both of them if they want to win this game. After the top of the order, the FSU hitters are not particularly vicious, they can all hit for power but if not gift wrapped anything they should be pretty easy outs. Florida State makes its runs off of hitting for power, as a team they hit only .256--their opponents are actually better than them in the box, hitting .259--but the Noles slug .399 as a team. Carolina needs to play solid defense to make sure the Nole get as few extra bases as possible. Over their past six games, FSU has averaged only 2.5 runs per game. If Carolina limits them to 3 or fewer runs they should have a good chance of getting a win.
Carolina should expect to face either Mike Compton or Drew Carlton Thursday night with the odds that they face Compton, the FSU number two starter. Compton has been the best FSU pitcher this season in terms of ERA although he does not last very long, having only thrown 57.2 innings this year. Carlton is similar, although he allows opponents to hit .297 and has an ERA just south of 5. Carolina should expect Compton but be happier if they see Carlton with Compton being saved for FSU's Louisville game on Saturday. Against either pitcher the objective is the same, prolong counts to see more pitches. Both allow a fair amount of contact and Carolina should work counts to get good pitches to hit. This strategy would also open up the Seminole bullpen for the Heels, an advantage for Carolina. FSU used two of their main relievers, Billy Strode and Dylan Silva, against Clemson and they lack for many other established options. If Carolina forces the FSU starter out early FSU has only one pitcher who has thrown more than 20 innings this year with an ERA below 4.50 available--Jim Voyles. If Carolina forces FSU's bullpen into a long outing of 4 to 5 innings then the Heels should be in good shape.
Due to rain delays of the earlier games Carolina/FSU will not start on time and may start as late as 9:30PM. As we hear of updates they will be posted here.
The game before Carolina/FSU was delayed about 90 minutes so we expect the first pitch tonight between 8:15PM and 8:45PM.