Elite pitching, improving bats featured in crucial Clemson-FSU series

Florida State's Luke Weaver throws a pitch in the second game of an NCAA college baseball doubleheader against Clemson on Monday, May 14, 2012 in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Photo by Mark Crammer

Florida State's Luke Weaver throws a pitch in the second game of an NCAA college baseball doubleheader against Clemson on Monday, May 14, 2012 in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Two of the best pitching teams in the ACC square off in Tallahassee starting tonight, and every matchup is big in the division-deciding series.

In team ERA, Florida State ranks second (2.66) and Clemson third (2.94) in the conference, but the Tigers dodge the bullet of the Seminoles’ ace pitching, Scott Sitz.

Sophomore FSU righty Luke Weaver (5-2, 2.17), going Friday night, joins Clemson’s Matthew Crownover (7-1, 1.90 ERA) and Daniel Gossett (8-3, 2.36 ERA) in the ACC top-10 in ERA, and he is fourth in the league in strikeouts (83). Weaver faced the Tigers last season at Doug Kingsmore, giving up two runs in four innings with three strikeouts.

Seldom Used Reserve’s latest advanced stats has the Tigers’ weekend rotation all sporting 1.15 or better WHIPs, to go with a rare trio of sub-3.00 ERAs.

Gossett has 80 strikeouts, which is 41 more than the nearest Tiger, and the right-hander is actually doing better against lefty bats, holding them to a .205 average. Only righty reliever Patrick Andrews (.129 BA/0.43 WHIP) and lefty starter Zack Erwin (.185 BA) are doing better in that situation.

That’s key tonight because Florida State’s top bats, outfielders D.J. Stewart and Marcus Davis, both are lefties.

Stewart earned national and ACC player of the week honors last week with nine hits for nine RBIs and nine runs scored last week (five doubles). He is batting a team-best .328 with 49 RBIs. Davis is tied for the team-leading 49 runs knocked in with nine homers.

With catcher Stephen McGee’s bat (8 HR/45 RBIs), the Seminoles have three more in the lineup with more RBIs than Clemson’s best (Garrett Boulware, 43).

FSU scores seven runs per game to Clemson’s 5.8, but with the pitching – their numbers are close in close games.

The ‘Noles are 14-5 in contests decided by two runs or less, while Clemson is 14-4 in the same.

Strong bullpens help, as FSU has a pair go-to-righties in Robby Coles (4-1, 1.20 ERA/8 saves) and Gage Smith (4-0, 2.06), and heir apparent QB (and RHP) Jameis Winston is sporting a 1.80 ERA out of the pen.

Clemson right-hander Matt Campbell boasts the top strikeout percentage on the Tigers (32.6), with 21 Ks to just four walks against right-handed batters.

The aforementioned Andrews has a .196 opposing batting average, only striking out 13, but since giving up four runs in a start to start the season – the sophomore has given up just six runs (three earned) in 16 appearances.

Long reliever Jonathan Meyer has been especially tough on righties, with 28 strikeouts to three walks.

Out since May 6 after taking a line-drive to his pitching arm, freshman righty Clate Schmidt is available this weekend. He started the season giving up four earned runs with two wins in his first four appearances, but Schmidt has surrendered 18 runs (13 earned) in his last four.

For Clemson bats, Boulware has led the way in run production all season, and it helps that he holds the lowest strikeout percentage on the team (11.11).

Five of his seven homers have come against RHP and 29 of 43 RBIs. He is tied with right fielder Steven Duggar, third baseman Shane Kennedy and first baseman Jon McGibbon for the team-best 14 RBIs against lefties. He is accounting for a team-leading 1.46 runs per game.

Leading Clemson in batting average, Kennedy is hitting slightly better against lefties (.329 v. LHP/.323 RHP), which can come in handy on Saturday against FSU starter Brandon Leibrandt (8-4, 3.41).

McGibbon is batting 12 points higher against righties (.288) with 23 RBIs. The junior co-captain holds a .998 fielding percentage with one error on the year also.

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