Roger sat down with Tomahawk Nation's Dustin Tackett and talked a little Bama/FSU baseball. And even though the two teams are slated to meet just yet, if both teams win on Friday, they'll play each Saturday night.
FYI, Roger and Bammer will both be in Tallahassee this weekend, so if any RBR folks want to meet up, please let us know!
Roger: FSU is used to hosting and has a high national seed. Do you feel like they will be overconfident?
DT: Overconfidence really isn’t a part of FSU’s game, and Mike Martin has a huge part in that. Are they used to hosting and feel comfortable doing so? Yes. But they always show the necessary respect for the teams coming into Tallahassee, and look to handle each team accordingly.
Roger: Does the team play a lot of small ball? I see they have a .278 BA and 26 home runs as a team. Do they bunt, hit and run and steal much?
DT: Most FSU fans would tell you that this question is their worst nightmare because, yes, the Noles play a lot of small ball; sometimes too much. While they do bunt when the opportunity presents itself, the Noles aren’t the best bunting. They can also be aggressive on the base paths, but tend to be more successful with that. Freshman center fielder Ben DeLuzio, who turned down a 3rd round pick in the MLB Draft to come to FSU, is a stud on the base paths, basically running a 4.4 40yd dash.
Roger: It looks like DJ Stewart (.348,seven home runs, 48 RBIs) is the big stud. Also Jose Brizuela and John Nogowski, any other big threats?
DT: Stewart, Brizuela and Nogowski are basically your power threats, but Justin Gonzalez can also crank the long ball. Gonzalez struggles at the plate, striking out more than FSU would like, but he can also get very hot. Previously mentioned freshman, Ben DeLuzio, can also be a threat for the Noles. DeLuzio has five triples and seven doubles on the year. And Casey Smit, who does not start every game, is one of FSU’s best hitters (weird, but true), and lead-off hitter Josh Delph is a solid double guy.
Roger: FSU clearly has an outstanding program, and Martin is one of the best coaches around, but is there even an under lying feeling that he needs to finally win a World Series?
DT: It depends on who you talk to, but for the most part, no. Most FSU baseball fans are smart enough to know that the CWS is a crap shoot – it’s all about getting hot at the right time. And when you have a coach that has won 1800+ games, has 24 50+ win seasons under his belt, 35 consecutive NCAA Regional performances, and 15 CWS appearances, it’s hard to NEED much more. Although, a CWS win would be icing on the cake. Until FSU baseball isn’t in this familiar position, there won’t be too much noise.
Roger: It appears that Jameis Winston hasn’t been used much in the field or at the plate this year, but clearly has an electric arm by evidence of his stat line (30 Innings, 18 hits, 6 walks and 29 strikeouts with a 1.17 ERA). He obviously has done a great job, but is he worth the distractions? Have his issues had any effect on the team?
DT: Winston really hasn’t been a distraction for this team at all, although there is somewhat of a sideshow. The crowds have been larger than usual home and away, and fans gather afterwards for his autograph (even after UF games). But these things don’t have an effect on his teammates or the way they play on the field. When you have a guy that can come in to close a game, hit the 90s and strike out the side, it’s always worth it. While Winston isn’t necessary every game, due to the rest of the staff, he is a great weapon to have this time of year.
Roger: It looks like Luke Weaver, Mike Compton and Gage Smith get the bulk of the work for the pitching staff. Is Brandon Leibrandt recovered fully and back full speed? He is a guy that I know to be very, very good. If no Leibrandt, where do the Seminoles go as far as a number three starter?
DT: Leibrandt threw a 3 inning simulated game Monday afternoon in practice and apparently felt great. According to Martin, he is available for this weekend. I’m certain they would rather make it through this weekend without him, but he will pitch if necessary. Without Leibrandt, the third starter has been a number of guys. Bryant Holtmann had earned that spot before going down with an injury earlier this month, Peter Miller had also had that opportunity, but it looks to be Billy Strode. The junior lefty has really come up big for the Noles down the stretch. He has thrown 45.1 innings, striking out 45 batters. He works with a heavy breaking ball keeping the opposition off-balance. He’ll definitely throw this weekend.
DT: How would you define Alabama's pitching staff and the way they've performed up to this point in the year?
Roger: Pitching was outstanding early with three juniors and three freshmen really shoving. Obviously Turnbull and Kamplain are front line guys, but until a suspension and then injury, Jonathan Keller was the most consistent starter. All three are juniors. Turnbull, a big (6’3" 240lbs) strong righty throws in the upper 90s and has been the Friday night guy all year. Kamplain, a lefty, has three pitches, that when he throws for strikes, is almost unbeatable. When he is consistently throwing strike one it is lights out for the opponent. He gets in trouble if he starts off behind and has to start grooving pitches. Keller, another lefty, is a bull dog, but he is very limited right now. He says he might can throw one inning in three different Fgames, or two innings in one game this weekend.
DT: Once you get past Turnbull or Kamplain, how does the bullpen hold up?
Roger: Getting to closer Thomas Burrows is the big thing. If Turnbull and Kamplain can get you at least 7-8 innings, the big freshman lefty will bring it home. Most starts Turnbull and Kamplain have been able to do that. After a great first half of the season, the Tide was 21-0 when scoring at least three runs at one point, the middle relief has struggled somewhat. Jay Shaw can eat innings and has been fairly consistent. Tucker Hawley is a fifth year senior who had Tommy John surgery two seasons ago, and is a strike thrower, but never really recovered his velocity. Two more freshmen, Nick Eicholtz and Geoffrey Bramblett started the season on fire, but have had freshmen struggles in SEC play. The have both started and relieved with various degrees of success. Last years closer, when he was a freshman All American, Ray Castillo, has been up and down. Castillo began the year in the starting rotation with Keller out of the pen, but that role quickly changed. Castillo has struggled with control and has been hit hard late in the season. Taylor Guilbeau is a junior left hander who has had an inconsistent year. He can be un hittable, but then forget how to throw strikes. For Bama to advance out of this regional I feel like Guilbeau will have to be a big part of the success.
DT: Bama's has four hitter hitting .300+. How much does the rest of the lineup lean on those guys?
Roger: Bama’s hitting has improved a great deal and is hitting .278 this year, after three years in the .250 range. In addition the team has 40 home runs, by far the most they have had since the bats changed. Austen Smith has been the leader all year, but a recent slump has dropped him from the .350s to .316. Wade Wass and Ben Moore are both at .305 and man the three and four spots in the line up. Moore has nine home runs, Smith and shortstop Mikey White have six apiece. White is also hitting .304. Centerfielder Georgie Salem is at .288 and Casey Hughston is hitting .282 in his freshman year. Kyle Overstreet is hitting .278 with four home runs and 30 RBIs. Up and down the line up it is pretty balanced. The biggest problem has been scoring runs. The Tide strands a lot of runners on base, as evidence of their 10 losses by a 2-1 score this season.
DT: How quickly will Bama turn to small ball? Does that traditionally help or hurt what they like to do?
Roger: Bama doesn’t play much small ball, and very little successfully. It is sort of fluid, some times they do, some times they don’t. Bunting has not been good, and the team rarely hits and runs or steals bases. In addition they walk very seldom
DT: With the fact that most of these guys played in Tallahassee last year, and some of the older ones were here a few years ago, how comfortable/confident do you think that makes them heading into this weekend?
Roger: The fact that the core of last years team are now sophomores is a big plus. Also, the top two pitchers have been through the war also. I think they will be comfortable with the surroundings and not intimated in any way. They have played at South Carolina.at LSU, at Louisiana Lafayette , at Texas AM, swept Ole Miss at home and overall had the ninth toughest schedule in the country. It will come down to execution for them, the stage want be too big for them.
Thanks again to both TN's Dustin Tackett and our very own Roger_RBR for providing the questions and answers and also for their in-depth insight.