Tennessee outfielder Hunter Ensley (9) catches a ball hit by LSU outfielder Dylan Crews (3) at the wall during a NCAA College World Series elimination game between Tennessee and LSU at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb. on Tuesday, June 20, 2023.

Florida State Faces Tennessee in First Round of College World Series

No. 8 Florida State (47-15) takes on No. 1 Tennessee (55-12) on Friday in the first round of the 2024 College World Series.

Florida State on a Roll

Florida State has been clicking on all cylinders so far this postseason. After dropping the ACC Championship to Duke, the Seminoles have won five straight en route to Omaha.

In the Tallahassee Regional, FSU made quick work of the field, defeating Stetson 7-2 before sweeping UCF by scores of 5-2 and 12-4.

This brough UConn to the panhandle for the teams’ Super Regional matchup. The Noles pulverized the Huskies 24-4 in their first game. Those 24 runs marked the most in NCAA Super Regional history, along with the highest margin of victory in Super Regional history. FSU won the next game in extras, 10-8. ACC Player of the Year James Tibbs III hit his third homer of the day, a two-run blast in the top of the 12th, which proved deciding, and sent Florida State to Omaha.

https://twitter.com/FSUBaseball/status/1799519271602491513

The Seminoles are led by their high-powered offense, demonstrated in their record setting Super Regional performance. The Noles rank 12th in the nation in runs per game, and is third among teams remaining (Virginia, Tennessee). They boast a well-balanced attack, with the ninth best batting average and seventh most homers among D1 teams.

This attack is led by the aforementioned ACC Player of the Year James Tibbs III, who slashed .374/.497/.813 this season, with 28 homers and 94 RBIs. Tibbs is joined by three other Seminoles with an OPS over one thousand (Cam Smith, Marco Dinges, Jaime Ferrer). Smith led FSU with a .402 average on the season.

FSU’s weaker point is pitching, with the 43rd ranked ERA in D1.  However, they will likely lean on sophomore Jaime Arnold against Tennessee. The sophomore starter was the bright spot in an otherwise middling rotation for the Noles. Arnold had a 2.77 ERA across 17 starts (18 appearances). He went 11-3 in those games.

Florida State only has one other pitcher with an ERA under four in Brennan Oxford. The bullpen arm boasts a 2.94 ERA in his 29 appearances and could prove vital as the game reaches the later innings.

Tennessee Looks to Continue Special Season

Tennessee’s season has gone about as well as even the brashest Vol’s fan could have desired. After finishing the season at No. 1 with the best record in the NCAA, Tennessee continued its success in the postseason.

It began with the program’s fifth SEC Championship, defeating LSU 4-3 in the final game of the tournament. The Volunteers dominated their Regional, beating Northern Kentucky 9-3, Indiana 12-6, and Southern Mississippi 12-3.

Evansville came to town for the Super Regional stage. Tennessee took the first game in their usual commanding fashion, 11-6, but dropped game two 8-10. Facing elimination, Tennessee responded in epic fashion, bashing Evansville 12-1 to move on to Omaha.

The Volunteers are the definition of a balanced club. They come in scoring 9.2 runs per game, tied for sixth in the nation. These runs largely come through the long ball, leading D1 in homers on the season with 22 more than the next closest opponent.

Tennessee’s offense is even more formidable than the Seminoles’, with five starters cracking the thousand OPS mark. Their lineup is headlined by Christian Moore, whose 32 home runs were enough for fourth in the country. Also featured is first baseman Blake Burke, who ranks second in doubles in D1 with 28.

Tennessee’s pitching staff is perhaps even stronger than their high-powered offense. They come in with the third best ERA in the nation and is top among remaining teams. Their rotation is led by Zander Sechrist, who had a 3.26 ERA over 66.1 innings.

The real strength of Tennessee’s pitching comes in the form of their dominant bullpen. Dylan Loy and Aaron Combs both held batters to an average below the Mendoza Line in their appearances. These arms headline a group that had hitters shaking their heads throughout the season.

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