Friday, March 13, 2015

Marquee Match-Up of the Week - Pt. 2; Florida Tech @ Saint Leo

For the second week in a row, Saint Leo is in the middle of a series with national implications. Last weekend, the Lions were on the wrong end of a sweep at the hands of Nova Southeastern in a huge SSC conference tilt, and this week the SSC takes center stage again with #16 (19-1) Florida Tech traveling to take on #17 (19-4) Saint Leo.

Despite the sweep last weekend, Saint Leo still finds itself as one of the most prolific offensive teams in the country, batting .338 as a team with a .536 slugging percentage that includes a mind-boggling 33 home runs in 23 games, led by Troy Sieber's eight long balls and 35 RBI with a .712 slugging percentage. Cole Stancil (.400, 5 HR, 24 RBI) and Bobby Twitty (.333, 5 HR, 23 RBI) are racking up some huge offensive numbers to lead the Lions, as well.

On the mound, Saint Leo's 2.99 team ERA is led by Liam O'Sullivan, who is 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 38.2 innings of work. He is handcuffed with three other stellar starters, including utility-man Jordan Taylor, who is 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 26.1 innings on the mound and hitting .309 with four home runs at the plate. He may or may not be on the mound, as Saint Leo has two other more-than-capable starters in Michael Dunnigan (5-1, 3.79 ERA, 29 K, 35.2 IP) and Jordan Pendleton (3-0, 2.00 ERA, 18 IP). Tyrone Miller remains a stalwart in the bullpen, having already made 12 appearances, racking up 25 strikeouts in only 19 innings of work with three saves and a 1.42 ERA.

Saint Leo won 17 of their first 18 games of the season before getting swept by the Sharks of Nova Southeastern last weekend. However, since then, Saint Leo has returned to form, shelling a very competitive Slippery Rock team, 24-2 on Tuesday, before beating Ohio Valley 10-1 on Wednesday, a team which took down defending champion Southern Indiana this week.

On the other side of the diamond will be an equally-impressive squad early this season, an up-and-coming Florida Tech squad that began the year with 17 straight wins before dropping the series finale to Lynn last weekend. However, sitting at 19-1, this is a team that has been just on the cusp of a very tough South regional tournament most seasons and looks like they may be about to clear the hurdle to being a serious contender.

The Panthers boast a number of gaudy offensive statistics, including hitting .374 as a team, with the entire starting lineup batting above .300. Additionally, not only does the squad have 23 home runs on the year, but they have outscored their opponents 206-48 (!), are slugging .574 and reaching base at a .458 clip. Not only that, they are 34-for-40 when it comes to stealing bases, so they have speed and power in spades.

The offense is led by both Austin Allen (.449, 10 doubles, 6 HR, 22 RBI, .833 SLG, .500 OBP) and Grant McKown (.410, 5 HR, 28 RBI, .687 SLG, .473 OBP), two of the four starters hitting above .410 in at least 54 AB's. Really, up and down the lineup it is a wealth of obscene offensive statistics. That is usually the case when you are a team which has scored in double digits nine times on the year, including five times scoring at least 15 and two times scoring at least 20.

On the mound, it doesn't get any easier for opposing hitters, with the Panthers pulling in a 2.02 team ERA and holding hitters to a .209 average. The staff is led by Ashton Fronsoe, who is 4-0 with a 1.15 ERA in five starts, with 28 strikeouts and only five walks in 31.1 innings of work. There is no quit in the rotation through the rest of any series, either, as he is followed by Grant Willcoxon (3-1, 2.10 ERA, 21 K, 3 BB in 25.2 IP), Scott Ward (5-0, 3.19 ERA, 22 K, 2 BB, 31 IP) and Ty Cohen (3-0, 3.67 ERA, 27 K, 27 IP). Fronsoe, Willcoxon and Cohen are holding hitters to a .217 batting average or worse, while the go-to man out of the bullpen, Andrew Beyer, is 1-0 with a 1.65 ERA and 18 strikeouts (with no walks) in 16.1 innings of work in 10 appearances. The team's 146 K/29 BB ratio is among the best in the country at any level. Out of the eight pitchers who are routinely coming out of the bullpen, they have combined for 59 innings and allowed only seven earned runs on the year. That is a paltry 1.07 ERA from the bullpen.

Saint Leo will need a big performance to avoid most likely falling out of the SSC race after only two conference match-ups. For Florida Tech, it is a chance to cement themselves at the top of an absolutely stacked conference.

Below are links to keep up with the weekend's series and potential pitching match-ups:

#16 Florida Tech (19-1, 3-1 SSC) @ #17 Saint Leo (19-4, 0-3 SSC)

FIT Preview ||| SLU Preview

Game 1: Friday, March 13th, 6 PM ET (Live Video | Live Stats)
Ashton Fronsoe (4-0, 1.15) vs Michael Dunnigan (5-1, 3.79)

Game 2: Saturday, March 14th, 1 PM ET (Live Video | Live Stats)
Scott Ward (5-0, 3.19) vs Liam O'Sullivan (5-1, 2.56)

Game 3: Saturday, March 14th, 4 PM ET (Live Video | Live Stats)
Grant Willcoxon (3-1, 2.10) vs Jordan Taylor (2-1, 3.42)

Note: Starting pitchers are projected based on past series' and subject to change.

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