There are bigger stadiums. There may be bigger games this weekend. But there is nothing like when Miami and Florida State get together in baseball, especially when the games take place at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee.
The Animals of Section B will be out in full force. Howser will be packed for every game. And one of the sport’s wildest, fiercest rivalries will play out with its usual high stakes and almost certain drama and weirdness.
And, truthfully, the stakes may be even higher than usual. The Hurricanes are currently ranked No. 6, which means they’re likely to host a regional, but still very much fighting to secure a coveted top 8 national seed. The Seminoles are rated as a No. 2 regional seed in most recent NCAA projections, so a strong showing down the stretch could lead to them hosting in a few weeks.
Unsurprisingly, Friday brings the marquee matchup, with a pair of the nation’s best left-handers dueling under the lights. FSU will start Parker Messick, the national leader in strikeouts with 128 and MLB Pipeline’s No. 49 Draft prospect. UM should counter with Carson Palmquist, currently No. 105 on the Draft list and owner of a nifty 92 strikeouts in 64 innings.
Those aren’t the only draftable pitchers to watch, however. FSU’s No. 2 starter, Bryce Hubbart, may have higher upside than Messick and comes in at No. 65 on the latest Draft 150. 'Canes closer Andrew Walters has been as dominant as any pitcher in the country, with 50 strikeouts and one run allowed in 26 2/3 innings. He comes in at No. 126.
Friday’s game will stream on ACC Network Extra at 7 p.m. ET, with a Saturday 7 p.m. start airing on ACC Network and Sunday’s noon game on ESPN2. Get ready for a great rivalry and a few rounds of ‘O Canada.’
Reminder: all rankings other than Leach’s Top 5 come from D1Baseball.com.
Leach’s Top 5
1. Tennessee: Yes, they lost a series. One.
2. Oregon State: Won 19 of 21 against a very tough schedule, and dropped one series all year.
3. Oklahoma State: Big test looms this weekend.
4. Virginia Tech: They’ll look to keep raking against yet another ranked conference foe.
5. Arkansas: Two of the nation’s top pitching staffs meet when they face Vandy.
Top 10 vs. Top 10: The weekend brings two all-top-10 series, one in the ACC and one in the Big XII. No. 7 Louisville visits No. 5 Virginia Tech for a series of all day games, with starts at 3, 1, and 1 ET. Saturday’s game will air on ACC Network, while Friday and Sunday stream on ACC Network Extra. The series features four Top 150 Draft prospects: Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross (No. 11), catcher Cade Hunter (134), infielder Tanner Schobel (138), and Louisville catcher Dalton Rushing (55).
In Stillwater, Okla., it’s No. 9 Texas Tech visiting No. 3 Oklahoma State, with starts at 7, 7, and 2 ET. All three games will be on ESPN Plus, and that series likewise features a slew of Draft prospects: Oklahoma State righties Justin Campbell (No. 48) and Victor Mederos (133) and infielder/pitcher Nolan McLean (140), and Texas Tech infielder Jace Jung (7) and right-hander Brandon Birdsell (93).
High-octane matchup: Friday night in Knoxville, Tenn., will bring an extremely tasty pitching matchup. Tennessee right-hander Blade Tidwell, a preseason top 15 Draft prospect, is working his way back from injury, but is still one of the most exciting arms in his class. He’s scheduled to start the second game of a Thursday-Friday-Saturday series against Georgia righty Jonathan Cannon, currently rated No. 52 on the Top 150. That’s a 6:30 p.m. ET start on SEC Network.
Mid-major madness: Two surging teams meet in a big Sun Belt battle this weekend. No. 15 Texas State, with 15 wins in its last 17 games, hosts a Louisiana team that has won 10 of 11. They’re currently first and third in the conference standings, respectively, with one weekend left before the conference tournament. All three games will stream on ESPN Plus: Friday at 7 ET, Saturday at 5, and Sunday at 2.
Assorted pings: If you haven’t seen Brooks Lee, Pipeline’s top-rated college player in the latest Draft rankings, you can check him out this weekend. All three of Cal Poly’s games against Cal State Fullerton will stream on ESPN Plus -- 10 p.m. ET on Friday, 9 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday. … With two steals over the course of the weekend, Texas Southern will reach 200 on the season. No other team has more than 143. … Another Draft prospect worth checking out this weekend is Arizona catcher Daniel Susac, ranked No. 10. Susac and Arizona host Oregon State and its stout pitching staff.