FSU’s Martin on IU: “Up and down, that’s a solid baseball team.”

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State coach Mike Martin spoke about the circumstances that face northern college baseball teams as though they were something totally alien, because for him, they basically are.

At a less-than-totally-formal press conference Friday in preparation for the best-of-three NCAA Tournament Super Regional between his Seminoles and Indiana — which begins Saturday at noon — Martin wondered aloud how it is even possible for a northern team to succeed given the challenges they face. Martin has won over 1,700 games as a college baseball coach, but all of those have come at Florida State, his alma mater.  He’s been head coach there since 1980 and on the staff since 1975 and therefore never had to consider the idea of winter weather too cold for outdoor baseball.

“Somebody asked me if I had any indoor drills, and I said, ‘no,’” Martin said, before directly addressing IU coach Tracy Smith, who was sitting in the front row after his own press conference. “I don’t know how you can coach indoors. I’m gonna find out when we get this new (indoor) football facility, but I can’t fathom how you can get as much done as you do indoors. It’s a credit to you. It’s amazing. … That’s phenomenal. I tip my hat to you.”

And Martin said it’s even more phenomenal because Indiana’s team is formidable even if you’re not grading on the northern baseball curve.  The Hoosiers, who are already further into the postseason than any Indiana team in history, have a 46-14 record, hit .305 as a team, own a 2.56 earned run average and have outscored their opponents 407-199. The Seminoles have a 47-15 record, but their team average (.287) team ERA (2.73) and run differential (420-217) are all more modest than the Hoosiers’.

“That’s a good-looking lineup,” Martin said of Indiana. “It ain’t 1-through-5, it’s 1-through-9. The pitching has been excellent. I mean, up and down, it’s a solid baseball team.”

But it’s still at least a slight underdog in this series, if only because unlike the Hoosiers, the Seminoles have been here before. A lot.

Florida State came into the 2013 season with more wins per season (40.35) than any other team in college baseball history and the second highest all-time winning percentage at .730 and the ‘Noles have only improved on those numbers. This is their 36th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and their 13th trip to a Super Regional since it was added to the tournament format in 1999. They have been to the College World Series 21 times, including last season as well as 2010.

This might not be their best team and there doesn’t appear to be a Buster Posey or J.D. Drew on this roster, but they have still been dominant most of the year and especially so at home, going 35-3 at Dick Howser Stadium. The lineup has some power in the middle of the order with All-ACC outfielder D.J. Stewart (.363, 5 HR, 56 RBI), third baseman Josey Brizuela (.325, 4 HR, 43 RBI), designated hitter Marcus Davis (.300, 9 HR, 61 RBI) and catcher Stephen McGee (.292, 9 HR, 51 RBI), but it is more renowned for its patience at the plate. The Seminoles have drawn 345 walks, second in the nation only to North Carolina.

“What I really appreciate with Coach (Martin’s) teams is that they’re very disciplined at the plate,” Smith said. “If you get in there and start walking people and stuff like that, I know philosophically, that’s a big part of what they do. They’re disciplined, they walk a lot.”

It’s on junior left-hander Joey DeNato to make sure they don’t in Game 1. He was the Hoosiers’ Friday starter all season, and even though he didn’t start to open either the Big Ten Tournament or the Bloomington Regional, he gets the ball for this one because Smith trusts him to throw strikes and because Florida State has sometimes struggled against relatively soft-throwing lefties. DeNato (9-2, 2.65 ERA) has a mid-80s fastball he can keep at the knees and on the corners, but his curveball and change-up could be much more effective against this team.

“They have a lot of lefties in their lineup, so hopefully that matches up in our favor,” DeNato said. “… I just have to come out there, compete and throw strikes early, get ahead in the count.”

If Florida State sophomore right-hander Luke Weaver is as dominant as he has been, DeNato might not have much room for error. Weaver struck out 14 batters in eight shutout innings against Troy in the Tallahassee Regional and boasts a 7-2 record, 1.95 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 92 1/3 innings this season. That’s a significant upgrade from a 5.93 ERA a year ago.

“He’s definitely grown up mentally,” catcher Stephen McGee said. “Last year, he was just throwing and not really pitching. This year he’s not just focused on blowing the ball by people but using all of his pitches and hitting his spots.”

The Hoosiers haven’t seen many pitchers like Weaver this season, they haven’t played in many venues like the raucous Dick Howser Stadium. The only team they’ve seen close to Florida State’s caliber is Louisville.

Still, they enter the second leg of their historic run undaunted.

“I think this probably is the best team we’ve played,” shortstop Michael Basil said. “And I think it will probably be the best baseball atmosphere that we’ve played in all year. … I think once we get out there it will have the feel of a bigger game, but it’s nothing we won’t be able to handle at all. It’s just rise to the occasion and play like we have all year.”

AUDIO: Tracy Smith Part 1

AUDIO: Tracy Smith Part 2

AUDIO: Mike Martin

2 comments

  1. Harvard’s “solid” Ashford and Simpson contribution(in honor of Jeremy’s Hoosier Morning song picks).

    This will bring the Hoosiers good fortune tomorrow.

  2. Told ya.

    Thank you berry much. Baseball been berry, berry good to me.

Comments are closed.