(NOTE: Here is a Florida State baseball story from our Gannett partner, the Tallahassee Democrat, which runs nolesports.com. The Seminoles will take on Arizona in the first round of the College World Series on Friday at 6 p.m. Tucson time.)
By Corey Clark
He hasn’t come out and actually said the words.
But you get the feeling that out of the 15 Florida State teams he has taken to the College World Series, the 2012 version just might be Mike Martin’s favorite.
Maybe because unlike many of his previous clubs, this one didn’t have high preseason expectations placed on it. The Seminoles were ranked 20th in the preseason by Baseball America.
They lost their first-round ace (Sean Gilmartin), All-ACC closer (Daniel Bennett), All-American two-way player (Mike McGee) and three-year starting catcher (Rafael Lopez).
There were no spots in the starting rotation that were known before the year began.
Two wound up being taken by freshmen.
And throughout the year at least one-third of the batting lineup was made up of newcomers as well.
Yet here they are. Heading to Omaha again.
“I’m just so proud to be a part of it,” Martin said. “It’s a year where, we’re not through, but at the same time we’re going to enjoy this.”
It’s not just because of the younger players, though.
All year Martin has praised his veterans for their leadership — on and off the field.
It starts, of course, with the only person to wear a “C” on his jersey for Mike Martin. James Ramsey turned down half a million dollars to return to Florida State and anchored the lineup all year, eventually being named the ACC Player of the Year.
Martin’s entire infield, third baseman Sherman Johnson, shortstop Justin Gonzalez, second baseman Devon Travis and first baseman Jayce Boyd, has been playing on the same diamond for three years now.
“Devon’s entire year (helped) get us where we are,” Martin said. “Sherman being able to play shortstop when Gonzalez got hurt enabled us to keep our spot as a possible host. … They just worked so hard all year long.”
And they always had the same goal.
No matter if they were barely cracking the top 20 in some preseason poll or going 0-3 in the ACC Tournament for the first time in program history, the Florida State baseball team’s main focus continued to be on a city in Nebraska.
We knew what we could do,” Johnson said. “And we came to the field every day in the fall, even before we started baseball — just working out — and we thought we were going to go back. And that was our goal.
“And it’s been our goal since Day 1. It didn’t really matter what most people were saying about us. We knew how we felt about each other and that’s all that mattered. And we focused on that.”
Since the winless week in Greensboro, N.C. at the ACC Tournament, the Seminoles haven’t lost. They swept through the regionals and then hammered Stanford (which started a first-round pick in Game 1 and a third-round pick in Game 2) by a staggering combined score of 35-8 to advance to the College World Series. The 35 runs were nine more than any team had ever scored in the first two games of a Super Regional series.
In its past five games Florida State has outscored its opponents 50-12.
Which is another reason why Martin likes this team so much. As soon as fans, outsiders began questioning whether the Seminoles were really as good as their lofty ranking, they went out and won the next five games by an average of 7.6 runs to send the program back to Omaha for the 21st time.
“Every one of these guys is special,” Martin said. “In their own way they’re all special.”