Somehow, someway, LSU has survived to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament. The Baseball Gods smiled upon us once again, and derailed yet another postseason for Georgia, giving this LSU post season run one last weekend at home. But the Baseball Gods are fickle and have put in front of LSU’s path one of their own. We chatted with Tomahawk Nation contributor evenflow58 to get a handle on Mike Martin’s retirement tour.
PK: Florida State was one of the last at-large teams selected for the tournament and for many weeks it seemed like FSU wasn’t even close to reaching the post season. But the Noles really turned a corner in the last month or so of the season and now is somehow one of the last 16 teams remaining. What’s changed that has led FSU on this run?
EF: The prospect of Florida State missing the postseason for the first time in 42 years was very real until mid-April when they swept the Clemson series and then took 2 of 3 from Virginia on the road. The offense became more consistent, scoring 5+ runs in 17 of the last 25 games leading up to the start of the regional. Reese Albert being healthy enough to remain in the lineup on a daily basis gave some stability to the top of the lineup allowing others to succeed.
The biggest impact on the late season success is that the Friday and Saturday starting pitching was more reliant. Parrish, the Friday starter, regressed overall from last year but when he is on he can be dominant. Van Eyk, the Saturday starter and ace of the staff, has been downright filthy. In his last 6 starts he has allowed 10 runs while recording 57 strikeouts – 23 looking.
PK: Offensively, FSU’s numbers seem to mirror LSU a bit. Not a lot of overwhelming power, but XBH RBIs, getting guys on and moving them around. However, what I could catch of the Athens regional, the HR threat is real and certainly will happen with the easterly summer breeze in The Box this weekend. Is that a fair assessment, or is there something I’m missing having not seen FSU for most of the year?
EF: FSU has hit 69 HRs in 57 games so there’s a bit of power there but nothing overwhelming. However Florida State has 359 walks, good for 4th in the country, so when they do get that extra base hit there’s a good chance somebody is coming home. Frankly this team might swing for the fences too much as they strike out 1.5 times for every walk. When they connect it works great but they also strike out way too much.
In the regional the bottom of the lineup was tremendous; De Sedas, Smith and Becker went a collective 15-25 with 3 walks, 12 runs scored and 14 RBI while hitting 3 homeruns. We’re still not sure what team was in Athens but it wasn’t the 2019 FSU baseball squad.
PK: J.C. Flowers sticks out on the stat sheet as your obvious closer, but who are a few of the other names we should expect to see out of the bullpen? Also, if it goes to game 3, who do you expect would start?
EF: FSU’s pen is certainly a scary situation. In the regionals the ‘Noles were able to keep their pen use to a minimum. However, over the course of the season it’s been a bit of a rocky road. Chase Haney is pretty solid but doesn’t get more than a few batters at a time. After that it gets to be a question of who has the hot hand. Lately the staff has relied heavily on Clayton Kwiatoski and Antionio Velez.
If the series goes to a game three Conor Grady is more than likely going to get the start. He seems to be either very good or quite average on the mound. Against UGA he was very good.
PK: 2 outs, bottom of the 9th, man on third, down 1. Who do you want at the plate for FSU?
EF: Drew Mendoza certainly has a good eye but sometimes he’s too good and strikes out because of college umpires (against UGA he struck out looking at six balls that the umpire mis-called). He also has the most pop on the team and quite a few game winning hits but he can press at times. Mike Salvatore has the highest average on the team but seems to get too excited with RISP and flies out quickly in the count. I think I’d go with Robby Martin. The freshmen doesn’t have the pop that Mendoza has, nor the plate discipline that Salvatore has but he’s a line drive hitter that’s been chasing the ball less and less as the season has worn on.
PK: I think many LSU fans can sympathize with what FSU fans are going through with the end of Mike Martin’s career (though our Skip Bertman stuck around for a few more years and had a wonderful stint as AD). How does it feel to be entering a new era for the first time, and has FSU made any future coaching plans yet?
EF: Moving on from Martin is certainly a mixed bag for FSU fans. While most all are ready to move on there’s a bunch of disagreement on where the program should head. Smart money is on Mike Martin Jr, FSU’s long time hitting coach, taking over for his father in 2020 but there are many that aren’t too keen on that.
Some fans inappropriately compare this situation to Bobby Bowden hiring his son Jeff as Offensive Coordinator but Martin Jr. has been excellent at FSU and has long been considered one of the top hitting coaches in the country. He’s been up for multiple jobs but has either turned them down or has not been offered due in large part to the fact that he would be expected to take the FSU job when offered.
However, there are concerns with him. He’s never been a head coach before so is unproven. How does he handle a coaching staff? What about a pitching staff? It would have been great if he got the Wake Forest job or the Florida job years ago so these questions had answers, but here we are.
Another issue fans are having to come to grips with is the monetary one. All around the southeast teams are building palaces of stadiums but FSU’s athletic department is seeing cuts. Can FSU compete with the Arkansas and Mississippi teams of the world that are pushing all of that SEC money into baseball? Will the ACC Network help bridge that gap? How does all of that affect the hiring of not only a new head coach but also a coaching staff?
PK: How do you see the weekend going?
EF: LSU and FSU seem to be somewhat similar teams. Neither team seems to be particularly elite at any aspect but both have been decently solid, LSU more so than FSU this year. If the FSU team that played last weekend shows up in Baton Rouge FSU probably wins in three. That’s a tough ask though, with so many younger players on the team and a week off. LSU loses game two but wins one and three to stamp their ticket Omaha.