Mike Bell enters his fifth season at Florida State serving as an associate head coach with his primary duties including oversight of the Seminole pitching staff and assisting in the recruiting process.
The former Seminole has hit the ground running since his return to Tallahassee and the results have shown on the mound. In his first four seasons, Bell has coached three players that have earned All-America honors (Robert Benincasa–2012, Scott Sitz–2013, Luke Weaver-2014) and 14 players that have been drafted including Weaver in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014. That includes the group of William Strode, Dylan Silva, Boomer Biegalski and Bryant Holtmann, all selected in the 2015 draft, as they helped lead the Noles to 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings, seventh in the NCAA.
In 2015, Bell’s staff was highlighted by Biegalski, Holtmann, Silva and Strode. Biegalski anchored the unit by topping the ACC in strikeouts (112), was named the ACC Tournament MVP and after a solid season was drafted in the 14th round by the Oakland Athletics.
Holtmann, who finished 6-1 on the season with a 3.36 ERA, was selected in the 24th round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Diamondbacks. Silva capped off the campaign with 76 strikeouts, second-most on the team, and a 4.29 ERA. He was selected in the 11th round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Mariners. Strode earned third team All-American honors from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association after making 30 relief appearances en route to a 3-0 record, 14 saves and a 1.80 ERA. The Cleveland Indians selected him in the 10th round of the draft.
The Seminole pitching staff posted an ERA below 3.50 in three of his first four seasons – a feat that had not been accomplished since a three-year stretch from 1999-2001. He also led the staff to their first sub-3.00 ERA in 10 years following the 2013 season.
Upon his return in 2012, Bell relied on some new faces to solidify the weekend rotation with a pair of freshmen in Brandon Leibrandt and Mike Compton and sophomore Peter Miller filling those roles. It marked just the third time since 1980 that Florida State opened a weekend series with a rotation consisting only of sophomores and freshmen. Leibrandt became the first freshman to start an opening day game in Florida State history while holding down the spot as the Friday night starter all season long. Compton stood as the lone pitcher in the ACC to reach double-digit wins while finishing tied for second nationally in that same category. Both pitchers would go on to earn Freshmen All-America honors.
In all, seven Seminole pitchers finished the 2012 season with an ERA below 3.50 including NCBWA Stopper of the Year finalist and Dick Howser Trophy semifinalist Robert Benincasa. The junior right hander had a career year going 4-2 with 16 saves and a 1.32 ERA in 32 appearances. His 16 saves were the second most in a single-season in Florida State history and tied for the sixth most in the career annals. Benincasa was recognized as a first team All-American by Baseball America, NCBWA and Perfect Game and was a seventh round draft pick by the Washington Nationals. His first season back also saw the Seminoles make a return trip to the College World Series and a fourth place finish. For his efforts, Bell was named the top assistant coach of 2012 by Perfect Game USA.
What followed in 2013 was equally impressive as Bell led the Seminole pitching staff to their first sub-3.00 ERA since 2003. FSU’s 2.92 ERA marked the third lowest in the Mike Martin era and the lowest since the 1995 squad posted an ERA of 2.72 which ironically was Bell’s final season as a pitcher with the Garnet & Gold. Florida State finished the season ranked second in the ACC in ERA and in the top 20 nationally in strikeouts per 9/innings (18th), strikeout-to-walk ratio (19th) and ERA (20th). Bell was once again recognized for his work with the Seminole pitching staff by Perfect Game USA following the 2013 campaign named one of 16 ‘Best of the Rest’ assistant coaches.
Scott Sitz and Brandon Leibrandt each won 10 games, while Luke Weaver led all Seminole pitchers in innings pitched (98.1) and strikeouts (119). Eight pitchers finished the season with an ERA below 3.50, while three starters threw over 89.0 innings. Sitz was named a third team All-American by Louisville Slugger and Weaver became the 16th Seminole to play for Team USA and the first since 2010 after accepting an invitation to play with the Collegiate National Team during the summer of 2013.
In 2014, 12 Seminole pitchers threw over 15.0 innings en route to pacing Florida State to a team ERA of 3.08 – good for the fourth lowest mark in the ACC and 36th nationally. Weaver, who led the team in wins (8), innings pitched (106.1) and strikeouts (85), was named a third team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and was recognized as the best fielding pitcher in the nation with the ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove Award. For the third year in a row, Seminole pitchers combined to throw seven shutouts.
Before returning to Florida State, Bell’s resume spoke for itself. In his first seven seasons at the Division I level, including the last four as the Oklahoma pitching coach, the Sarasota, Fla. native helped recruit and develop 22 pitchers who were selected in the Major League Baseball draft. That includes three first-round selections - including 2006 No. 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar - during his three seasons at Tennessee, where he helped the Volunteers reach the 2005 College World Series.
In four seasons at Oklahoma, Bell’s pitching staffs established a number of new standards. His 2011 group posted a 3.00 ERA, which is the Sooners’ lowest since 1978. Four of his hurlers earned All-Big 12 honors, including second-team All-American Michael Rocha. The Sooners posted a 41-17 final record and were ranked No. 15 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. In 2010, his pitching staff was instrumental in leading OU back to the College World Series for the first time since 1995.
The 2010 Sooners registered a program-record 583 strikeouts and produced three drafted pitchers. His 2009 staff included first-round pick Garrett Richards and Ryan Duke. Duke was named All-American; OU’s first since 2000.
Beyond his Division I experience, he spent two seasons as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at perennial Division II national power Florida Southern, where the Mocs twice finished in the top 20 nationally in ERA. He launched his coaching career in 2002 at Brandon High, where he led the team to a district title and a regional runner-up finish as the head coach, earning Hillsborough County Coach of the Year honors.
A left-handed pitcher and first baseman for the Seminoles, Bell helped Martin’s teams reach the 1994 and 1995 CWS in his only two seasons. He was a two-year teammate of FSU assistant coach Mike Martin, Jr., who handled the catching duties for those squads. Bell posted a two-year record of 14-4 with a 3.00 ERA and was twice named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll.
Selected in the 20th round of the 1995 draft by the Montreal Expos, Bell spent six years in the minors, including the final three with the Baltimore Orioles’ organization where he reached the Double-A level.
Prior to enrolling at FSU, where he earned his degree in 1996, Bell spent two seasons pitching at Pasco-Hernando Community College, where he was a two-time All-Suncoast Conference selection.
Bell is married to the former Alicia Favarato, a Florida State graduate, and the couple has two children, daughter Alexis (10) and son, Kyler (8).
BELL BY THE NUMBERS