Baseball Embracing Challenge, Opportunity At No. 2 Louisville
By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After three weeks at home, the Florida State baseball team is preparing for an extended stay on the road.
The Seminoles are headed to Louisville, Ky., where they'll close out the regular season with a three-game series against the second-ranked Cardinals beginning Thursday.
And given that Louisville is also the site of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the Seminoles plan to stay put in the Derby City.
The tournament starts on Tuesday, May 23, and if FSU reaches the conference championship game, it will have spent 11 days in Louisville.
That's just fine with coach Mike Martin, who believes a business trip without any of the potential distractions of a home series might do his team well.
“It's not going to hurt us to go on the road,” Martin said. “We have played pretty darn good on the road this year. It's nice for our guys to go to another part of the country, line up and see what happens.”
The only thing certain is that the Seminoles will meet perhaps their toughest opponent of the season.
Louisville ranks second nationally in team ERA (2.59), has shut out its opponents nine times and has tallied a nation's-best 46 victories.
Two-way star and potential No. 1 draft pick Brendan McKay (8-3, 1.80 ERA.; .372/.488/.703) paces Louisville, but Martin sees talent across the roster.
“I don't see any weaknesses,” he said. “They've got good starting pitching. They've got experience, they've got power. … They're a team that is probably enjoying the best year of any team in the last 20 (years). I just don't know of anybody that has done what they've done in one year. I mean, 46-and-(7) … they're a talented club.”
FSU dropped a pair of one-run games to No. 20 Wake Forest last weekend, but prior to that had been riding a five-game winning streak.
The Seminoles, who were ranked No. 1 earlier this season, are confident that they still have the pieces to challenge the Cardinals and, later, make some noise in the postseason.
That more than half of their losses have come by two or fewer runs suggests that they may be right.
No surprise then that they're treating this trip to Louisville as a test, but also as an opportunity.
“It's going to be a challenge, but we're definitely excited for it, and we're going to have to make something happen,” said sophomore Tyler Holton, who earlier this week became the first Seminole to earn four ACC pitcher of the week honors in the same season.
“We've just got to get over that hump. And hopefully this weekend is the one that we do it.”
If they can do that, then the entire complexion of the season could change at the perfect time.
Martin, in his 37th year at the helm, has seen it happen before. The calendar inches toward June and everything that led up to that point – whether good or bad – starts to feel further away.
“This is an exciting time of year for everybody,” Martin said. “You don't know what the future holds. You don't know what's going to happen. You just know that you need to continue to battle, stay tough, believe in the guy next to you and see what happens.”