Feb. 14, 2012
By Scott Kotick, Seminoles.com
Pitching and defense win baseball games, plain and simple. Winning comes down to solid arms out of the bullpen and whether or not a team plays solid defense.
Since Mike Martin arrived in Tallahassee more than 30 years ago, the Seminole baseball team has boasted one of the top infields in the entire country.
But 2012 might just rival all of them. With three year starters Jayce Boyd, Devon Travis, Justin Gonzalez, and Sherman Johnson all returning this season, this infield has been through it all together, the ups and the downs. The core that started every game in 2011 is back.
They've played together for so long that it's almost second nature to these four friends.
"I wouldn't even call it a friendship, it's more like a family now," Gonzalez said. "We've been together through thick and thin through the seasons, grinding it out. I feel as though we can talk on and off the field, just not about baseball, it's a close relationship as well."
"It's very cool, because I'm sure that doesn't happen very often," Boyd said. "Normally you have one guy on the field that's new and you have to readjust, but to have guys who have been together for as long as we have is something special."
"Me, Justin, and Jayce--we all came in together, and I'd definitely this year is the closest we've been," Travis said. "We understand that time is getting short and we want to bring the first national championship back to Tallahassee."
"We have an infield that does know eachother backwards and forwards," head coach Mike Martin said. "You've got four guys who have played three years together. Sherman Johnson is a two-year starter at third, the same with Devon at second and Justin at short. JB (Jayce Boyd) starts his third year at first base."
Errors are rare with these guys. They field their positions and make it look easy. But it's not just outstanding defense. These four are absolute forces at the plate.
Second baseman Devon Travis led the ACC in doubles in 2011 and was third on the team in batting average. He's the Seminoles' regular lead off hitter and is poised for even bigger things this season.
Shortstop Justin Gonzalez was second on the team in home runs in 2011, and will be counted on to provide a even bigger presence at the plate.
While he's certainly one of the most powerful bats in the lineup, Boyd is arguably the best defensive first baseman to ever play inside Dick Howser Stadium.
"There should be a new stat in fielding, and it's saved errors, and Jayce would lead the country in that one," Gonzalez said. "He has helped us out tremendously, it's amazing. People say it's easy to play first base, but not the way he plays first base. He's definitely gifted at what he does."
"We definitely owe him some dinners, he's great and I've never seen guys pick the balls he's picked except for guys on tv," Travis said. "It's crazy how blessed we are to have Jayce Boyd on our team."
"It's a huge comfort to be on first and know what the ball is going to do when it comes out of their hands," Boyd said. "Sherman throws the ball with a lot of backspin, so throws that are low usually stay low and don't one-hop me too bad. It's good to know what the guys are going to do and where they're going to be and how long it takes them to get rid of the ball. It's little intricacies like that of the game that makes it a lot easier to play our positions."
So the Seminoles will head into this season with just one position to fill. A replacement for three-year starter Rafael Lopez will be needed behind the plate, but sophomore Stephen McGee and freshman Mario Amaral should be able to step right in for Mike Martin's squad.
The core of Florida State's team has returned and are expecting great things in Tallahassee this year.
We'll continue our preview of 2012 Florida State Baseball later in the week as we take a closer look at the pitching staff under new associate head coach Mike Bell.