Sept. 27, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida State's run to the College World Series in 2012 resulted in another 50-win season and a top four finish. This year's squad hopes to improve on last year's finish by claiming the first national championship in school history.
But do that the Seminoles will have to fill the void left by four departing All-Americans including James Ramsey, who was a consensus first teamer and a first round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals. Also gone from last year's team are Stopper of the Year finalist and All-American Robert Benincasa, Gold Glove third baseman Sherman Johnson, All-Americans Jayce Boyd and Devon Travis and seniors Brian Busch, Hunter Scantling and Mack Waugh.
"That's what has made Florida State baseball, what it is, it is guys wanting opportunities," said head coach Mike Martin. "Sure, they are happy for guys like Benincasa, Travis and Boyd that got opportunities to go into pro ball, but at the same time it opened up a spot for them and they want that same opportunity. I am happy for them, I'm happy for the guys that signed. It's now up to them and us to put them in the right spots for them to have success and as a result of that success, the team have success."
The 2012-13 team returns 20 players including five positions starters and nine pitchers who threw at least 15.0 innings. Despite losing three starting infielders, a starter in center field and one of the top closers in the nation, the Seminoles welcome back four starting pitchers in Freshmen All-Americans Mike Compton and Brandon Leibrandt, senior right hander Scott Sitz and junior right hander Peter Miller. Catcher Stephen McGee is back after starting all 67 games from behind the plate a season ago. Senior Justin Gonzalez will pace the Seminole offense as the top returning hitter in runs scored (42), hits (54), home runs (9) and RBI (42). Sophomore Jose Brizuela, who made a majority of his starts in left field, will move to third base, while Seth Miller and Josh Delph, who played significant innings last year, will look to fill the corner spots in the outfield.
"Guys know what the expectations are here and they have done a very good job of taking care of themselves (over the summer)," said Martin. "Now is the time to improve. The fall is important when it comes time to being evaluated, but it's even more important that you get in the weight room and utilize these four important months to get stronger and quicker."
"We trying to establish the positions (this fall) due to the fact that we lost a lot of guys last year," said senior captain Justin Gonzalez. "The main thing is to focus on achieving what our ultimate goal is and that is winning a national championship. I don't see this as a rebuilding year; I see it as a year to accomplish that goal."
There are plenty of new faces in the clubhouse this fall as the Seminoles welcome 15 newcomers including nine freshmen and six junior college transfer. This year's incoming class, which was ranked 19th-nationally by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, is made up of five pitchers (including two left handers), four infielders, four outfielders, one catcher and one utility player (listed on the roster at two or more positions including pitcher and catcher).
"A number of good people have come in; the competition is going to be good and competition is certainly the maker of us all," added Martin. "It's important during the fall to get everyone acclimated with what we are trying to do, whether it's to bunt, to become better base runners or just learning how we play the game. We just need things to become more natural for them which means we need to play a lot of scrimmages."
Four student-athletes in this year's class were selected in the MLB First Year Player Draft - three in 2012 and one in 2010. Those four individuals include two-sport standout Jameis Winston (15th round, Texas), DJ Stewart (28th round, NY Yankees), John Sansone (39th round, Detroit) and Hayden Jordan (49th round in 2010, Baltimore).
"They are an awesome group," said Gonzalez on this year's crop of newcomers. "We have a really good group of new guys. There are a lot of guys that are looking to produce early which is very important. The best thing about this group is that they are really good clubhouse guys and they mesh well with the older guys."
The fall Garnet and Gold game will be held Thursday, October 18 and Friday, October 19 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively, on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium. The veteran pitchers will throw on Thursday with the newcomers pitching on Friday. The Seminoles will also host the Ontario Blue Jays on Monday, October 22 at 3 p.m. in the final scrimmage of the fall season.
Fans can always receive updates on the Florida State Baseball team on Twitter @FSU_Baseball. Also, do not forget to like the Seminole Baseball team on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FSUBaseball.