ATHENS, Ga. – Less than a week ago, Florida State players and coach Mike Martin were on the edge of their seats: Would they even make the NCAA Tournament?
It was quite the predicament as the Seminoles were on the bubble and then announced as one of the last four in before being locked in as a No. 3 seed to the Athens (Ga.) Regional.
Martin stepped up to the podium minutes after the announcement and fielded questions, at one point optimistically stating an opportunity as one of the teams in the field of 64.
“We have a chance to go to Omaha,” Martin said on Monday. “Is it a great chance? Well, any chance is a great chance. So we know that we need to play better than most of the year in order to achieve a goal.”
It seemed like a preposterous statement at the time. Martin, in his final year as a head coach, holding on to a glimmer of hope that the Seminoles had a shot to get to the College World Series in 2019. Certainly this was coachspeak at its best.
Martin has long said that the goal every year is to get to Omaha and fight for a CWS title. This team looked like it didn’t belong in any conversation of the top eight teams in college baseball, let alone the potential that his final team might miss the field altogether.
But FSU put enough pieces together. The sweep of Clemson, series wins over Virginia and Wake Forest. There were ups and downs. There were team meetings.
There was also a feeling that if – and it was a big if – the freshmen develop later in the year this team could turn things around.
“We’ve always known that we’ve been really good,” sophomore outfielder Reese Albert said. “We’re kind of young. Some of the younger guys struggled in the middle of the year. We’re putting all the pieces together now and I think that we are going to be real tough to get through from here on out.”
FSU put the pieces together, alright. The Clemson series in April may have been the best baseball that the Seminoles played in the regular season. But this takes the cake: in three postseason games, FSU held off FAU 13-7 but then gave Georgia a right jab with a 12-3 win on Saturday and threw a 10-1 knockout punch on Sunday.
Three games where FSU had double-digit runs scored. And even though ace Drew Parrish struggled in the opener, C.J. Van Eyk and Conor Grady turn in memorable nights.
FSU was thought to be a pushover in Athens. The NCAA Selection Committee did Martin a courtesy and put him in a regional not out west but in the southeast, albeit one where the Seminoles would need to find a way to defeat the No. 2 seed Owls and then navigate through No. 1 seed Georgia’s stable of potential first-round pitchers.
Who knows what will happen next weekend? FSU will likely play LSU, which defeated Southern Miss late Sunday night, and that could be yet another brutal matchup against an SEC squad that’s considered among the nation’s best. FSU just knocked off one in Georgia this weekend. Can the Seminoles do it again? In the most unpredictable of sports, who knows?
Martin gets one more weekend in the dugout. Maybe more if the dream continues to Omaha. He knows the time is slipping away but it’s one more run, and one memorable run in his 40th season as head coach.
“Oh, it’s starting to sink in a little bit but at the same time the program is about these young men,” Martin said. “It’s not about me. It’s about these guys and I want very much, very much, for them to go to Omaha. I want them to get there. Bad.”