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Belanger, Noles excited by talent and depth of pitching staff

The goal for Florida State Baseball is Omaha. It has been that way for decades. It may continue to be that way for decades. 

While players come and go, the expectations of Seminoles baseball remain a constant. The personality of the team is often what separates them apart from one another. 

As the media gets to speak more and more with coaches and players leading up to opening day against North Florida on Saturday, one thing is becoming more and more apparent – this team’s personality trait is an overwhelming amount of confidence. 

The Seminoles are not only returning an exorbitant number of veteran players but are also poised to have one of the top college pitching staffs. 

“Meat tells us every day, ‘Guys, this is going to be the best pitching staff in the country,’ ” catcher Matheu Nelson said. “And it’s not just him saying that. You will see it when you come and watch us. We are putting together some really good at-bats, but at the same time we have one of the best staffs in the country. To do what we are doing but to also have our pitchers trick us with pitches in weird counts (and we still fight it off) shows how well rounded we are.”

Besides the coaches, there are very few people who can give a better assessment than the catcher. Nelson, who is now entering his third season as a Seminole, also noted how difficult it was to learn the mass amount of pitchers that he would be catching.

Florida State has 23 pitchers on the roster for this season, and throughout the preseason, many of them were locked in intense competition for starting spots. Redshirt freshman Parker Messick emerged as the Day 1 starter for the Seminoles after the dust settled. To Messick, it’s an honor that culminates everything a pitcher works for.

“I’m always one for competition,” Messick said. “We are all great friends on the team so just knowing that we were competing against each other for a role — we didn’t know where we would be and we have a deep staff this year. It was always fun messing with each other and bantering while trying to compete with one another to make each other better. Ultimately, that’s what it did and now we are ready to rock and roll.”

It has all oddly worked out in favor for the Seminoles. In a year in which things have the tendency to be constantly changing and evolving with the pandemic, the ’Noles have one of their deepest staffs in years. In the event of having players out due to health and safety protocols, the Seminoles have someone equally as talented as the next man up. The idea of having to throw a tired arm into the game seems almost non-existent.

“We are getting a lot of guys to play a lot of different matchups,” pitching coach Jimmy Belanger said. “Based off our opponent, we’ll be able to do different things. We can throw power at guys, we can throw some different angles at others. I think you’ll see a lot of guys out there, especially early on. It’s said that if you got a lot of quantity, but not a lot of good players — then that’s bad. We have a lot of quantity and a lot of good players, so it’s overall a good thing.”

Belanger added that in all 11 years of him coaching collegiate baseball, the pitching staff has remained the same from start to finish only a handful of times. 

With a staff full of talented pitchers across the board, he certainly isn’t short of options. While setting the starting three for opening weekend (Messick, Carson Montgomery, Conor Grady), Belanger acknowledged that there are still a lot of roles that are being revisited and evaluated. 

“Every day our guys have to show up and bring it,” Belanger said. “There are still roles that are undefined on our staff. We’ve got seven or eight guys that we can draw on the back end of the game. I think as the year plays on, we’ll see kind of how that shapes itself.”

One name consistently mentioned was Montgomery, the No. 1 ranked right-handed pitcher in the 2020 recruit class. Montgomery has had a consistent preseason, working on his delivery extensively with Belanger and working his way into one of the few coveted starter slots on the team. Additionally, he has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches in a short amount of time.

“He’s a great kid,” Messick said. “He could easily be one of those kids that is supposed to get drafted who comes in being cocky and expecting all kinds of stuff. He’s absolutely not that way. He’s one of the most humble people I’ve talked to, and he will go out and dominate this season.” 

“We’ve never seen the cocky side to him — if there even is one,” Nelson added. “I hope there isn’t because he’s a very humble person.”

Montgomery may be the youngest player on the roster, but he could play a huge role this season for the Seminoles alongside the other plentiful talent on the mound. 

The supreme confidence and hunger of this year’s Seminoles team is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory. Florida State hasn’t played a game against another school in 11 months, and the wait is finally over this weekend. 

“I have never seen more tempers flare at each other, just because we are so tired of playing against each other,” Nelson said. “We are tired of playing against each other, and we are ready to play against somebody else.”

Led by potentially the best pitching staff in the nation, the Seminoles will finally have that opportunity against North Florida to prove that their confidence is well deserved.