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FSU’s regional struggles mirrored regular season issues

AUBURN, Ala. — An all-too-familiar feeling permeated in the halls of Plainsman Park on Sunday afternoon.

Florida State had once again seen a season come to an end earlier than is expected at program like FSU. With the loss to UCLA, the Seminoles were packing their bags after another 1-2 performance in an SEC regional. 

For the second straight year a season ended in bitter disappointment. 

“A lot of emotion, it’s never easy to end your season,” Mike Martin Jr. said after his team’s season ended with a 2-1 loss. “We’ve got to coach them better.”

Fundamental blunders a common theme

Perhaps what stung the most in Auburn wasn’t that Florida State didn’t advance out of the regional but in how the losses happened. 

Even worse, it might be the defeats occurred in ways that weren’t too shocking. Base running errors, fielding mistakes, uncompetitive at-bats have been a theme all season for the Seminoles. Series after series, it was one aspect of the game lacking or another. Chalking it up as learning lesson and hoping the team would fix them by the postseason might have been naïve. They all compounded into a disappointing weekend overall, especially in a 21-7 loss to Auburn on Saturday night. 

“They outplayed us in every facet,” Martin Jr. said following the loss to Auburn. “We flat out stunk.”

The Seminoles never really gave themselves a chance against the Tigers, never punched back to change the momentum of the game, and never really looked ready for the raucous Tiger crowd that awaited them that night.

From Tyler Martin getting thrown out at second on a poor dirtball read, Alex Toral getting picked off from second base on a ball four at the plate, to Jaime Ferrer running past a ball into the outfield that rolled under his glove, it was a total disaster for FSU against Auburn.

“We ran the gamut (of mistakes),” Martin Jr. said. “We miscommunicated on pop-ups and with the time of the year and the environment, you have to be able to think.”

Getting humiliated on national television by an SEC foe is one thing, losing by a historic run differential spanning more than 60 years is something this program could have never seen coming. The players and coaching staff spend a lot of time and hard work preparing for each weekend to make eight errors in the field, multiple mistakes on the base paths, and to fail to get timely hits is a tough pill to swallow for a second straight year. 

Offense struggles to find rhythm, identity

For much of the season Florida State could never really get into any kind of offensive groove. Sure, they had weekends where things clicked in a lineup, or a player had a hot weekend. But, for the most part, the offensive attack was far too easy for opposing pitching staffs to go up against. 

The Seminoles finished dead last in the ACC in runs scored per game and home runs. They were one of the worst teams in the conference in batting average and on-base percentage. They also struck out the most of any team and were towards the bottom of the league in stolen bases.

What’s hard to grasp is that Martin Jr. is a hitting coach by trade. Offense is his forte. It’s something “Meat” must make the priority going forward for the program.

“We were 20 to 30 percent swinging out of the strike zone more today (than normal),” Martin Jr. said. “We’ve got to coach them better, ultimately it falls on me.”

In the Auburn Regional, FSU scored only 13 runs all weekend in three games combined, with nearly half of them coming late against Auburn’s scrubs in a game that was over by the middle innings. Overall, the Seminoles had just 24 hits in the regional and only nine extra-base hits.

Ferrer, Scolaro shine on biggest stage

Ferrer arrived in Tallahassee last summer a relative unknown to most Seminoles fans. The Puerto Rico native was a baby-faced phenom in high school but was eager to prove to those in Tallahassee he had the makings of a future lynchpin of the FSU offense.

In his debut season, he’s showed he has the makings of one of the all-time greats to wear the Seminoles’ uniform.

He hit .320 in 2022 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs and hit .333 in the regional, including numerous big moments. He led the team with two hits in FSU’s win against UCLA on Friday and then provided a go-ahead bomb over the left field “green monster” in the seventh inning against the Bruins on Sunday. 

The All-ACC freshmen team member shined in big spots time and time again throughout his first season in Tallahassee and is someone to count on going forward for the Seminoles. 

“He’s got a chance to be a middle-of-the-order superstar at FSU,” Martin Jr. said.

From a rookie to a vet, Jonah Scolaro saved his best for last on Sunday against UCLA.

The fifth-year senior delivered an all-time memorable performance against the Bruins, going 6.1 innings, giving up just one earned run and striking out nine. 

“I told the coaches my pitch count was 300, I’m just going until I can’t anymore,” Scolaro said.

“It was awesome to watch, but that’s Jonah,” Martin Jr. added. “He was firing strikes and he had all four pitches working.”

The Valrico, Fla., native threw 91 pitches, nearly 30 more than his previous career high and left his heart on the field for what would be the last of 120 total appearances during his time in Tallahassee. The southpaw was phenomenal with the season on the line and ended his career as Seminoles with a 3.62 ERA and over 160 innings pitched.

“It’s in my blood now,” Scolaro said of being a Seminole. “I wish I could go back and do all 120 (appearances) over again. I wouldn’t change a thing.”