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Messick, bullpen pace FSU to Opening Day win

In what turned out to be a quick game at Dick Howser Stadium, Florida State Baseball started off on the right foot Friday night as they began their opening weekend series against James Madison with a 4-1 win.

This is the first time in Mike Martin Jr.’s tenure as head coach that the Seminoles have started off their season with a win.

“I liked a lot of things we did,” Martin Jr. said postgame. “At-bats were more competitive than last year against a good arm and a good ball club. I was just pleased all the way around.”

At first it seemed as though history would repeat itself as Florida State found itself down early, but the Seminoles responded almost instantly with back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the second inning.

Tennessee Tech transfer Brett Roberts hit a home run to right center in his first at-bat as a Seminole and true freshman James Tibbs followed up with a home run down the left-field line on the very first pitch of his collegiate career.

Parker Messick dominated in his outing on the mound, striking out 11 batters and only allowing one earned run on two hits and two walks in 5.2 innings. The only poor pitch of the night came on the home run he relinquished to JMU’s Travis Reifsnider. Messick was one strikeout away from tying his career high (12).

Despite all of that, Martin Jr. said that Messick wasn’t super sharp in his outing and missed low on a lot of his off-speed pitches. If that was Messick when he isn’t sharp, he may be near impossible to stop when he is sharp.

“I’m pretty happy with how things went, but there are definitely some things I can improve upon,” Messick said. “It’s a good feeling to roll into the season with an opening day win.”

FSU pitchers combined for 18 strikeouts and only allowed the single run on five hits and three walks. Jackson Baumeister made his debut in relief of Messick in a jam and promptly struck out two batters to retire the side. Wyatt Crowell and Jonah Scalaro also made appearances, with Scolaro going 1.2 innings (with four strikeouts) to earn the save.

“We are going to strike a lot of folks out,” Martin Jr. said. “It’s a blessing to have what we have. We need to keep them sharp and keep them fresh.”

Coming into the season, Martin Jr. expressed confidence that his team would reduce strikeouts and errors — as they were the areas in which FSU was woeful last season. The Seminoles only struck out three times and committed no errors on Friday night. 

To be fair, the infield had only two putouts during the game, but so far so good for FSU’s defensive improvements. Martin Jr.’s confidence seems to be well-placed.

First impressions being what they may, this year’s team looks like it has a new identity that may feel unfamiliar in comparison to recent years. An influx of experienced talent has seemingly created a complete makeover of last year’s team. A team that once looked (and played) erratic and inconsistent now seems poised and confident — especially offensively.

In past years, Florida State had stuck to the game plan of excellent pitching and patience at the plate to generate big innings. Walks that turned into runs via home runs or errors were a common occurrence. This year’s team, on the other hand, is certainly not afraid to attack at the plate and is playing for contact rather than swinging for the fences. The Seminoles swung early and often – leading to an offense that felt a lot more alive than in recent years. 

“You think about our good swings,” Martin explained. “We only punched out three times against a good arm. That shows you that they are buying in. It’s good to have a group that is the way they are. Feeding off each other, they are into it, they care about each other. The approach is everything.”

Box score: FSU 4, James Madison 1

The FSU – James Madison box score can be viewed here.

Up next: FSU vs. James Madison

Florida State and James Madison face off for game two of the series on Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will stream live on ACC Network Extra.