Mike Martin constantly talks about the importance of battling all 27 outs in the game, and Florida State has long had a reputation for being one of the toughest teams in the country to shut down for a full game.
Martin opened the postgame press conference after Florida State's season-ending loss to Alabama by eulogizing the near comeback with more of that familiar sentiment.
"I'm very proud of our ball club for fighting," Martin said. "It's never over until you get the 27th out and our guys battled, got back in it and unfortunately, we came up a little short. But it goes to show you what can happen. You never know."
As proud as Martin may be of his team's fight, I don't know how he can look those players in the face after explaining his decision to pinch run for John Nogowski after his cleanup hitter opened the ninth inning with a single up the middle.
That's the last time I play Mr. Nice Guy. I wanted him to receive attention because of what he has done for this program for three years. We certainly hope he comes back next year, but that was the reason he was taken out, just to receive attention from the fans.
That was the reason he was taken out, just to receive attention from the fans.
Astonishing. So with three outs remaining in a game where FSU would need to bat around in order to make an historic comeback, Martin—the man with the mantra of fighting to the end—readily admits he believed the game was over and wanted his third-year slugger to get the chance for a curtain call.
Sure enough, Florida State's players mounted a furious rally, with D.J. Stewart's line drive into center field pulling the Noles within a run and putting the tying run on third. And had Martin not already pulled Nogowski, his cleanup hitter would have had an opportunity for far more than a polite curtain call.
Instead, Martin sent freshman Gage West, who was batting .167 on the year, to the plate for a lefty-lefty matchup against Alabama's closer, a low-percentage play that would have been entirely unnecessary had Martin not pulled his right-handed cleanup hitter earlier in the inning.
We'll never know if Nogowski would have fared better than West, who took a good swing and put the ball in play. But that's precisely the problem. Martin's indefensible decision to throw in the towel only 24 outs into the game ultimately cost his team its best opportunity only two outs later.
Florida State's players have obviously internalized Martin's fight-till-the-last-out mantra, and of that Martin should be proud. It's just too bad the Seminole skipper himself seems to have missed the message, at least for the final game of 2014.