Baseball Preview

TALLAHASSEE - Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin will enter his 26th season on the bench Friday facing an unfamiliar challenge. With over 70 percent of his roster comprised of freshmen and sophomores, FSU's longtime skipper will have to learn to win with youth.


"We're going to have to be patient," Martin said. "Only experience can help this team now. We have to get out there and play."

The Seminoles will get that opportunity this weekend when they host Charleston Southern in a three-game series that kicks off a 12-game homestand to start the season.

Martin has three true freshmen and a sophomore transfer penciled into his starting lineup. Transfers Michael Hyde and Barret Browning will get the first cracks at rotation spots behind Mark Sauls, who will start the opener Friday afternoon.

How youth responds in competition will go a long way in determining if FSU - the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion - can return to regional play for an NCAA-record 28th consecutive season.

"Our expectations are the same every year - to go to Omaha and win a national championship," Martin said. "We are not going to lower those. If we ever lower those, it's time for me to go to the golf course."

Helping Martin provide guidance will be senior catcher Aaron Cheesman, one of two Seminoles who started all 68 games last season. Cheesman's .347 average and 18 doubles were good for second on the team behind the departed Eddy Martinez-Esteve, but his clubhouse contributions have taken on an immeasurable value.

"The leadership role will be intensified this year with all these younger guys we have," he said. "There always seems to be that guy around here that stands out in the locker room and does the little things that you don't see... to act as a big brother, to help with school work and problems."

Cheesman got a taste of the role in 2004, when a Super-Regional loss at Arkansas ended a 45-23 season. But after Martinez-Esteve (Giants) and Stephen Drew (Diamondbacks) signed professional contracts and left school early, those responsibilities fell squarely upon his shoulders.

Cheesman and relief pitcher Kevin Lynch are the only two players on the roster who have been with the Seminoles for four seasons.

"He's a steady influence on everyone and we look to him is so many different ways," Martin said. "He's our leader, he's a senior and his been there before."

First-baseman Ryne Malone and left-fielder Gibbs Chapman appear to be the best candidates to help Cheesman with the run-producing workload. Shane Robinson, who came on with a flurry down the stretch last season to pick up MVP honors at the ACC Tournament, will set the table from leadoff spot.

Tony Thomas, Jr. gets the first crack at second while Tallahassee natives Bryan Henry and Nick Francis make up the left side of the infield.

"At this point, I am confident in where I have everyone," Martin said. "It's just time for them to go out and perform. I think most of these guys know that there aren't many positions that are locked up."

Because of the expanded ACC, the Seminoles will face rival Florida just twice in mid-week games and will get just one weekend series opposite Miami as opposed to the customary six-game, home-and-home format of years past. A home series against Auburn Feb. 11-13 will give the Seminoles the first chance to galvanize in the face of adversity.

"Our youth could work to our advantage," Malone said. "We have kids out there who don't know what pressure is yet."

Florida State
Coach: Mike Martin (1338-452-4, 21st season) 2004 Record: 45-23 Projected Starters - C Aaron Cheesman, Sr. 1B Ryne Malone, So. 2B Tony Thomas, Fr. 3B Bryan Henry, So. SS Nick Francis, Fr. LF Gibbs Chapman, Sr. CF Shane Robinson, So. RF Jack Rye, Fr. DH Brant Peacher, So.

Infield: Malone returns after a solid freshman campaign (.330/12/54) and will be the biggest threat at the plate for the Seminoles. Henry - a JUCO tranfer - will also see time on the mound.

Outfield: The speedy Robinson swiped 19 bases and started all 68 games in center as a freshman. Martin will likely audition several capable newcomers at the corner spots.

Pitching: Mark Sauls (6-4, 5.22) takes over as day starter in an overhauled rotation. Glen Simon and Hunter Jones are still recovering from off-season surgery, making way for freshman Barret Browning and sophomore Michael Hyde to start this weekend.
Schedule:

01/28/2005 Charleston Southern 3:30
01/29/2005 Charleston Southern 2:00
01/30/2005 Charleston Southern 1:00
02/04/2005 VMI 3:30
02/05/2005 VMI . 2:00
02/06/2005 VMI 1:00
02/11/2005 Auburn 3:30
02/12/2005 Auburn 2:00
02/13/2005 Auburn 1:00
02/18/2005 St. Joseph's 3:30
02/19/2005 St. Joseph's 2:00
02/20/2005 St. Joseph's 12:30
02/22/2005 @Stetson 7:00
02/23/2005 @Stetson 3:00
02/25/2005 Appalachian St 3:30
02/26/2005 Appalachian St 2:00
02/27/2005 Appalachian St 1:00
03/04/2005 @Hawaii-Hilo    6:00
03/05/2005 @Hawaii-Hilo    1:00
03/06/2005    @Hawaii-Hilo    11:00 a.m.
03/06/2005    @Hawaii-Hilo    TBA
03/07/2005    @Hawaii-Hilo    3:00
03/09/2005    @Hawaii Pacific 7:00
03/10/2005    @Hawaii 6:35
03/11/2005    @Hawaii 6:35
03/12/2005    @Hawaii 1:05
03/18/2005    Virginia Tech    6:00
03/19/2005    Virginia Tech    6:00
03/20/2005    Virginia Tech    1:00
03/22/2005    Jacksonville    6:00
03/25/2005    @Duke 7:00
03/26/2005    @Duke 2:00
03/27/2005    @Duke 1:30
03/30/2005    Florida    6:00
04/01/2005    Clemson    7:00
04/02/2005    Clemson    7:00
04/03/2005    Clemson    1:00
04/06/2005    Jacksonville    6:00
04/08/2005    Wake Forest    7:00
04/09/2005    Wake Forest    7:00
04/10/2005    Wake Forest    1:00
04/12/2005    @Jacksonville    7:00
04/15/2005    @Georgia Tech    7:00
04/16/2005    @Georgia Tech    1:00

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