Kings of Clutch

Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin has had a lot to smile about in the early going of this season. FSU is off to a 15-1 start. His staff sports a nifty 2.60 ERA and his offense leads the ACC in team batting average and slugging percentage. Perhaps most encouraging, however, is his young team's ability to perform in close contests.

Florida State is 5-0 in games decided by one run.

"I have been very proud of the way we have responded in those situations,"
said Martin, whose team rallied to beat Appalachian State 4-1 Saturday afternoon. "They way we have reacted in close games is very encouraging. I think that its a credit to our poise."

Saturday illustrated that. With the game tied 1-1, FSU pulled ahead in the bottom of the eighth when Shane Robinson drove home Tony Thomas with a one-out double to the gap in left center. Gibbs Chapman and Ryne Malone added insurance runs before Tyler Chambliss nailed down the win with his fifth save of the season.

"We knew that was that had to be the time to get things going," Robinson said. "We have a lot of guys around here who understand how to perform in the clutch."

Florida State has won against Auburn and VMI in walk-off fashion at home and also took a pair of one-run games at Stetson this past week. Robinson, Malone, Aaron Cheesman, Bryan Henry and Jack Rye have provided game-winning RBIs this season.

"We know we aren't going to win all the close games," Martin said. "But down the stretch, it makes it much easier for you to perform when you've already been in these situations. Winning games like this will go a long, long way for us."

Crunch time has indeed been the best time for FSU. The Seminoles have outscored their opposition 18-6 in the eighth and ninth innings while its staff has posted a miniscule 1.93 ERA in the eighth and 1.29 mark in the ninth.

To contrast: FSU was 10-6 in one-run games last season and 7-5 in 2003.

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