Headed to St. Petersburg

Mike Martin might have tweaked his surgically repaired right shoulder Monday morning picking up firewood, but that hasn't slowed FSU's veteran coach. FSU enters the ACC Tourney as top seed and winners of 17 consecutive games following its stunning sweep at Clemson. Martin said Robby Read will start FSU's opener Wednesday, and he continues to credit the Seminoles' approach for their success "...they expect a lot out of each other and it really has been fun watching them play," Martin said.

Mike Martin is not worried about sleep this time of year.

After arriving home early Monday morning from Florida State's stunning sweep at top-ranked Clemson, Martin's Seminoles were back on the road a few hours later to St. Petersburg for the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. There was no need to worry about insomnia.

"It was a short night, but you really run a lot this time of year on adrenaline. I was up at 5:30 a.m. and I made a fire at quarter of six," Martin said and laughed early Monday afternoon.

Of course, FSU (51-12, 18-6) is one of the nation's hottest teams, winners of 17 consecutive games - including 15 straight conference games. Nestled in fourth place in the league standings just a few days ago, the Seminoles enter the ACC Tourney as the regular-season champions and top seed after earning their first-ever sweep at Clemson.

FSU opens play Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at Al Lang Stadium against the winner of Tuesday night's game between last-place Duke and No. 8 Maryland.

The weekend sweep, which saw FSU outscore the Tigers 30-9, should also seal a top-eight seed for FSU in the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Baseball Committee announces that decision and the 64-team field Monday. The Seminoles were eliminated in postseason last year in the Super-Regional at Georgia in three games.

"I am just so proud of the guys," Martin said. "It was just a tremendous display of poise. To go up there and beat Clemson, you have to be poised and good. And we were both."

Martin admitted that he was hoping for two wins and conference help at Clemson. Martin figured such a scenario would give the Seminoles an opportunity to finish second in the league. However, Duke's stunning victory over Wake Forest on Saturday opened the door for FSU. The Seminoles kicked both the door and the Tigers' striped tails to clinch their improbable regular-season title.

FSU once stood 3-6 and sixth in the conference two months ago. When the dust settled Sunday evening, FSU, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Clemson rounded out the top four finishers. Georgia Tech is followed by Virginia, NC State, Maryland and Duke.

"Being the last series of the year and knowing that Duke had to beat Wake Forest for us to even have a chance to win the league and I knew if we won two out of three, we could finish second if Georgia Tech swept North Carolina," Martin said. "I have to be honest with you. I went up there hoping they would sweep and we would win two out of three and finish second.

"But when Duke beat Wake Forest, our guys knew about in the sixth inning (Saturday) when we found out, we knew if we win the next two ballgames (Saturday and Sunday), they said, 'We can win this thing.' They literally took the bull by the horns."

Indeed. Martin pointed to the Seminoles' timely hitting, clutch pitching and solid defense. Catcher Tony Richie smacked the Tigers for four home runs, two doubles and eight RBIs. Senior outfielder Mike Futrell, mired in a season-long hitting slump, had five hits in place of injured Nick Rogers.

Starters Matt Lynch (12-1), Blair Varnes (7-3) and Marc LaMacchia (9-1) allowed just seven earned runs and 22 hits in 21 innings, while reliever Daniel Hodges surrendered zero earned runs and four hits in 4.2 innings.

"To say that we are not playing well is certainly a dumb statement," Martin said. "I just feel that everybody is trying to live up to their responsibilities to the team. We have some guys that have shown they can steal a base when they need to. Some guys that are playing outstanding defense. Our pitchers are really throwing well. I think it's a case of a team that's just that. They are a team."

Martin, as he has done the entire season, also credits the team's senior leadership for its success.

"I think the success is because of the tremendous leadership of Ryan Barthelemy, Blair Varnes. Mike Futrell. If you look at Futrell and say, 'What kind of leadership does he got? He hasn't even played a lot of the year.' But that says it right there. He has been right there pulling for everybody. Blair McCaleb is a senior who has done a good job handling his role the last two years. Very, very proud of each and every one of them. What an accomplishment (winning at Clemson).

"I don't know when a Florida State team has accomplished something of this magnitude in the regular season. I mean it's not anything you can compare to what our football team did when we beat LSU, Nebraska, Ohio State on the road. I think you could say it's like beating one of them. That's something that you don't expect, no doubt. You just don't expect that (dominating Clemson)."

Still, Martin also acknowledges the work is just beginning for the Seminoles, who easily beat Duke during the regular-season - they outscored the Blue Devils 49-12 - but needed last-inning heroics to register two of their three wins against the Terps. If FSU wins Wednesday, it will face the Clemson-Georgia Tech winner Thursday.

Despite upcoming obstacles, Martin also wants his team to cherish is most recent accomplishment. FSU had just won two of its previous 13 games at Clemson.

"The second season begins. We had a good first season," Martin said. "We will savor this until Wednesday. I want our guys to savor this. That was a tremendous accomplishment. Darn right. Live on it. But we will be ready to go as quickly as Wednesday gets here."

Martin, the Seminoles and other team members will get to enjoy a tournament dinner tonight. FSU will practice Tuesday in preparation for its opener. Martin said he will start right-hander Robby Read in Wednesday's game, followed by Matt Lynch and Blair Varnes in the rotation. Martin also must decided on the status of Rogers, who sat out the Clemson series with a sore thumb.

"Anything that happens will revolve around Nick Rogers," Martin said. "We've got to see if he's going to be ready. If he's ready then, of course, we have a decision to make. Somebody has got to go to the bench."

About the lone bad decision Martin made over the weekend occurred Monday morning, when he went outside his home to gather some firewood after a few hours of sleep. Martin tweaked his surgically repaired right shoulder as he attempted to cradle the firewood as he carried it on the unseasonably cool morning. That prompted an early call to his surgeon to fess up.

"It doesn't feel nearly as good today as it did yesterday - I should have never picked up that wood," said Martin, who opted not to wear his arm sling at Clemson and declared himself fit enough to go without. "I never told my doctor about that either (laughing). But I will be alright."

The same could be said for his Seminoles.

"Well, this ballclub does not quit, and they won't quit," Martin said. "What they have is leadership, they depend on each other, they expect a lot out of each other and it really has been fun watching them play."


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