Around the Horn

FSU has never won a College World Series. Of course, that's old news. The current Seminoles are hoping this year can be different. Riding a top ranking and 22-game win streak, FSU opens regional play Friday against Stetson. In this candid interview, assistant coach Mike Martin, Jr., critiques the Seminoles' lineup by position. "We can run. We can play defense. We have guys who have talent. ... It's not a loaded team by any means but it's a well-balanced team," he said.

Florida State coach Mike Martin says his players have "taken advantage of every opportunity they've had the past five or six weeks." Of course, the Seminoles want that trend to continue in the post-season.

The Seminoles (56-12) were selected as the top seed in the NCAA Tournament's 64-team field Monday. The other seeded teams are: Clemson (47-14), Alabama (48-13), Rice (47-11), Texas (48-14), South Carolina (48-14), Wake Forest (44-11-1) and Stanford (40-16). FSU is in the tournament for the 25th consecutive year but, of course, has never won a College World Series.

The Seminoles are hopeful this year can be different. FSU, which opens the double-elimination first round Friday against Stetson, finished as runners-up in 1970, '86 and '99. The Seminoles also are on a 22-game winning streak and are one victory from setting a school record. FSU's last defeat was 6-5 to South Alabama at home on April 16.

The Southeastern Conference, with Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina, led all conferences with seven teams after sending a record-eight last year. The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Conference USA had five each. FSU is 22-9 against the field, while Clemson is 15-2, including five consecutive defeats this season to the Seminoles.

With the Seminoles in ideal position to make a run at their first CWS title, it's time to talk positions.

FSU assistant coach Mike Martin, Jr. critiques FSU's starting lineup:

Catcher: Tony Richie (.333, 11 HR, 68 RBI, 17 2B, 38 assists): "Tony is coming into his own. I mean that from a standpoint of leadership, handling the pitching staff. I think the numbers reflect that since he has become more outspoken, more taking things personally. What he's doing at the plate is what he did last year. He's a guy who likes to get hot late, and he has really played well for us. A big key for us."

First base: Jerrod Brown (.333, 4 HR, 49 RBI, 409 putouts, .980 fielding percentage: "Jerrod Brown is probably the reason we are here. He has really stepped up. He has continued to improve every single week. What he has been able to give us has been a big part of it."

Second base: Bryan Zech (.312, 14 2B, 10 SB, 24 errors): "Bryan Zech hasn't been swinging the bat great right now but his defense has been outstanding. The amount of importance put on defense in college baseball should not be overlooked. And he has played great defense and I expect him to get it going offensively again."

Shortstop: Stephen Drew (.383, 10 2B, 14 HR, 48 RBI, .714 slugging percentage, 11 SB, 125 total bases, 6 errors, .969 fielding percentage): "What can you say? He is playing great. He's putting pressure on the opponent's defense at the top of the order. He's playing great defense for us. He's a heckuva player. He has to continue to improve and get better in certain areas, but he's special."

Third base: Ryan Barthelemy (.379, 102 hits, 24 2B, 17 HR, 90 RBI, 185 total bases, .688 slugging percentage, 15 errors).: "Bart, this is his team. He wants that role. He wants that responsibility and nothing get past him. Nothing from a standpoint of camaraderie, to RBIs to anything. This is his club and he wants it that way."

Outfield: Tony McQuade (.371, 22 2B, 43 RBI, 120 total bases, .619 slugging percentage, .483 on-base percentage): "Tony is playing great for us also. He's a guy who came in at 180 pounds and he's 205 pounds now and he's an intimidating presence out there."

Outfield: Richie Smith (.263, 28 RBI, 12 stolen bases, .411 on-base percentage): "Richie has done a great job for us. His numbers don't look that great, but the defense he has played, not only that but from the standpoint of his on-base percentage. Hitting down at the bottom of the order, you have to have people get on base and he has a .411 on-base percentage. That's really big for us."

Outfield: Mike Futrell (.279, 15 2B, .441 slugging percentage, 7 stolen bases, .956 fielding percentage): "Mike is starting to come on of late. He is getting stroke back and his confidence back. He has played great defensively this run we've had the last 22 games."

Outfield: Nick Rogers (.338, 19 2B, 8 HR, 61 RBI, 17 stolen bases, .538 slugging percentage, .441 on-base percentage): "Nick, who we haven't seen in awhile (Rogers has missed time with a sore thumb) but we really need because he brings the power and speed to the table. And that's very, very important to be able to put pressure on people."

Martin, Jr. on team: "Just the leadership. That's why we felt this comfortable as we did with this club. A lot of people were down on us when we were 3-6 but nothing bothered us because we knew we had the leadership with (Blair) Varnes and (Matt) Lynch from the pitching standpoint. And (Mike) Futrell, (Ryan) Barthelemy and seniors on the offensive side. When you have guys like that, it makes it a lot easier on coaches."

Martin, Jr. on team comparisons: "This is more like the '99 team. The '99 team had a good blend of leadership and talent. And that team was one run from being national champions. Shoot, for that matter, we were five feet. The ball Marshall (McDougall) hit, that ball goes out of the ball park (against Miami) we win it. It's a good balance. We can run. We can play defense. We have guys who have talent. We have great pitching. It's not a loaded team by any means but it's a well-balanced team."


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