Go west, young ‘Noles

Florida State players pile on top of each other as they celebrate after an NCAA college baseball tournament super regional game against Stanford on Sunday, June 10, 2012 in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida State won 18-7 and advanced to the College World Series. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)


AP Photo/Phil Sears

Two weeks ago, everyone seemed to be concerned that an 0-3 showing in the ACC Tournament was a sign that Florida State Baseball was stumbling over themselves at the wrong time.

Two weeks later, they’re the only ACC school heading to Omaha.

FSU only needed five games in the NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals combined to clinch their 21st trip to the College World Series. The ‘Noles conserved their offense in the Regionals, scoring just 15 runs in three games to advance to a three-game series with Stanford.

Then, all hell broke loose.

I used the word “decimation” to describe FSU’s 17-1 victory over the Cardinal in Game 1 of the Super Regional series. ESPN announcer Mike Patrick said something like “you just don’t see high run totals in college baseball anymore, thanks to the new bats” in the pregame.

Paging the Seminoles: you weren’t supposed to do that against first-round draft pick Mark Appel. In fact, there’s a lot of things they weren’t supposed to accomplish in the 2012 season, but they won 48 games and clinched a spot in the Final 8.

Win No. 48 of the year came late Sunday night after rain pushed Game 2 of the Super Regional series back a day. 18 runs and one dogpile later, the Seminoles had decimated (there’s that word again) the Cardinal and were finally finished with a long, fruitful season at Dick Howser Stadium.

The youth movement might be the reason why the Seminoles are Omaha-bound, and head coach Mike Martin deserves a lot of credit for making that call. Florida State got to the promised land thanks to freshmen arms like Brandon Leibrandt (who beat Stanford in Game 1) and Mike Compton (who won Game 2). For so long, fans of the Garnet and Gold pulled out their hair watching the offense try to outscore the opponent while their pitchers blew leads. That blueprint never works in the postseason; in baseball, solid pitching almost always wins the battle against solid hitting.

Martin hired pitching coach Mike Bell a few years ago, and thanks to his guidance and a slew of young arms, the Seminoles advanced past the Super Regional round that many thought was the ceiling for this year’s squad.

Now, about that championship drought.

Nearly the entire Western world knows Florida State Baseball has never won the College World Series. They’ve had 20 chances and never brought a trophy home, which is far and away the most trips any school has taken without winning the championship.

With schools like Stony Brook and possibly Kent State joining FSU in Omaha, experience will be a factor. Pitching will be important, too. Luckily, the Seminoles have both, which could yield a deep run or maybe even a championship.

In an athletic year where the football team (briefly) held a top-5 ranking, the basketball team won the ACC Tournament and the baseball team won more games than anyone foresaw, it’s been a great year to be a Seminole.

A national title would be the cherry on top.

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