Feb. 3, 2005
The 18th-ranked Florida State baseball team opened the season with a lot of questions last week. After a three game sweep of Charleston Southern that saw the squad throw a one-hitter and a two-hitter, post a staff ERA of 1.33 and bat .303 as a team, some of those questions began to get answered. This weekend the Seminoles will get tested again, this time in a three-game series with VMI that begins at 3:30 p.m. Friday, February 4. Head coach Mike Martin will be looking to see how his young team answers those questions this week.
“I saw some guys who were poised last week and I saw some guys that were a little bit out of their element,” said Martin. “That is to be expected when you open a season. This week we hope to see some of the guys that were a little out of their element return to the enjoyment and concentration it takes to play for Florida State.”
“We are ready to go,” said left fielder Gibbs Chapman. “We got the first weekend behind us and now we have a good VMI team that we can’t afford to overlook. We are going to come out early and swing the bats.”
The Seminoles have never lost to VMI in 11 meetings. Last season the team’s opened up the season in Tallahassee and it took a comeback in the bottom of the ninth for FSU to pull out an 8-7, opening day victory.
“Some teams walk in to a stadium and are scared of the name on the jersey but that won’t happen with VMI,” said center fielder Shane Robinson. “When you play a team that is not nationally ranked you can’t let up. They are very well coached and last year they had us down in the ninth inning. We are going to go out and play every game the same and that is by giving 100%.”
“VMI is a team with eight returning starters and they are very well coached,” said Martin. “They know the game. Our job is to do the little things it takes to be successful. If we can play good defense and have some good at bats, I will be very pleased.”
One player that is probably pleased to see VMI is Chapman. The senior got the first start of his FSU career versus VMI in 2004 and proceeded to go 2-for-4 with four RBIs, three of which came on a bases loaded triple.
“Last year I had a pretty good series opening weekend and hopefully that is something that will continue this year,” said Chapman. “My first ever hit at FSU was versus VMI and it was a bunt single down to third, which was my first RBI. My second at bat was a bases loaded triple so that was quite an accomplishment for my first start.”
Chapman went on to start 51 more games and hit .303 on the season. If opening weekend was an indication, he is picking up right where he left off in 2004. The senior hit .429 (6-for-14) with two doubles and an RBI while slugging .571 in three starts against Charleston Southern.
“I felt really good this past weekend,” said Chapman. “I was nervous but not as nervous as last year when I made my first start for Florida State. I felt really confident and I will just try to continue to build on that start.”
Second baseman Tony Thomas, Jr. was one of four Seminole newcomers to start versus Charleston Southern last week and he can relate to the nerves Chapman felt last season. But he feels now that the FSU newcomers have a three-game set under their belts, nerves won’t be an issue anymore.
“I feel pretty confident after getting the first weekend out of the way,” said Thomas. “I got my first ground ball and that was good because after I was able to relax and just play. I am focusing on playing solid defense and if I continue to do that I will help this team win games.”
One area where the Seminoles relied on a mix of newcomers and veterans was pitching and the staff was dominant opening weekend. After opening weekend, all three of FSU pitching coach Jamey Shouppe’s starters had 0.00 ERA’s. Mark Sauls, Michael Hyde and Barret Browning, who are all expected to start versus VMI, combined for a 0.00 ERA, pitched 14 innings, allowed four unearned runs and struck out nine batters. While Hyde was the only starter to get a win, each pitcher put FSU in position to get a victory.
The Seminole staff posted a one-hitter Friday, a two-hitter Saturday and a stellar 1.33 ERA for the weekend. Charleston Southern hit just .128 against FSU and the Buccaneers could muster just one extra base hit, a double which broke up Friday’s potential no-hitter in the eighth inning. In the first two games of the series, CSU did not record a hit after the third inning and of the eight pitchers who threw versus CSU, six didn’t allow an earned run.
“You just don’t expect a repeat pitching performance of what we accomplished last week,” said Martin. “It was one of those weekends where we were definitely ahead of Charleston Southern. Now we just have to keep the game close and try to win it late. VMI is going to give us all we want.”
After starting things of Friday at 3:30, the three-game series with the Keydets continues Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and will conclude Sunday at 1:00 p.m. All three games will be available via Game Tracker. Fans in Tallahassee can listen to the game on WFLA 1270. Every game this season will also be available via an exclusive Internet radio broadcast as well available only at the official athletic website for Florida State seminoles.com.