March 10, 2006
Tallahassee, FL – For the second-ranked Florida State Seminoles, the second part of their season begins tonight with ACC foe Maryland coming to town. FSU (15-1, 0-0) has just one out of conference series left on the schedule and starting tonight 10 of the next 11 weekends they will be battling for position in a conference that has four teams ranked in the top five and as many as seven teams ranked overall. First up will be a Maryland (6-7, 2-1) team that is sitting in front of FSU in the Atlantic Division thanks to a series win over Duke last week. First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. tonight.
“The excitement level increases,” said FSU Head Coach Martin about ACC play. “Anytime you play in the Atlantic Coast Conference with the level of competition we are facing, every game is big. You have to position yourself to get to postseason play and that starts with your conference.”
After playing five straight non-conference series and a couple of mid-week games, the Seminoles will begin their quest for a fifth title and a first ever Atlantic Division crown this weekend. The Seminoles have won two of the last four ACC Titles most recently in 2004.
“We will keep everything the same but the intensity will step up a little bit,” said third baseman Ryne Malone. “We have done a good job focusing on our competition and scoring runs. With Maryland and the rest of the ACC competition the rest of the way out, we will have to step up a little bit.”
Florida State has been exceptional in the first series of the conference season. Since joining the ACC in 1992, Florida State is 34-5 in ACC opening series. The Seminoles have never lost an ACC opening series and have swept its opener eight times in 14 tries. Florida State is on a 25-game winning streak when it comes to the opening weekend of ACC play at home. The last time the Garnet & Gold lost a conference game at home on opening weekend was 1997 to Virginia in the second game of the series. That was also the last time FSU failed to sweep its first ACC home series of a given season.
“This is the first series in a long conference season and there will be a few months to work this out,” said Malone when asked about the importance of the first series in ACC play. “We would like to start off with a bang here this weekend.”
The last time FSU opened ACC play versus the Terps was 2004 and the Seminoles swept that series while scoring double digit runs in each of those games. The series between the Seminoles and Terrapins began in 1965. Since then the two teams have met 48 times. Of all the ACC opponents FSU has faced, the Seminoles have the highest winning percentage (93.8%) against the Terrapins with a 45-3 record. Currently, Florida State is on a 24 game winning streak in the series and of those 24 games only three have been decided by two runs or less. FSU has scored double digit runs versus Maryland 16 times in this 24 game stretch and shutout the Terps five times.
“Maryland has a good ball club,” said Martin. “I know they have struggled some in the past but every year they are very competitive. We have to go out there and play to the best of our abilities to be successful.”
The Seminoles made a rotation change on Thursday with Michael Hyde moving into the Sunday spot and Barret Browning now slated to start Tuesday when Winthrop comes to town. The FSU starters have been excellent so far in 2006 recording quality starts in half of FSU’s 16 games. None of FSU’s four starters has suffered a loss as of yet as the group has a combined record of 13-0.
“We have had a number of quality starts this year and when you have a rotation with Bryan Henry, Tyler Chambliss, Barret Browning and Michael Hyde you have experience,” said Martin. “We are very pleased with the way they are throwing so far but everybody has to improve.”
As good as the Seminole pitching has been the bats may be even more impressive so far through 16 games. FSU will enter the Maryland series with a decided edge statistically when you compare offenses. Florida State has a team batting average over 100 points better than the Terps and a slugging percentage 210 points higher. In just three more games, Florida State has scored 100 more runs, has over 80 more hits and five times as many homeruns. Seven players who will be in the starting line-up for FSU tonight are hitting .290 or better while Maryland has just three regulars hitting above .300.
“Our hitting has been pretty impressive,” said Malone. “We have a lot of guys at or above .300. We look for consistency through the order and the whole team has done a great job of not striking out and putting the ball in play. Everyone is playing great defense too, which is a big part of it.”
The Seminoles are riding a 12-game winning streak and 23-game home win streak that dates back to 2005. FSU has scored eight or more runs in 12 games this season and have put 56 runs up on the board in the last four games alone.
“I am just really glad we have all come together the way we have this season,” said Malone. “We haven’t been tested a whole lot. We had a good series at Auburn and faced good competition there. All in all we have just done our jobs. I think all of us have found our roles so far.”
FSU and Maryland will continue their series Saturday night at 6:00 p.m. when Tyler Chambliss (4-0) is scheduled to face off versus Maryland’s Ben Pfinsgraff (1-2). Sunday’s finale will start at noon and be broadcast by SUN Sports, FSU’s first televised game of the year. Michael Hyde (3-0) will take the hill for FSU and will face either Mike Sufczynski (0-0) or John Dischert (1-1). Game Tracker will be available for every game this season along with a live radio broadcasts available on WFLA locally and free on the Internet at seminoles.com.