Feb. 24, 2006
Tallahassee, FL – This weekend’s series between the sixth-ranked FSU baseball team (7-1) and the University of Minnesota (0-0) should be intriguing. First, it is not a match-up fans in Tallahassee are used to seeing. The teams have played just twice in the last 10 years and have not met in Tallahassee since 1996. Second, Seminole fans will be anxious to see how pitcher Michael Hyde responds to his first starting assignment of the season. Third, there is a chance Hyde could be pitching for win number nine of the season Saturday but more importantly victory 1,400 of FSU Head Coach Mike Martin’s career.
“I didn’t even realize that,” said Hyde when asked about possibly pitching with win 1,400 on the line. “That would mean a lot to me to try and get that win for coach Martin.”
For Hyde to have that chance, the Seminoles will have to win the first game of the series today at 6:00 p.m. The last time the two teams met the Golden Gophers snapped a 14-game losing streak to FSU by downing the Seminoles 6-1 in Minneapolis.
“We played them my freshman year at a tournament in Minnesota and they beat us so I am kind of looking forward to playing them and seeing what they have,” said All-American Shane Robinson. “We don’t know too much about them right now.”
Nobody knows too much about Minnesota because the Gophers haven’t played a game yet in 2006. They will open their season in Tallahassee with left-handed pitcher Brian Bull on the mound. Last season Bull was 4-4 with a 5.56 ERA and in 55 innings pitches, he walked just seven batters. The only other thing FSU knows about Minnesota is they have been one of the best teams in the Big Ten this decade winning the conference title from 200-2004 and finishing runner-up in the 2005 conference tournament.
“When you look at a team like Minnesota people tend to say they are from way up North but let me tell you something they are traditionally a postseason team,” said Martin. “(Minnesota Head Coach) John Anderson knows the game of college baseball as well as anybody. He will have his team prepared despite the fact they haven’t been outside. They will be ready to play when they come in here Friday night.”
Preseason national player of the year candidate Robinson has been the catalyst for what has been a high octane FSU offense in the early going. The center fielder is off to an even better start in 2006 than he got off to in 2005 when he was a consensus first team All-American and Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Year. Through eight games and the same number of at bats, Robinson has scored more runs, has more hits, the same amount of doubles, fewer K’s and a higher batting average than he did at this point last year. This season, Robinson has reached base in his first at bat of a game seven times in eight tries and five of those seven times he has come around to score the first run of the game. Last season he led off the game by getting on in six of eight opportunities and came around to score the first run of the game four times.
“Things have gone well for me so far,” said Robinson. “I am just going out and trying to stay consistent with what I have done in the past. I just want to keep it going throughout the season.”
Robinson’s production at the top of the order has set the table for the FSU line-up especially hitters two, three and four. Florida State is off to one of its best early season starts this decade. Only one FSU team in the last six years has posted a higher batting average through eight games and that was the 2002 squad, which batted 10 points higher at .336. No team in the last six seasons had a higher batting average and lower ERA through eight games than the 2006 squad and only the 2004 team hit more homers in the first eight games as they went yard 14 times. The 2006 and 2004 teams are the only Seminole squads in the last six seasons to have double digit homers in the first eight games.
“I have said all along that we have nine guys in the line-up capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark,” said Martin. “When you have that danger in the line-up it does put a little bit of fear in the other dugout. Some of the other clubs we had in the past we had four or five guys you never worried about as far as homeruns go. Now we have people throughout the line-up that if you make a bad pitch they can beat you with one swing of the bat.”
As good as the FSU offense has been the Seminole coaches are well aware that the name of the game as usual will be pitching. This will be the first weekend series in which ace Tyler Chambliss (3-0) is not a part of the rotation. With a Tuesday night game versus No. 1 Florida looming, the coaches decided to pull Chambliss and go with Hyde Saturday afternoon. Hyde started more games and pitched more innings than anyone on the FSU staff in 2005 but this is his first starting assignment of the 2006 season.
“I am really excited about it,” said Hyde. “I started some last year so I am not really nervous. I am just really excited to get out there Saturday and do the best I can.”
The Tallahassee native is coming off of a great performance in the UNC Asheville series. Hyde came into a 5-2 game with runners on the corners and nobody out. He went on to strike out the side as FSU won the game 8-2.
“It is all adrenaline coming in out of the pen,” said Hyde. “I hadn’t had that experience much last year. I think that same adrenaline will be there when I start. Whenever you get a chance to pitch, relieve or start, there is a lot of excitement for me.”
On the other hand, the Golden Gophers will send three pitchers to the hill with a combined 24 starts in 2005, almost 20 less than the Seminole rotation that combined to start 43 contests. Martin knows getting the Gopher starters out of the game early will be a key for his club as Minnesota hasn’t had much work yet this season.
“We have to be disciplined at the plate,” said Martin. “The fact that they haven’t been outside, we want to do everything we can to get in their bullpen. Our job is to get good pitches to hit and take advantage of any mistakes they might make. We’ve played them this time of the year before and they beat us. I know this team will come in very well prepared.”
First pitch Friday night is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday games are both scheduled for 1:00 p.m. starts. As always Game Tracker will be available for every game along with Steve Melewski’s radio call at 1270 WFLA or live and free on the Internet at www.seminoles.com.