January 29, 2010 - by
Play Ball!

Jan. 29, 2010

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With opening day exactly three weeks away, the Florida State Baseball team hit the field for the first official day of practice on Friday, January 29 on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.

The Seminoles, who will open the 2010 season ranked in the top 10 and favored to the win the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division for the fourth consecutive year, have their sights set on Omaha and a run at a national championship. With this year marking the final season the College World Series will be played inside Rosenblatt Stadium, the intrigue of being one of the final eight teams is at an all-time high among the players in the Seminole clubhouse.

FSU returns 17 letterwinners from last year’s squad that exceeded expectations serving as host to both the Regional and Super Regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Of this year’s returning student-athletes, the Seminoles welcome back seven position starters and eight pitchers including all three arms from last year’s weekend rotation.

Seminoles.com recently sat down with head coach Mike Martin, who enters his 31st season at the helm of the Seminole Baseball program in 2010, for a preview of the upcoming season.

* Florida State returns seven position starters and eight pitchers who saw action off the mound in 2009 including all three pitchers from last year’s weekend rotation in sophomores Sean Gilmartin and Brian Busch and junior Mike McGee. In all, the Seminoles welcome back 17 of 28 letterwinners for the upcoming season.

* The Seminoles return five hitters from last year’s squad who posted an average of .300 or higher in 80 or more at-bats including the top three hitters in All-Americans Tyler Holt (.401), Mike McGee (.379) and Stephen Cardullo (.376). Last year’s squad ranked second in the ACC and 52nd nationally with a .321 average. It marked the third straight year in which the Seminoles have hit over .320 as a team.

* FSU’s 2010 recruiting class, which was ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball, features 18 newcomers including 12 freshmen. Also joining the Seminoles this season are junior college transfers Tye Buckley (Seminole Community College), Daniel Bennett (Tallahassee Community College), Andrew Durden (Indian River State College), Ben Nobles (Tallahassee Community College) and Robby Scott (Broward Community College). Taiwan Easterling and Jacobbi McDaniel will look to follow the strong lineage of two-way stars at Florida State as both individuals saw playing time in the fall with the Seminole football team.

* Florida State enters the season looking for a fourth consecutive ACC Atlantic Division title. The Seminoles have averaged over 22 league wins over the last three years claiming the best record in the ACC in 2007 and 2009. FSU has the most wins of any Division I program since 2000 with 504 and will chase their 33rd consecutive NCAA Regional appearance in 2010, the second longest active streak in the nation.

* The Seminoles will start the season ranked seventh by Collegiate Baseball. Florida State will be led by juniors Tyler Holt and Mike McGee and sophomore Sean Gilmartin as all three were named pre-season All-Americans by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Stephen Cardullo joins the trio as pre-season All-Americans by Collegiate Baseball.

“As we enter 2010, we have got to understand that we are playing in arguably the toughest league in the country. It is vey difficult to get through the season without some bumps in the road. It is how you overcome adversity, like an injury or a losing streak, which separates the good from the bad. Our team last year displayed as much character and perseverance of any club that I have ever been associated with. This year the outlook is certainly bright as we enter the season but we know that we are going to be faced with obstacles and we know that we will have to be tough enough to overcome them. I must admit that I am as excited as I have been in my 31 years with this program and I am looking forward to seeing this club grow and mature.”

* Ten teams on this year’s schedule recorded 30 or more wins a season ago. Seven schools earned a bid to participate in an NCAA Regional in 2009, while two teams played in the College World Series (North Carolina and Virginia). A total of five teams finished the 2009 season ranked in the top 25.

* The Seminoles will compete in a 30-game ACC schedule for the fifth year in a row. The schedule features all but one league school (Georgia Tech). Since the ACC adopted divisional play in 2006, the Seminoles have posted a league record of 83-34 (.709) and have captured three straight Atlantic Division titles. Over the last fours seasons, Florida State has faired well both at home and on the road in the ACC going 44-16 and 39-18, respectively.

* Florida State’s non-conference schedule is highlighted by two teams from the SEC. The Seminoles host Georgia, in a rematch from last year’s NCAA Regional game in Tallahassee, for a three-game series beginning March 5. Intra-state rival Florida is on the schedule for four games including a home and home match-up and neutral site match-ups in Tampa, Fla., at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 2 and a March 30 showdown at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

* Florida State will open league play at home on Friday, March 12 as the Seminoles welcome Virginia to Tallahassee. Other ACC schools making the trek to the capital city in 2010 include Maryland, Virginia Tech, Miami and NC State. League road trips for the Seminoles in 2010 include games at North Carolina, Wake Forest, Duke, Boston College and Clemson. The Garnet and Gold will get their first taste of the Tar Heels recently renovated Boshamer Stadium the weekend of March 19-21, while playing at Wake Forest’s new home field (April 9-11), the former stadium of the Winston-Salem Warthogs (now Winston-Salem Dash), Carolina League single A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.

* After a two-year hiatus, Florida State will travel to Clearwater, Fla., to face the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, March 3. The game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. first pitch at BrightHouse Networks Field. In 2007, 4,676 fans packed the stadium to watch the exhibition match between the `Noles and the Phillies.

“We know that we are going to run into some great programs. When you play the teams that we are playing starting with Georgia State, they were in a regional last year. We are also playing a very good Georgia team, a team that played for the national championship two years ago and a team we played in the regionals last year. Then we open the ACC season in a fashion that is just about as tough as it gets. We play Virginia and then go to North Carolina sandwiched in between there we play the University of Florida. In fact, we have 12 straight games in the early portion of our schedule against teams that played in the postseason last year. I would like to see if any body else is playing as tough a schedule as we are this year. The addition of Duke to our schedule will also be a challenge. They are one of those teams that are undoubtedly up and coming not only in the ACC but in the nation. Duke beat a lot of good teams last year. Not having played them for the last two years, I don’t know about their talent level and who they lost. Our schedule will be a challenging one, but that’s why young men come to Florida State, to play in an arena such as this.”

“It is one of the highlights of the entire career for a college athlete to play against a team like the Philadelphia Phillies. With the history of that franchise, guys will sit around with their children and talk about the day they played against the Philadelphia Phillies. I am proud that our program is involved in a game like this and I am sure that the players will always remember this experience.”

* Florida State returns seven position starters including all four All-Americans in Stephen Cardullo, Sean Gilmartin, Tyler Holt and Mike McGee. The position starters combined to play in 418 games a season ago with five of those student-athletes appearing in 60 or more contests.

* Despite a small senior class comprised of just three student-athletes, the junior class is one of the largest in recent memory with 14 on the 2010 roster. Five transferred in from community college while the remaining nine players each played a significant role in the team’s run to a berth in the NCAA Super Regional last year.

* Senior shortstop Stephen Cardullo and junior centerfielder Tyler Holt were named team captains for the upcoming season. Cardullo posted career-highs in every major offensive category in 2009 and is a career .374 hitter. Holt is the only returning Seminole to start in all 63 games a season ago en route to leading the team with a .401 batting average. Both Cardullo and Holt were named pre-season All-Americans heading into the 2010 season.

“We have young men who have been in our program for two and three years that are displaying exceptional leadership. It is fun to see the others associating with those veterans and getting a feel as to what Florida State Baseball is all about. Ironically Florida State Baseball usually is lead by the junior class. Unfortunately, we don’t keep many players four years. The seniors have always been the ones that are looked at for leadership, but as is the case this year the majority of the time that leadership will come from the junior class. Overall, I am very pleased with the returning player’s work ethic and approach.”

* Florida State welcomes 18 new players this season, including 12 freshmen, five transfers and the addition of redshirt sophomore Taiwan Easterling. It is the second most freshmen listed on an opening day roster since 2005 when FSU opened the season with 13 freshmen. That year’s freshman class included such names as Tony Thomas, Jr., Mark Gildea, Ryan Strauss, Dennis Guinn, Jack Rye and Ruairi O’Connor. Over the last seven years, head coach Mike Martin has welcomed 82 freshmen into the Seminole baseball family.

* The Seminoles were recognized by Collegiate Baseball with the nation’s 22nd best recruiting class in 2010. Since associate head coach Jamey Shouppe took over recruiting coordinator duties in 1990, FSU has had a class ranked in the top 25 each year while 13 of his classes have been ranked in the top 10. Six newcomers to this year’s squad have been selected in the MLB Draft over the last three years. Those individuals include Taiwan Easterling (2007), Andrew Durden (2008), Robert Benincasa (2009), Jayce Boyd (2009), Justin Gonzalez (2009) and Jacobbi McDaniel (2009).

* This year’s class features five transfer students who come to Florida State with prior playing experience and will look to make an immediate impact for the Garnet and Gold in 2010. Those student-athletes include Daniel Bennett (Tallahassee Community College), Tye Buckley (Seminole Community College), Andrew Durden (Indian River State College), Ben Nobles (Tallahassee Community College) and Robby Scott (Broward Community College).

“Everything starts with the pitching and we are looking for our newcomers to make a contribution right away. I can name almost every newcomer and say I want to see what they can do. But from what I have seen so far, Andrew Durden is going to be given the chance as our closer. Then you have freshmen pitchers Robert Benincasa, Scott Sitz, David Trexler and Corben Madden that we have been impressed with and want to see what they can do during the regular season. Another guy, Daniel Bennett hasn’t pitched because of injuries but his reputation is one that could be very important to us in our success this year. Add infielders Devon Travis, Justin Gonzalez and Jayce Boyd and catcher Stephen McGee to that list and you have a way of really liking what you see out there.”

* The Seminoles are coming off their third straight season in which they hit over .320 as a team. Florida State closed out the 2009 campaign leading the ACC in seven offensive categories including on-base percentage (.432), runs (550), RBI (496), doubles (163), total bases (1153), walks (386) and sacrifice flies (46). The Garnet and Gold also ranked in the top three in five additional categories including second in stolen bases (94), home runs (89), slugging percentage (.536) and batting average (.321) and third in hits with 691.

* Florida State returns its top three hitters from the 2009 season with the likes of Tyler Holt, Mike McGee and Stephen Cardullo leading the way in 2010. All three student-athletes are coming off career years setting numerous offensive records in the process. Holt hit a team leading .401 a season ago, while pacing the Noles in runs, hits, doubles and stolen bases. McGee led the team with 19 home runs and 78 RBI, while Cardullo contributed with 89 hits, 20 doubles, 20 stolen bases and a team-high three triples.

* In 63 games last year, FSU compiled 163 doubles out of their 691 total hits. That meant that nearly one out of every four hits (23.6%) ended up with a man in Garnet and Gold standing in scoring position. The Seminoles ranked second in the nation in doubles just one behind Middle Tennessee State who led the nation with 164 doubles in 62 games. FSU equaled the amount of doubles collected during the 2008 season and over the last three seasons, the Seminoles have hit 498 doubles in 193 games which amounts to more than 3.5 doubles per game.

* Florida State finished the 2009 season as the NCAA leader in sacrifice flies with 46. The mark was the second most sacrifice flies in a single-season falling just one short of the school record of 47 set in 73 games in 2005. Jason Stidham led the team with 10 sacrifice flies followed closely by Stuart Tapley with seven. Tapley finished as the overall team leader with 13 sacrifices, tied for seventh most in a single-season at Florida State.

* The Seminoles return 74.8 percent of their hit total from 2009 as 11 student-athletes with at least 20 official at-bats combined for 517 of their 691 total hits.

“When you return seven starters that made significant contributions you have got to feel good about it. I would say that all of them are working just as hard now as they did last year. Hopefully we will see improvement in a lot of these young men this year as that is why they came to school – to get better. We return (Stuart) Tapley, (Rafael) Lopez, (Stephen) Cardullo, (Mike) McGee, (Tyler) Holt and (Ohmed) Danesh, all six of these players were key to our success last year. You also have two guys that had great summers in James Ramsey and Sherman Johnson. They have been in our program for a year, have participated and contributed in a variety of ways and that is a plus. We also can’t forget Jack Posey, losing him certainly hurts. Jack was a very important part of our squad and we are going to miss him.”

* With the loss of Jack Posey for the season due to offseason Tommy John surgery to his right elbow, senior Stephen Cardullo and junior Stuart Tapley are the only two returning infielders from 2009. After moving around the infield during the early part of last season, Cardullo found his home at short where he started the final 46 games of the season. He finished the year joining Dick Howser as just the second All-American at shortstop in school history. Tapley played in all 63 games last year making 62 starts at third base.

* Redshirt junior Rafael Lopez will return as the Seminoles starting catcher after making 47 starts from behind the plate a season ago. Lopez finished the year with a .989 fielding percentage committing just four errors in 357 fielding opportunities, while throwing out 42.2 percent of would be base stealers. Parker Brunelle and Stephen McGee (brother of junior Mike McGee) will provide solid depth from that position.

* The outfield once again has considerable depth with the return of Tyler Holt, Mike McGee, Ohmed Danesh and James Ramsey who combined for 156 starts a season ago. Holt was the recipient of the ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove Award for his outstanding defensive play in centerfield as he finished the season with a .993 fielding percentage committing just one error in 142 fielding opportunities. The four outfielders combined for eight assists with three of those outs coming at home plate. McGee leads all returning outfielders with four assists.

“This is one year that we know we got some depth. There are still a lot of things that are up in the air – who is going to play third, who is going to play first. We would like to think that (Stephen) Cardullo and (Devon) Travis are going to play short and second, respectively. We also know that we can take Sherman Johnson and play him at second base and be very comfortable. Our back up catcher Parker Brunelle returns with a very good freshman behind him in Stephen McGee. Justin Gonzalez can play second and short and third if he has too. Right now, Jayce Boyd is leading the way at first and will get every opportunity to start there. It is reassuring that we have quality depth. I think that is the key word – quality depth.”

* Of the eight pitchers back in 2010, each one put in at least 17 innings of work a season ago. In fact, Florida State returns all three pitchers from last year’s weekend rotation including sophomores Sean Gilmartin and Brian Busch and junior Mike McGee. Gilmartin led the team in ERA (3.49), wins (12), innings pitched (98.0) and strikeouts (83) while holding opposing hitters to a .221 average. Busch and McGee registered six wins a piece, while posting respectable ERA’s of 3.97 and 4.04, respectively.

* Geoff Parker and John Gast return as the Seminoles top arms out of the bullpen as the two combined for 51 relief appearances in 2009. Parker went 6-2 with a 4.82 ERA with one save in 65.1 innings of work, while Gast posted a record of 5-3 and a 5.12 ERA in 38.2 innings.

* Expect junior Tyler Everett and sophomore Hunter Scantling to make a significant contribution out of the bullpen as well as provide depth in a starting role in 2010. The two right handed pitchers combined to go 3-1 with a 4.63 ERA striking out 50 batters in 72.0 innings of work.

“Having been here along time, I don’t know when we have ever entered a season with as many returning pitchers but at the same time, some of those pitchers did not pitch up to their expectations last year. We had some people that had years that they know they can improve upon. And I am anxious to see all of them improve.”

“It will definitely be different with the series being played at Rosenblatt for the last time. Whether I am watching it on television or whether we are there, knowing that the next year you won’t see the zoo; you won’t see Zestos; you won’t see the big hill as you approach the stadium; you won’t see the stadium, stacked with cars trying to get off the interstate and into the stadium or 25,000 people watching a game. The College World Series is a one of a kind event and Rosenblatt was synonymous with the College World Series. To say what it will be like, I obviously can not say, I don’t know what it will feel like, but I do know that it will be different in that the configuration, the atmosphere, the upgraded facilities will be great. I don’t know of anything that would make me happier than to be able to talk about it two years from now and tell you the difference between the two. I would like to be there for the last series that is played at Rosenblatt.

“No doubt there will always be that one moment that I will never forget. It was when I stopped for that one minute and said that I am going to be a daddy for this at-bat. I am not going to be a coach. Doug Mientkiewicz was at first and Mike (Jr.) was the hitter. I just looked out at the field…it was a perfect time to do it. Junior singled up the middle and Doug went to third. We are first and third and I went back to coaching. It was a moment I will truly never forget.”

Florida State opens the season with a three-game home series against Georgia State beginning Friday, February 19 at 4:00 p.m.


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