May 24, 2011 - by
A Time To Rise

May 24, 2011

DURHAM, N.C. – The image remains very clear: Florida State catcher Rafael Lopez hugging closer Mike McGee and Stuart Tapley joining the fray after the Seminoles sealed their 8-3 victory over NC State for the 2010 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Greensboro.

A year has passed those Seminoles rebounded from a rocky regular season finish and an opening game tournament loss to claim their fifth ACC Championship, but Lopez, McGee and Tapley are still around. In fact they are among a group of 12 players on the roster who have played for each of the last two league titles, including the 2009 championship game loss to Virginia at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Florida State enters Wednesday’s tournament opening game – a rematch of last season’s title contest – against NC State (7 p.m., Sun Sports) back at the DBAP. The Seminoles are the tournament’s No. 2 seed, after capturing their fourth outright Atlantic Division title in five years with a win last Thursday against Clemson.

Some might call it a title defense, but veteran FSU coach Mike Martin doesn’t exactly see it that way.

“I guess what’s wrong with me is I forgot all about that we won it last year,” Martin said. “I’m just looking at how we played our last game and we got beat in a very important game, therefore, we need to play better when we go out to play against North Carolina State.”

After dropping the final two games of the Clemson series, which snapped a string of six consecutive series victories, Florida State likely has some work to do in order to insure a top-eight NCAA national seed. With the opening game followed by dates with Clemson and Georgia Tech, the Seminoles could bolster their already impressive No. 4 NCAA RPI ranking and land one of those seeds.

“There’s no question we’re still in the mix,” Martin said. “We know it’s going to be tough, but so is everybody else that’s playing a conference tournament. None of it is easy.”

FSU will send Robert Benincasa to the mound to square off against NC State’s Cory Mazonni in the opening game. Staff ace Sean Gilmartin will face Clemson on Thursday, followed by Mike McGee’s mound mission with Georgia Tech on Friday.

• The Seminoles are gunning for their sixth ACC Championship in 20 years of league membership. No other program has won more than three titles since Florida State joined the league in time for the 1992 season;
• This is the seventh year Durham has played host to the ACC Tournament, but just the fifth time since FSU has been in the league. The Seminoles have a 12-8 record in ACC Tournament games at DBAP and have advanced to the championship game in three of their four previous trips. They are still looking for their first title here;
• Florida State coach Mike Martin has taken his teams to the ACC championship game nine times over the previous 19 seasons. In fact, the Seminoles have only had one losing record (1-2, 2007) in previous tournament appearances;
• One of the league’s most veteran teams, FSU has 12 players on its tournament roster who were on the 2009 team which lost to Virginia at Durham in the championship game and won last year’s title against NC State.

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