TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There’s not much that Mike Martin can tell his players about their upcoming game with Florida that they don’t already know.
So he doesn’t plan to say much between now and Tuesday night’s first pitch.
“I don’t ever say anything to the team about it,” Martin said. “Because … they know what the disappointment feels like. They don’t want to be disappointed again.”
Yes, Florida has won 10 straight games in the longtime rivalry, and 15 of the last 16.
But the Seminoles aren’t concerning themselves much with that at the moment.
At 19-12 (7-8 ACC) after beating Miami on Sunday, the Seminoles are fighting for their place in the conference standings and fighting to continue their streak of 41 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
The Gators, who, having just been swept at Ole Miss, are experiencing troubles of their own, just happen to be the next opponent standing in the way.
WATCH: Noles preview Tuesday-night clash against Gators
A win over UF would of course be big because any Florida State team relishes beating the Gators in anything. But, in this case, it would be big because it might also give the Seminoles some positive momentum heading into this weekend’s home series against Clemson.
And, if that goes well, even more good vibes before a road trip to Virginia.
“Every day, it’s got to start,” FSU junior Mike Salvatore said. “Every game, we kind of look at it as a start toward turning things around.
“I think (Sunday at Miami) was a good start in that direction.”
Indeed, the Seminoles entered that contest perhaps in need of a win more than at any point this season.
They’d already dropped the first two games of the series and, coupled with a midweek loss to Jacksonville and a pair of defeats to Boston College the previous weekend, were searching for anything that might stem the tide.
“I laughed at myself,” Martin said. “Because I guess it was about the third inning yesterday, and things were going along, and I could just sense how badly we needed to win the game. …
“I wanted to win that ball game as much as I did the very first one we played in 1980.”
They did win, thanks in large part to junior J.C. Flowers, who used both his bat and his arm to send the Seminoles home as winners.
FSU’s center fielder as well as its closer, Flowers held the Hurricanes at bay by throwing a runner out at home, by twice erasing UM leads – once with a solo home run and once with a sacrifice bunt – and by later shutting the door with a six-out save.
It was the fourth time this season that Flowers has both homered and earned a save in the same game. Buster Posey (twice) and Mike McGee are the only other Seminoles to accomplish the feat.
“I think, for sure, that sparked us,” Flowers said of beating Miami. “Especially winning a close game like that.”
The next step is for those sparks to catch fire.
FSU’s skid against Florida, painful as it is, isn’t necessarily indicative of how the games have gone.
Three of those losses have been by two or fewer runs, and two via 1-0 final scores. And FSU this season held leads in Gainesville and Jacksonville before letting those games slip away.
Sometimes, it’s one bad inning that the Seminoles can’t seem to shake. In other cases, one misplayed ball in the field leads to another, which then leads to runs for the opposition.
Martin said that he and his staff have tried to emphasize that, regardless of the opponent or the history, it’s still just a baseball game. The things that lead to success against anybody else will more often than not lead to success against Florida, too.
“That’s something that we have tried to get across – don’t try to do too much,” Martin said. “Don’t add anything to it.”
In a bit of a plot twist, the Gators are coming to Tallahassee under some pressure as well.
UF is 21-13, just 4-8 in Southeastern Conference play and on Monday dropped out of the USA Today Coaches Poll for the first time in more than five years.
As a result, Martin expects to meet an opponent with more than just a chip on its shoulder.
“A team that will come in here with a log on their shoulder,” he said.
“We’re anxious to play in a situation like this, because this is the way it will be for the rest of the year for us as we go through this gauntlet.”
“Gauntlet” is an appropriate term.
Because after playing UF on Tuesday, the Seminoles will host Clemson – ranked 16th after taking two of three from then-No 10 Louisville – for a three-game set this weekend.
After that, they’ll hit the road for three games at Virginia (19-13, 8-7), which is itself enduring a sub-standard season but still boasts one of the ACC’s top pedigrees.
“I don’t know of any team in the country that will play tougher teams than we’re playing right now,” Martin said. “When you go from Miami to Florida to Clemson to Virginia.”
It’s a stretch that could come to define the Seminoles’ 2019 season.
For now though, they’re happy to have their win over Miami in hand as they look to re-define their rivalry with Florida.
“Let’s hope it can carry over,” Martin said. “We’re playing a team that’s pretty much owned us over the last two or three years. It’s just baseball. We’ve got to keep battling, get better.”
“I feel like we have all the right pieces to make this a special season,” Flowers added. “We just have to keep on pushing.”