TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Mike Martin has coached nearly 2,800 games in his illustrious career and has won 2,026 of them.
And, in something of a college baseball quirk, exactly two of those games have taken place in Louisiana State’s venerable Alex Box Stadium.
Martin’s Seminoles swept a two-game set on May 4 and 5, 1983 – Martin’s fourth year as FSU’s head coach.
More than 36 years later, Florida State is headed back to Baton Rouge, La., and this time with considerably higher stakes.
The Seminoles will meet the LSU Tigers in a best-of-three Super Regional for a place in the College World Series. First pitch of Game 1 is Saturday 3 p.m. (ESPN)
“LSU has great tradition, and certainly Florida State has great tradition,” Martin said before practice on Wednesday. “So it’s setting up to be a very exciting Super Regional.”
And likely a loud one, too. Alex Box Stadium, renovated and reopened in 2009, officially holds 10,326 people, although crowds regular climb higher than 12,000.
It’s considered one of college baseball’s best – and sometimes most intimidating – settings.
“I wish I could say we’ve prepared for that,” Martin said. “I don’t know how you prepare for it. Their fans are really impressive. They show up in droves. It’s a very loud stadium. It’s a mentality of us against them, and they certainly outnumber us. But we’re excited about being put in that environment.”
That said, the Seminoles might not be used to playing at LSU, but they’re plenty used to big stages.
This weekend will mark FSU’s fourth Super Regional appearance in the last five years, and the Seminoles are plenty familiar with high-profile games both home and away.
The 2019 campaign has seen Florida State visit Florida, Miami, NC State and Louisville, and last week the Seminoles tore through what figured to be a difficult regional field in Athens, Ga.
So much for that. The Seminoles won their three games in Athens – including a pair over No. 4 national seed Georgia – by a combined score of 35-11.
Beyond that, five members of this year’s team were on the field at super-sized TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha two years ago, incidentally for two games against LSU.
“Had we not played in places that are very difficult to play in, I would say, ‘Yeah, I am concerned about (playing at LSU),’” Martin said. “But we’ve played in tough environments before. We have not played great, but we’ve learned.”
As of late, the Seminoles have learned that a quick, aggressive approach at the plate seems to suit them well.
Typically known for patient at-bats that often lead to walks, Florida State came out swinging in Athens and was rewarded with big numbers on the score board.
While the run totals speak for themselves, the Seminoles were also happy with how they achieved those big numbers – by attacking early in the count and not giving opposing pitchers much time to get settled.
In three games in Athens, the Seminoles notched 11 total runs in the first three innings.
No surprise, then, that they don’t plan on changing much against LSU.
“I think letting it go a little bit when we have the confidence and the bats rolling is kind of what we’re rolling with here,” said Mike Salvatore, FSU’s leadoff hitter and the Athens Regional MVP.
“I feel like we need to keep that same energy that we had against Georgia to Baton Rouge,” added center fielder J.C. Flowers. “And I think it will work out really well.”
Drafted Noles staying locked in: Their college careers aren’t yet finished, but four current Seminoles achieved major milestones earlier this week during Major League Baseball’s annual amateur draft.
Junior third baseman Drew Mendoza (3rd round, 94th overall to Washington), junior pitcher/outfielder J.C. Flowers (4th round, 124th overall to Pittsburgh), junior pitcher Drew Parrish (8th round, 229th overall to Kansas City) and senior shortstop Mike Salvatore (9th Round, 276th overall to Seattle) have all heard their names called, and more Seminoles could follow.
“We’ve said from Day 1, when we got here, that the program is about, number one, getting your degree,” Martin said. “And number two, professional baseball. Because we know that’s everybody’s dream.
“And I’m very pleased that those young men are getting a chance.”
Martin has never been particularly fond of the draft’s timing, which typically occurs on the week of Super Regionals. But Flowers and Salvatore each said they’d be pushing any professional daydreams to the back of their minds for the next few weeks.
“I just kind of took a moment to myself and just realized how blessed I was,” Flowers said, “and tried to soak it all in, just knowing that I still have work to do here.”
Added Salvatore: “It was great. It’s something that you dream about and you always want. So it was a great feeling, for sure. …
“That’s what you come to a program like this for.”
Martin, Noles crossing fingers at forecast: Is it even a baseball postseason without at least one or two weather delays?
The Seminoles might not have to find out. After a dry weekend in Athens, FSU and LSU are staring at the potential for thunderstorms all weekend, starting during Friday’s practice window.
“We’re getting some horrible reports for what the weather is supposed to be like over there,” Martin said.
It could create a sticky situation, especially if the games are delayed by more than a day or so. An if-necessary Game 3 between the Seminoles and Tigers would be played at 8:30 p.m. on Monday, with the winner due in Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series on Wednesday.
“If (a weather system) were to go over there and just settle, I would think that they would have to do something,” Martin said.