January 31, 2008 - by
FSU Baseball Season Officially Begins On Friday

Jan. 31, 2008

Tallahassee, Fla. – The 2008 Florida State baseball season gets underway on Friday, February 1 as the Seminoles take the field with their first official practice of the season on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium. The preseason will feature a total of 17 practices spread throughout the month of February leading up to opening day on Friday, February 22 against Duquesne.

The Seminoles return five position starters and five pitchers who saw action off the mound in 2007 including a pair of starting pitchers in senior Ryan Strauss and junior Bo O’Dell. In all, the Seminoles welcome back 13 of 31 letterwinners for the upcoming season. Florida State will start the season ranked 12th by Collegiate Baseball and 13th by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, while Buster Posey and Jack Rye were named Preseason All-Americans.

Three of top four hitters from last year’s squad that recorded the highest team batting average in school history are back for the Garnet and Gold in 2008. Posey, Rye and Jason Stidham ranked two, three and four, respectively, in hitting last year.

FSU’s 2008 recruiting class, which was ranked No. 2 by Collegiate Baseball, feature 17 newcomers including 14 freshmen, making this year’s squad one of the youngest teams to hit the field under the tutelage of head coach Mike Martin. Also joining the Seminoles this season is a trio of transfers in Tony Delmonico (Tennessee), Elih Villanueva (Miami-Dade Community College) and Ben Francis (Gulf Coast Community College).

“This year’s team will consist of one of the least experienced pitching staffs that we have had in many years,” explained Martin. “When you lose two seniors that were in the rotation (Bryan Henry and Michael Hyde), it’s certainly a challenge for the guys that are going to get those opportunities; guys like Matt Fairel, Elih Villanueva and Ryan Strauss. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of people to pitch.”

The Seminoles have averaged just over 50 wins since 2000 and will chase their 31st consecutive NCAA Regional appearance in 2008, the second longest streak in the nation. Florida State looks to build off last year’s 24-6 league mark and its first ACC Atlantic Division title with a trip to the College World Series in Omaha, NE this year.

“The goal of the program, of course, will never change as long as I am here and that’s to get to Omaha,” added Martin. “We also have to understand that with the format change, playing five games a week, it’s going to really take its toll on not only the pitching staff but the everyday players. Your depth has got to be stronger than ever before.”

Here is a view inside this year’s Seminole team with the 2008 Florida State Outlook:

* Eleven teams on this year’s schedule recorded 30 or more wins a season ago. Eight schools earned a bid to participate in an NCAA Regional in 2007, while three teams finished last year ranked in the top 25.

* The Seminoles will compete in a 30-game ACC schedule for the third year in a row. The schedule features all but one league school (Duke). After not facing Virginia in the regular season the last two seasons, the Cavaliers were added to the schedule and will travel to Tallahassee April 4-6. For the second consecutive year, Florida State will square-off against college baseball’s national runner-up as they travel to face the University of North Carolina for a three-game set.

* Florida State’s non-conference schedule is highlighted by three teams from the SEC including four games against Auburn, three against Florida and two against Georgia. For the second year in a row, the Seminoles and Gators will face-off at the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville for one game, site of the 2008 ACC Baseball Championship. Last year, the two teams drew a record crowd of 12,280, the largest crowd ever to witness a collegiate baseball game in the state of Florida.

* For the second time in as many seasons, the Seminoles will travel to Clearwater, Fla., to face the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, February 26. Last year 4,676 fans packed Bright House Networks Field for the exhibition contest.

MARTIN ON THE SCHEDULE: “The schedule is tougher this year. It is certainly going to be at the top of many lists in terms of difficulty. Not only are we playing four games with Auburn, but we are playing the University of Georgia in the middle of two conference weekends as well as Stetson University. I don’t think there is any question that we are faced with one of the biggest challenges that we have had since I’ve been here. If you look at the last two years, you have got to look at Virginia as being right up there as one of the top teams in the conference. The ACC schedule is always a challenge and we are looking forward to the competition those teams will present week after week. It was also an honor for the Phillies to call us again. We are very impressed with their organization and for our team to be invited to play them again does a lot for us in the recruiting area.”

* Florida State’s five returning position starters, including Buster Posey, Jack Rye, Jason Stidham, Dennis Guinn and Ruairi O’Connor, have combined to play in 590 games. Last year, those returning Seminoles combined to hit .352 on 340 hits in 967 at-bats. Five hurlers enter the 2008 season with a combined 244 innings of work while senior Ryan Strauss has the most starts under his belt with 16, all coming a season ago. Jimmy Marshall is the top returning reliever for the Seminoles as he posted a 2-0 record and a 1.39 ERA last year.

* Senior outfielder Jack Rye and junior catcher Buster Posey were named team captains for the upcoming season. Rye has started 183 games since arriving in Tallahassee in 2005, while Posey has not missed a game in his Seminole career, a span covering 127 consecutive games. Posey was named a preseason All-American in 2008 and is on the watch list for the Brooks Wallace Award. Rye earned second team preseason All-America honors by Collegiate Baseball.

MARTIN ON THE LEADERSHIP OF THIS YEAR’S TEAM: “There is no question that the leadership of the club is extremely important. That is an area that I feel very comfortable with when you talk about Buster Posey, Jack Rye, Dennis Guinn. Ryan Strauss is a hard working pitcher, Matt Fairel has been in the program for a year and knows what to expect. Jimmy Marshall is entering his third year, so I do like the leadership of the ball club. Jason Stidham knows what to expect, so I am anxious to see these young men exhibit their leadership to the young guys.”

* Florida State welcomes 17 new players this season, including 14 freshmen and three transfers. It is the 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 five years, head coach Mike Martin has welcomed 60 freshmen to Seminole baseball family.

* The Seminoles were recognized by Collegiate Baseball with the nation’s second best recruiting class in 2007. 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 12 of his 17 classes have been ranked in the top 10. Four freshmen were selected in the MLB Draft but opted to postpone their major league career and attend college. Those individuals include John Gast, Taiwan Easterling, Mike McGee and Mark Peterson.

* This year’s class features three 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 2008. Those student-athletes include Tony Delmonico (Tennessee), Elih Villanueva (Miami-Dade Community College) and Ben Francis (Gulf Coast Community College).

MARTIN ON THE NEWCOMERS:Tony Delmonico is a tremendous addition to our team. Tony looked very good at shortstop during fall practice. Tyler Holt has surpassed, at this point, my expectations. He has been a pleasure to watch and has certainly made improvements. I think the pitching is where it all begins. And I do like guys like Mike McGee, Geoff Parker, Elih Villanueva and Tyler Everett. I have been very pleased with them. We also need Ryan Vigue to be a big contributor from the left side as well.”

* The Seminoles are coming off their best offensive season in school history setting the school record for team batting average with a .350 mark. All eight of the returning position players hit over .270 including three players who hit .366 or better.

* Junior Buster Posey is the leading returner in five offensive categories including average (.382), runs (66), hits (94), doubles (21) and RBI (65). Senior Jack Rye is coming off one of his finest seasons in a Seminole uniform where he posted career-highs in batting average, at-bats, hits and RBI’s in 2007.

* Student-athletes who accounted for 49.7% and 45.9% of FSU’s 789 hits and 562 runs, respectively, are back in 2008.

MARTIN ON THE OFFENSE: “The big key, as it is every year, is to stay away from injuries. We do have four guys that played big roles in our offense that are returning and those are Buster Posey, Jack Rye, Dennis Guinn and Jason Stidham. But that is just four of the nine hitters. Tennessee transfer Tony Delmonico will also bring a wealth of experience to the table this year. There will be a lot of challenges, but I know we will be up for the test.”

* Following in the foot steps of the FSU offense from a season ago, the Seminoles were also the best fielding team in school history posting .975 fielding percentage. Three of the top six fielding percentages in school history have been posted in each of the last three years.

* Buster Posey started all 62 games from behind the plate for the Seminoles in 2007 posting a .994 fielding percentage, committing just three errors in 478 total chances. He also kept opposing runners at bay a year ago throwing out 40.9 percent of attempted base stealers. Ironically, it was Posey’s first season playing at the catcher position.

* Senior Dennis Guinn returns to first base after playing left field and acting as the Seminole designated hitter in 2007. Up the middle, the Seminoles will have a new look as Tony Delmonico will take over at shortstop while Freshman All-American Jason Stidham will look to make the switch from third to second base in 2008. Delmonico started 113 games for the Volunteers over the last two seasons playing both second base and shortstop.

* The outfield has considerable depth with the return of Jack Rye, Ruairi O’Connor and Ohmed Danesh in 2008. Last year, Rye started 61 games in right field, while Danesh and O’Connor combined for 27 starts in left field.

MARTIN ON THE DEFENSE: “We lost some exceptional talent no doubt about it. The play at second base and shortstop were quite impressive last year. Tony Delmonico gives us a good feeling. With Jason Stidham missing the entire fall season, I have no clear indication that he is our second baseman. I don’t know if I have ever gone into the spring not knowing who was going to play second base for us. If Stidham is not ready, then you look at someone like Stuart Tapley. I like Tapley, he has been very impressive. Stidham and Tapley will definitely be looked upon to contribute this year.”

* Senior Ryan Strauss enters the season as the most experienced Seminole starter. Last year, Strauss went 10-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 16 starts. He was named to the preseason watch list for the 2008 Brooks Wallace Award.

* The Seminoles lost pitchers that accounted for 32 of the team’s 49 wins in 2007 including 24 wins combined by starters Bryan Henry and Michael Hyde.

* Junior Jimmy Marshall and sophomore Matt Fairel were the top two relievers a season ago as the duo combined to work 66.0 innings posting a 4-0 record and a 2.18 ERA in 44 appearances.

* The Seminoles will look to Miami-Dade Community College transfer Elih Villanueva to bolster their starting rotation in 2008. At Miami-Dade, Villanueva was named FCCAA Pitcher of the Year after striking out 109 batters in 89.0 innings of work while posting a 0.81 ERA. Villanueva helped Miami-Dade to the Southern Conference championship in 2007.

MARTIN ON THE PITCHING: “We are going to try and have a five man rotation. But at any time those weekday starts could move into the weekend pitching role. The bullpen is obviously inexperienced and they are going to pitch this year. We will use guys a lot early to get a feel for how they react to the college game. We are looking at Buster Posey to close out games this year. Mike McGee, Geoff Parker, Tyler Everett, Ryan Vigue and Trent Jarvis will be looked at in relief. Jimmy Marshall and Bo O’Dell will be used; they may start some games for us and be used in relief in others. We haven’t made a final decision on our rotation quite yet.”

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