TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There’s no disputing the math: Florida State’s Mike Martin needs just three more victories to become the all-time winningest coach in college baseball.
There’s also no disputing the schedule: The Seminoles’ next three games are against the Miami Hurricanes at Dick Howser Stadium.
So, yes, there’s a chance that Martin could set the record at home, on the field that bears his name, against one of FSU’s biggest rivals. That’s a thought that would bring a smile to even the most hardened Seminole fan.
But as has been the case throughout this season, Martin cautioned against looking past more than Friday’s first game of the series.
And he drew from a little history to make his point.
“I remember distinctly, 1998, we were approaching 1,000 (wins),” Martin said Thursday. “And Miami came in here and said, ‘Not us.’
“And they swept us.”
Still, it’s hard to deny that there would be a poetic quality were Martin to set the record this weekend.
There’s of course the FSU-Miami factor. The Seminoles and Hurricanes want to beat each other across all competitions, and the baseball rivalry between the two has at times been as intense and heated as the one on the football field.
Martin also won his first ever game as FSU’s coach against the Hurricanes, a 9-8, come-from-behind victory at UM’s Mark Light Field on Feb. 24, 1980.
And then there’s the small matter of the coaches. Miami’s Jim Morris, who has skippered the Hurricanes since 1994, is retiring after this season. Morris was an assistant on Martin’s first two teams at Florida State before embarking on successful head-coaching stints at Georgia Tech and Miami, and is himself among the sport’s winningest coaches.
Martin’s 1,973 wins are second only to Texas’ Augie Garrido (1,975), while Morris’ 1,583 rank seventh. The two are first and second, respectively, among active coaches.
“Jim has had a great career at the University of Miami – and Georgia Tech,” Martin said. “Georgia Tech was not that much respected until Jim got there. He was here with us for two years then went up there to Georgia Tech. When he went to Miami, there was some very tough shoes to fill. And he filled those very well.”
So, while there may be no better opponent for Martin to set the record against than Miami, the nature of the rivalry suggests that Morris and the Hurricanes will do everything in their power to prevent it.
To say again, 20 years later, “Not us.”
The Hurricanes have fallen on difficult times lately. They last year missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 44 years – in the process ceding the nation’s longest NCAA streak to FSU at 40 years – and are 17-23 (10-11 in conference) as the season approaches the home stretch.
Then again, Martin has been at this too long to think that records mean much when the Seminoles and Hurricanes get together. Even less so when there’s extra motivation – for both sides – on the table.
“Jim’s a competitor,” Martin said. “He’s going to be coaching his fanny off all three games.”
That works both ways, though. Florida State’s players have done their best to avoid outside factors and focus only on what happens on the field. But even they know what’s at stake this weekend – big crowds, a big rivalry and a potential date with history on the horizon.
“There’s been some whispers about it,” sophomore third baseman Drew Mendoza said. “…We’re excited to hopefully do it soon.”
Sands update: Sophomore starter Cole Sands is nearing his return and could potentially pitch on Sunday, Martin said.
Sands, FSU’s usual Friday-night starter, has missed two consecutive starts after leaving his April 13 outing against Duke with an apparent injury.
Sands would likely work out of the bullpen on Sunday and would be limited to about 60 pitches.
“He was cleared (Wednesday),” Martin said. “I don’t know how much we will use him on Sunday, but if he feels ready to go, we will use him.”
A product of Tallahassee’s North Florida Christian School, Sands is 6-2 this season with a 4.80 earned-runs average. Martin confirmed Thursday that Drew Parrish (2-0, 2.98) will start Friday, C.J. Van Eyk (1-0, 3.68) on Saturday and Andrew Karp (7-3, 2.75) on Sunday.