WATCH: Baseball earns No. 3 seed in Athens, Ga., Regional
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After 57 games filled with ups and downs and at least one sleepless night, Mike Martin can exhale and rest easily.
For a little while, anyway.
Martin and the Florida State baseball team learned Monday afternoon that they will, in fact, participate in this year’s NCAA baseball tournament. And while they will be leaving Dick Howser Stadium for a Regional for the first time in nine years, the Seminoles won’t be too far from home.
FSU earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Athens, Ga., Regional, and will meet second-seeded Florida Atlantic on Friday at noon. Top-seeded Georgia, which earned the No. 4 national seed, will play fourth-seeded Mercer later in the day.
“I couldn’t sleep worth a ‘dern’ last night,” Martin said with a laugh. “And I usually can sleep through a hurricane.”
As he tossed and turned, Martin kicked around all the reasons why the Seminoles might be left out.
And he then comforted himself with the reasons they were in good shape. Chief among them that FSU went 17-13 in Atlantic Coast Conference play, and no ACC team with at least 17 league wins has ever missed the NCAA tournament.
An emphatic, 11-0 victory over North Carolina State – itself a tournament team – in last week’s ACC tournament didn’t hurt the Seminoles’ case either.
Still, as Martin gathered with his team to watch the tournament selection show on Monday, he couldn’t help but feel a little nervous.
“I assure you,” he said, “there’s no pressure like what we were experiencing.”
Indeed, the Seminoles had both their future and their past at stake.
First and foremost, an NCAA tournament bid means that the Seminoles are among the field of 64 teams still in the hunt for a national championship.
Beyond that, though, Florida State had more than 40 years of baseball legacy on the line, too. FSU hadn’t missed a tournament since 1977 – the first “Star Wars” movie was a few days from release – and Martin, of course, had guided the Seminoles into the field in every year of his career.
The legendary Martin has already announced that he’ll retire at the conclusion of the 2019 season. Had the Seminoles not made the tournament, his career would have been over.
Instead, he’ll lead his alma mater for at least two more games. And maybe more.
“Obviously there are a lot of happy Seminoles today,” Martin said. “And none more so than our baseball team.”
The Seminoles had reason to smile. After confirming that FSU would be headed to Athens, ESPN’s selection show also revealed that the Seminoles were among the last four teams to make the field.
Their margin for error could hardly have been slimmer. But none of that will matter come Friday, when ace Drew Parrish takes the mound against FAU.
“You could see it in their face when they saw their name up there,” Martin said. “They knew that it’s a new day. … I’m sure that our guys are really, really pumped up. Because we now know. We did not know.”
Martin is also aware that simply making the tournament is no guarantee of success, and that the Seminoles have a difficult road ahead as they look to upset both FAU and Georgia.
The Owls are 40-19, boast wins over both Florida and Miami and rank 21st nationally in team batting average (.299).
Handle FAU, and the Seminoles will get a likely date with a Georgia team in the midst of its best season in years. The Bulldogs’ 42 wins are their most since winning 44 and a national championship in 1990.
“The University of Georgia is obviously an outstanding team,” Martin said. “We know how good Florida Atlantic is from talking to people in our state.
“I can tell you anything can happen. Georgia is not on our mind right now – No pun intended. Florida Atlantic is on our mind.”
More than that, though, the Seminoles are focused on improving the things that made for a nervous weekend in the first place.
In wins over Louisville, NC State and Clemson, the Seminoles showed that they can hang with virtually anybody in the country.
But they also know that they’ll have to be much more consistent in virtually every aspect of the game if they plan on making a run to Omaha.
“We know we need to play better than we have most of the year in order to achieve a goal,” Martin said. “…We’ve had our ups and downs, but this is the second season.”
Which is why, for now, Martin is content in the fact that the ultimate goal is still on the table.
“That’s this whole thing – We’ve got a chance to go to Omaha,” he said. “Is it a great chance? Well, any chance is a great chance.”