March 18, 2011
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Mike Martin won’t have to pay for his seat to tonight’s showdown between his fourth-ranked Florida State baseball team and fifth-ranked Virginia, but he would.
Unbeaten left-handers Sean Gilmartin and Danny Hultzen go head-to-head in the opening game (6 p.m.) of the three-game series between the last two Atlantic Coast Conference champions, setting the tone for one of the most highly anticipated series of the baseball season.
“There’s no question you’re seeing two of the premier pitchers in college baseball,” said Martin. “I’d pay to see this. These two young men are both great competitors.”
Virginia officials are anticipating a sellout crowd at Davenport Field, where the Seminoles (15-2, 3-0 ACC) are making just their second appearance since 2004. Martin’s FSU club is coming off a Tuesday night loss at top-ranked Florida (5-4 in 10 innings), while the host Cavaliers (17-1, 3-0) are riding an 11-game winning streak.
Gilmartin, who is looking for his first win against Virginia in three career starts, will try and get the Seminoles back on track and end Virginia’s streak. Hultzen, who is 2-0 in two career starts against FSU, hopes to continue that trend. Both pitchers have the stuff to make it a memorable evening. They have combined for 85 strikeouts and eight walks this season, with Hultzen holding a slight statistical edge in ERA (0.66-1.24) and strikeouts (50-35).
Given the similar statistical production of both clubs, the outcome could well come down to which pitcher and club manages the moment best.
“I don’t really try to change anything I’ve been doing all year,” said Gilmartin. “I just basically I come out with the same intensity I’ve had the previous starts and go after it.
“The competitive side does come out, without a doubt. The rankings – I don’t really look at them. They don’t really mean too much this early in the year. Virginia is obviously a very good team. We’ve got a good team here as well. We’ve just got to be able to come out with the same intensity we’ve had all year.”
While the marquee pitching match-up takes center stage, the series figures to be close throughout. FSU holds a slight edge in hitting (.315-.311), while the Cavaliers hold a 1.71-2.48 advantage in team ERA. Virginia’s spacious ballpark will put a premium on playing defense behind the pitching and both clubs are among the ACC’s best in that area as well.
“Every time we play Virginia, we truly enjoy playing the way these guys get after the game,” said Martin. “They play the game with enthusiasm, intelligence; they challenge us in every single facet of the game. It will be fun to see how we respond.”