January 26, 2012 - by
Practice Begins Friday

Jan. 26, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – The Florida State baseball team will hit Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium for their first official day of practice on Friday, January 27 at 2:00 p.m.

The Seminoles return 19 players from last year’s squad that advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals. FSU welcomes back all four starting infielders in Jayce Boyd, Devon Travis, Justin Gonzalez and Sherman Johnson. James Ramsey and Seth Miller return as starters in the outfield for the Garnet & Gold, where Ramsey will be slotted as the `Noles starting centerfielder in 2012. Seniors Hunter Scantling and Brian Busch will pace the Seminoles on the mound.

Florida State will open the season with a three-game home stand against Hofstra Pride beginning Friday, February 17.

Seminoles.com recently sat down with head coach Mike Martin, who enters his 33rd season at the helm of the Seminole baseball program in 2012, for a preview of the upcoming season.

General Outlook
Florida State returns 19 players including 17 letterwinners from a 2011 squad that advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals. The Seminoles welcome back all four starting infielders in Jayce Boyd, Devon Travis, Justin Gonzalez and Sherman Johnson, who each recorded at least 59 starts a season ago. James Ramsey and Seth Miller return as starters in the outfield for the Garnet & Gold, where Ramsey will be slotted as the `Noles starting centerfielder. Seniors Hunter Scantling and Brian Busch will pace the Seminoles on the mound in 2012. In all, seven of nine pitchers with 10 or more appearances last season return to the fold.

The Seminoles return their top three hitters from last year – Ramsey, Boyd and Travis – all of whom hit over .325 in 60 or more games played. All three student-athletes finished the 2011 campaign posting season-highs in batting average, hits, doubles, RBI, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and total bases.

FSU finished the 2011 season 10th in the nation and first in the ACC in scoring averaging 7.3 runs per game. The Seminoles have ranked among the nation’s best in terms of run production over the last five years finishing in the top 20 in scoring four times. The 2012 season should be nothing different as the Garnet & Gold return 62 percent of their RBI total and 59 percent of their run total from last year. Ramsey led the team with 67 RBI in 2011, while both he and Travis scored a team-high 58 runs.

There are plenty of new faces looking to contribute in 2012 as the Seminoles welcome 17 newcomers including 16 freshmen and one junior college transfer. This year’s incoming class, which was ranked 16th-nationally by Collegiate Baseball, is made up of eight pitchers including five left handers, three outfielders, two infielders, two catchers and two utility players. Stephen Spradling is the lone JUCO transfer in this year’s class as he spent the last two seasons playing at Broward Community College.

Florida State enters the 2012 campaign in search of its sixth consecutive ACC Atlantic Division title in this the seventh season of divisional play. The Seminoles have averaged over 20 league wins over the last six years claiming the best record in the ACC in 2007 and 2009. FSU has also played in three straight ACC Championship games claiming the league title in Greensboro, N.C. in 2010.

No team in college baseball has won more games in the new millennium than Florida State. The Seminoles’ 594 victories since the start of the 2000 season (49.5 per year) are 16 clear of their closest competitor (Texas – 578). FSU’s .736 winning percentage in that span ranks second only to Rice (.737).

Mike Martin enters his 33rd season as head coach at Florida State and his 40th season in which he has been associated with the Seminole baseball program when you add his time as a player and an assistant coach. Of the 3,531 baseball games played in program history, Martin has been involved in 2,638 games including 1,940 victories. In one way or another, Martin has been a part of 75.4 percent of FSU’s all-time wins. He ranks second among active Division I head coaches in winning percentage (.743) and third in victories with 1,673. Martin has led the Seminoles to 32 consecutive regional tournament appearances and 14 trips to the College World Series.

Florida State will begin the year ranked among the top 20 teams nationally according to a pair of preseason polls in Collegiate Baseball (No. 13) and Baseball America (No. 20). The Seminoles closed the 2011 season ranked in the top 10 in all four national polls. Both Ramsey and Travis were honored as preseason All-Americans by the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball entering the 2012 campaign.

Head coach Mike Martin on what excites him about this year’s team:
“We have more power arms this year then I can ever remember. I want to see these young men develop into what we think they can become. The key word is patience. We have some young men that have been very impressive, but they haven’t been tested yet at the college level. I want to see a Sean Gilmartin develop out of one or two of these pitchers on either the right or left side to where they are fighting for a Friday night start.”

Martin on the experience of his returners and how that might provide an edge to get back to Omaha in 2012:
“No doubt, having guys like Justin Gonzalez, Sherman Johnson, Devon Travis and Jayce Boyd will be key to the success of our program. These guys have been fortunate to play in a College World Series. They know what it takes to get there. The goal of the coaching staff is to stay patient with our young players. We hope that they can continue to improve as we go through the season. We will use a lot of pitchers early. We had one complete game last year, so we are not afraid to go get arms. Success brings confidence; therefore, we have to give all of our players the opportunities to be successful.”

The Seminoles enter the 2012 season with several questions swirling around this year’s pitching staff following the loss of starter Sean Gilmartin and top relief ace Daniel Bennett. Who will emerge as the new Friday night starter? Who will close the door on opponents in the late innings to preserve the win? Gilmartin was a two-time All-American and served as the No. 1 starter over his three-year playing career becoming the Seminoles’ Friday night starter just three weeks into his freshman season. He left Florida State, after being drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Braves in 2011, ranked in the top 10 in career starts, inning pitched, strikeouts and wins. Bennett registered 74 relief appearances in his two seasons at Florida State. He tallied 55.0 innings of work in 39 appearances on his way to recording 15 saves. Bennett finished his career ranked fourth in the FSU record books with 18 career saves.

Of the nine pitchers returning in 2012, six made 13 or more appearances with at least 30 innings of work. Seniors Brian Busch and Hunter Scantling lead all returning pitchers in career appearances and innings pitched with 66/236.0 and 55/140.0, respectively. Gary Merians and Busch registered six wins a piece last year, while posting respectable ERA’s of 4.03 and 4.29, respectively. The two pitchers combined to make 12 starts a season ago.

Martin and first year pitching coach Mike Bell will explore a number of possibilities as they look to complete the rotation. The most experienced candidates in terms of games started are Scantling and junior Scott Sitz. In 17 appearances last year, Scantling made 12 starts and was 3-3 with a 4.45 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 58.2 innings of work. Sitz recorded the second most starts among returners making eight in 2012. He finished the year 4-2 with a 5.92 ERA tallying 51.2 innings with 33 strikeouts.

Expect junior Robert Benincasa and senior Mack Waugh to make significant contributions out of the bullpen as well as provide depth as starters. Benincasa is coming off a solid sophomore campaign in which he went 2-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 20 appearances including 17 in relief. The Tampa, Fla., native registered 24 strikeouts in 32.2 innings while holding opponents to a .244 batting average. He did not allow more than one run in 18 appearances while opening the season throwing 10.1 scoreless innings in his first 10 games. Waugh finished last year third on the team with 20 relief appearances in which he worked 36.1 innings with a 2-1 record, two saves, a 3.47 ERA and 29 strikeouts.

A cast of new arms will also play a role in the staff’s evolution in 2012. This year’s class includes eight pitchers, five of which are left handers (Cody Alling, Kyle Bird, Bryant Holtmann, Brandon Leibrandt and Jordan Priddle). Right handers Jose Brizuela, Michael Cetta, Mike Compton and Luke Weaver will also have a chance to leave an impression. With so many arms to choose from, expect Martin to use a variety of pitchers early in the season.

Martin on the returning pitchers and the batch of newcomers:
“We certainly feel that this pitching staff has the makings of a good one, but we will also look for our young players to contribute if we want to be successful. The return of Hunter Scantling, Scott Sitz, Robert Benincasa, Brian Busch and Mack Waugh is very encouraging. But at the same time we know that our rotation is going to be a work in progress. Losing Daniel Bennett means we have got to find a quality closer and at the present time we are looking at an experienced guy for that role.

“Cautious optimism is the two word phrase that we will use with our pitching staff as we know how difficult the schedule is and the fact that a majority of the people that we are counting on have not been used in the roles that we have planned for them. Bryant Holtmann, Peter Miller, Mike Compton, Luke Weaver and Brandon Leibrandt are guys that have never pitched as starters in college but these five will be looked at and are expected to battle for starting roles this year.”

On Mike Bell returning to Florida State as pitching coach:
“Michael is an experienced pitching coach that brings a new approach to our program. Our pitchers have adjusted well to his style and I have been very encouraged with what I have seen thus far during the short time that he has been with our program. I am anxious to see the continued progress of our pitchers as we go through the season.”

The Seminoles return all four starting infielders from last year’s squad that posted a .972 fielding percentage, good for the third-best mark in school history. First baseman Jayce Boyd and shortstop Justin Gonzalez started all 65 games at their position, while Sherman Johnson also started every game for FSU in 2011 making 59 starts at third base and six more at second. Devon Travis was the everyday starter for the Seminoles at second base missing just six games last year due to injury. Both Boyd and Johnson enter 2012 as three-year starters at their respective positions.

For the third time in as many years, centerfield will be occupied by a new yet familiar face. After three consecutive years of Tyler Holt and then a year of Mike McGee tracking down balls and calling the shots in center, the reigns will be handed over to James Ramsey in 2012. Ramsey has been a fixture in the Seminole outfield the last two seasons having started 133 straight games in right field. He earned valuable playing experience in centerfield this past summer in the Cape Cod League with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox which he hopes will spell success for him and the Seminoles this year.

Seth Miller is the only other returning Seminole with starting experience in the outfield. He made 21 starts in left field as a sophomore a season ago and committed just one error in 48 fielding opportunities. Miller enters the preseason as the frontrunner to take over starting duties in right field but should receive competition from several newcomers including Josh Delph and John Holland.

The Seminoles will look to fill the void left at catcher after graduating both Rafael Lopez and Parker Brunelle. Stephen McGee is the only returning player with any collegiate catching experience but his playing time has been limited his first two seasons in Tallahassee as he battled injuries. But McGee enters the 2012 season healthy and ready to compete for a chance as a starter. Newcomers Mario Amaral and Lee Howard will also compete for playing time behind the plate this year. Amaral garnered third team All-America honors from Rawlings following his senior season at Ronald Reagan Senior High. Howard was named a first team All-District catcher in 2011 as he helped lead Fleming Island High to a pair of district titles.

Depth is one area head coach Mike Martin feels very comfortable with heading into 2012 thanks in large part to this year’s crop of newcomers. Freshman Jose Brizuela will see playing time at a variety of positions including left field, on the mound, as the designated hitter and will be a solid back-up to Johnson at third. Giovanny Alfonzo, John Holland and John Nogowski round out the depth in the infield and will see playing time at shortstop, second base and first base, respectively, throughout the season. In the outfield, Delph, Bert Givens, Sean O’Brien, Holland and JUCO transfer Stephen Spradling will provide a number of options for Martin.

Martin on the strength of his team defensively:
“It is certainly a good feeling when you look out there and you have strength up the middle flanked by two, three-year starters. With so much experience, there is a tendency to not concern yourself with those positions because of how well those four have played at their respective spots. Stephen McGee is back at 100 percent after having shoulder surgery last year. He has been very impressive and will open the season as our starting catcher, but make no mistake that Mario (Amaral) and Lee (Howard) will continue to battle for playing time. Right field and left field are still question marks. Jose Brizuela and Sean O’Brien are fighting it out in left field, while Seth Miller and John Holland, who is our current back-up second baseman, are battling it out for the right to start in right field. I also like what I am seeing out of Josh Delph and Bert Givens in the outfield. As far as our starter at DH, freshman John Nogowski will serve in that role to open the season.”

Martin on the depth and the talent of the incoming class:
“I am very pleased with our depth. Jose Brizuela can play third. Giovanny Alfonzo has been a very good shortstop. John Holland gets better every day at second and John Nogowski has been playing very well at first. What is exciting is that we have quality backups where as last year there was not a lot of depth. The depth of this year’s team is very encouraging.”

In light of the bat restrictions set forth by the NCAA in 2011, which had a dramatic effect on offensive numbers across the nation, Florida State was still able to rank among the best in the country finishing the year with a respectable .293 team batting average. The Seminoles led the nation in base on balls (381) for the third time in four seasons and in doubles (152). FSU also ranked in the top 10 in runs scored (4th), home runs (8th) and scoring (10th).

Florida State returns its top three hitters from last year with James Ramsey, Jayce Boyd and Devon Travis leading the way in 2012. Ramsey had a breakout junior season in 2011 as he led the Seminoles in batting average (.364), hits (91), RBI (67), total bases (145), slugging percentage (.580) and shared the team lead in home runs (10). He also led the ACC in hits and total bases and ranked eighth or better in eight offensive categories.

The Seminoles were once again a doubles hitting machine in 2011 led by Travis who paved the way with a team-high 26 doubles. The mark tied for the eighth most doubles in a single-season in Florida State history. As a team, FSU finished the year with 152 doubles to lead the nation, while ranking sixth with 2.34 doubles per game. Ramsey, Travis, Boyd, Justin Gonzalez and Sherman Johnson combined to hit 92 doubles last year. Since 2002, Florida State has ranked in the top 50 nationally in doubles per game seven times including six top 15 finishes.

A big reason for the Seminoles’ success in 2011 was attributed to their ability to get on base. Florida State finished the season leading the ACC in on-base percentage (.408), runs scored (474) and walks (381) and with the players returning in 2012 the Seminoles are primed to cause havoc once again. Travis leads all returners with a .455 on-base percentage, while he and Ramsey each scored a team-high 58 runs. Johnson showed great patience at the plate drawing a team-high and ACC best 59 walks.

As far as offensive production from 2011, Florida State returners accounted for 407 of 660 hits, 143 of 222 extra base hits, 280 of 474 runs, 266 of 428 RBI and 52 of 76 stolen bases.

Martin on the leaders of the offense:
“There is no doubt that James Ramsey is the guy you point to right off the bat. Devon Travis is a very good leadoff hitter and did a superb job in the role last year. We will also see Jayce Boyd move to the middle of the lineup as well. We understand how important replacing Mike McGee is but let’s also not forget about the likes of Rafael Lopez and Stuart Tapley, who were major contributors to the offensive production of our team the last couple of years.”

Martin on who could emerge as leaders on the offensive side of things:
“I like John Nogowksi’s approach to hitting. He has a great knack for the game and is a tough out. Jose Brizuela is a gamer. He is a talented baseball player and we plan on him contributing to this baseball team.”

Schedule and Tangibles
Florida State will face 14 teams on this year’s schedule that recorded 30 or more wins a season ago. Eleven schools earned a bid to participate in a 2011 NCAA Regional, while five teams finished last year ranked in the top 25. Also featured is a pair of 2011 College World Series participants in intra-state rival Florida and the University of Virginia. The Gators finished as the national runner-up a season ago and enter 2012 as the preseason No. 1.

The Seminoles, who have won five consecutive ACC Atlantic Division titles, will once again compete in a 30-game conference schedule playing all but one league school. FSU and Georgia Tech will renew their rivalry in 2012 as the Yellow Jackets will host the Seminoles for a three-game series beginning Friday, April 6. The lone league school off the schedule for the next two years is North Carolina.

For the third year in a row, Florida State will travel to Clearwater, Fla., to face the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, February 29. The game is scheduled for a 1:05 p.m. first pitch at BrightHouse Networks Field and will kick-off the spring training season for the Phillies.

Following last year’s nine-member senior class, Florida State returns another big senior class in 2012 with seven on this year’s roster. Brian Busch, Sherman Johnson, James Ramsey and Hunter Scantling have been with the program for all four years, while Gary Merians, Adam Simmons and Mack Waugh all joined the Seminoles from the JUCO ranks in 2011.

Head coach Mike Martin named senior centerfielder James Ramsey as team captain for the upcoming season and is set to do something he has not seen or done in his 40 years of being affiliated with the university. Ramsey will be the first student-athlete in program history to wear a `C’ on his jersey. The Alpharetta, Ga., native is a five-time member of FSU’s Dean’s List and a three-time member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll. Ramsey was named the ACC Baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year and garnered first team Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in 2011.

Martin on the strength of this year’s schedule:
“The ACC schedule is always going to be tough with all the outstanding coaches and players as well as the administrations in our league that pour so much into their baseball programs. We know that we have to continue to get better on a daily basis in order to compete and get back to postseason play. We know that it is going to be a tough schedule when you’re playing in the ACC as well as against Florida, Florida Gulf Coast, Stetson and all the other great schools inside the state of Florida. When you factor in what the ACC did last year and the strength of the Florida schools, I feel we have one of the toughest schedules in the country.”

Martin on playing the Phillies:
“When you play the Philadelphia Phillies, it creates a memory. Our guys will never forget seeing back-to-back home runs a couple years ago when James Ramsey and Stuart Tapley hit the ball out. Who will forget Tony Thomas’ leadoff home run against the Philadelphia Phillies? This game is just something the young men benefit from and will be a memory they will never forget. We are very appreciative to the City of Clearwater and the Philadelphia Phillies organization for inviting us again to participate in this game. From a personal view point, I have always been impressed with the way the Phillies have treated us and we are looking forward to the game.”

Martin on the leadership of senior captain James Ramsey:
“James’ leadership qualities are unparalleled. He is the unquestioned leader of the Florida State baseball team. His work ethic and passion for the game is what sets him apart across the nation.”


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