OMAHA, Neb. – After two days of gray skies and rain, the sun settled over Omaha on Sunday morning and brought with it an upbeat energy to the Florida State baseball team.
A little more than 12 hours removed from a punch-in-the-gut loss to LSU in their first game of the College World Series,
the Seminoles were back at it for a practice session at nearby Creighton University in advance of Monday’s elimination game against Cal State Fullerton.
Needing to win four straight games to advance from their bracket, the Seminoles know they have their work cut out for them. But there’s still nowhere that coach Mike Martin would rather be.
“We’re in Omaha, baby,” Martin said. “We’re still playing baseball. What is there to be down about?”
Florida State’s road ahead is difficult, but not impossible.
Since the CWS moved to its current format in 2003, two teams have rallied from losses in their first game to go on and win the national championship. Oregon State did it in 2006, followed by South Carolina in 2010.
If the Seminoles are to replicate that feat, they’ll have to go through top-ranked Oregon State somewhere along the way. The Beavers will meet LSU in a winner’s bracket game on Monday night.
“You know, it’s hard,” Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. “We played Miami in ’06. The first game, I think we got beat 11-1. We got beat the year before, two straight. In 1952 (OSU’s first CWS appearance), they got beat two straight.
“So, I was on the verge of becoming the first coach ever to be part of a (program) that lost their first six times in Omaha. I just said to the guys, ‘You’ve just got to win a game. You’ve just got to relax.’”
Casey’s advice might not have been directly aimed at the Seminoles, but they seemed to be following it on Sunday afternoon.
“We don’t tense up,” senior designated hitter Quincy Nieporte said. “We just get more relaxed, have a little more fun.”
That’s not to say that they weren’t focused.
Due to face a Fullerton team that likes to bunt and run, the Seminoles spent a good portion of their practice fielding a variety of bunts and simulating several different situations with runners on-base.
The Titans jumped out to a four-run lead over No. 1 Oregon State on Saturday, only to see that lead slip away in a 6-5 defeat.
“They’re going to bunt, they’re going to sacrifice, they’re going to try to put a lot of pressure on you,” Martin said. “They’re going to make you make plays.”
By the end of practice, though, second baseman Matt Henderson felt that he and his teammates had a good handle on what to expect.
“That west-coast style of baseball, they’re going to get a guy on … and they’re not afraid to sacrifice, get a guy over and try to score one an inning,” Henderson said. “I think that’s just their style of baseball, and it’s good we prepared for it today.”
In addition to a sharper defense, the Seminoles will look to freshman starter Drew Parrish to quiet a Titans offense that came into the tournament averaging the fewest runs per game (5.48) of the eight-team field.
Parrish, a Rockledge, Fla., native, was a surprise addition to FSU’s weekend rotation early in the season, and he’s been especially effective recently.
In his last four appearances, dating back to an ACC tournament outing against Notre Dame, Parrish has allowed a total of eight hits and two earned runs.
In two NCAA tournament starts, against Tennessee Tech and Sam Houston State, Parrish combined to throw 12 1/3 innings, allowed four hits and one run, and struck out 21 batters.
With another performance like that, the Seminoles could be sticking around in sunny Omaha for a while longer.
“Every start he has, he impresses us,” Nieporte said. “Because the stage gets bigger and bigger and nothing changes with him.”