Top-seeded Seminoles open regional vs Savannah St
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State veteran coach Mike Martin embraces whatever advantage his team benefits from over the years hosting an NCAA regional on virtually an annual basis, but he fears that Alabama, Savannah State or Troy are solid threats to end the Seminole season early regardless of the venue.
“They’re all very capable,” said Martin, who acknowledged he enjoys staying home to begin tournament play. “No guarantees, but it’s nice. No doubt about it.”
Florida State (44-15) is 32-3 at home this season and has won 16 straight regional tournament games here since losing to Bucknell in its 2008 tournament opener. Savannah State brings a 33-21mark into its first NCAA tournament appearance.
Troy (40-18) and Alabama (34-26) meet in Friday’s noon opener of the double-elimination tournament.
Seeded seventh nationally and first in this region, the Seminoles are back in the friendly confines of Dick Howser Stadium hoping to snap a four-game losing streak Friday when they face Savannah State pitching ace Kyle McGowin (12-1, 1.33 earned run average) in Friday’s second game, slated to start at 5 p.m..
McGowin’s “got a great arm,” Martin said Thursday. “Forget trying to get him out of the ball game. It ain’t gonna happen. He’s going to be around in the eighth and ninth. He’s that type of workhorse.”
The Seminoles lack that big bat they’ve had in the past with the likes of Buster Posey and brothers J.D. and Stephen Drew, and are led in hitting by freshman D.J. Stewart’s .348 batting average.
“We’ve had some success because of our pitching,” Martin said. “We’ve just got to continue to go out there and scratch and claw.”
Martin, now in his 34th season at Florida State, counters with senior Scott Sitz (9-1, 1.73 ERA) with Luke Weaver (6-2 and 100 strikeouts) set for Saturday.
Friday’s winners will meet ins Saturday’s second game following an elimination game between Friday’s losers.
Alabama and Troy met three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where the Tide took an 11-2 victory.
“Getting to open up with Alabama kind of touches home and it turns up the intensity since they beat us earlier,” Troy outfielder Danny Collins said. “Maybe we can return the favor.”
Troy is led by third baseman Logan Pierce, who leads the team with a .373 batting average, 23 doubles, eight home runs and 62 RBI. The Trojans’ Shane McCain was chosen the Sun Belt Conference pitcher of the year. The left led the conference with an 8-1 records and 99 strikeouts.
Pierce is the son of Troy coach Bobby Pierce, who grew up in hearby Marianna, Fla. and played and coached at Alabama before moving to Troy.
“This particular regional, especially its location, is good for our team and our fans,” Pierce said. “The intensity and focus is going to be there because of the atmosphere.”
It’s Alabama’s third regional appearance in four seasons under coach Mitch Gaspard. The Tide stands 1-8 all-time against Florida State after losing twice to the Seminoles in the 2011 regional in Tallahassee.
“From day one, this team has made a choice to be a team and do things the right way,” Gaspard said. “They’re being rewarded now to get into postseason play and to move on. The opportunity to go to Florida State and play an in-state opponent like Troy is exciting.”