In almost all major sports, a season is not successful unless the team wins a title. For years, Florida State baseball has always had the issue of winning in the regular season, but not being able to put it all together and bring home a ring. This year is no different as the Seminoles (47-17) fell to the Hoosiers (48-14) in the Tallahassee Super Regionals 11-6, being eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.
FSU was denied their chance at a 22nd trip to the College World Series in Omaha to a team that has never been. The chance to win a title now vanished for this season to a team that plays in a conference which has not sent anyone to Omaha since 1984.
Although the Seminoles and No. 11 are still looking for their first title, there is still plenty to be proud of from this season.
At the end of the 2012 campaign, Florida State had seven players drafted with only shortstop Justin Gonzalez coming back. That included three infielders (Jayce Boyd, Devon Travis, and Sherman Johnson), an outfielder (James Ramsey), and a solid closer (Robert Benincasa) all leaving the team at the same time.
Entering the 2013 season, the Seminoles were picked behind NC State to win the ACC Atlantic Division. The Noles were also preseason ranked 20th according to Baseball America.
Both of those rankings were made prior to ace pitch Mike Compton going down for the season due to Tommy John surgery in February.
To make matters worse for the Seminoles, just five games into the season, senior captain Justin Gonzalez went down with a groin injury, ending his season.
Having a large group of newcomers, eight freshmen and seven junior college transfers to be exact, no one really knew what to expect from this team. Already depleted with players leaving from the MLB draft, graduation, and now injuries to two key players, Florida State played most of the season with a chip on their shoulder in an attempt to prove critics wrong.
FSU began the season 16-0, including their first win in Gainesville since 2007.. The Seminoles did not lose at home until they faced Buck Farmer and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in late March. Farmer is a three-time MLB draftee going as high as the 5th round (156th overall) to the Detroit Tigers in the most recent draft.
The Garnet and Gold would not suffer a series loss until they hit the road the last weekend of March on their trip to tournament bound Virginia Tech.
Even with some struggles pitching wise and defensively, Florida State found ways to win games.
After seeing Peter Miller have up-and-down starts in the weekend rotation, Mike Martin made the move to bump Luke Weaver up to the Friday night starter. In Weaver’s first Friday start, the sophomore righty held the Hurricanes in check, going five innings and striking out six in Miami. Weaver would receive a no-decision in the game as it took the Seminoles a late game rally to beat the Canes 4-2.
Since his move to the Friday role, Weaver went seven regular season starts. In those games, he averaged over seven strikeouts per game and finished 3-2 in those seven starts.
By the time Florida State returned to the state of Virginia to face the Cavaliers, the team was 31-6 and fresh off a 2-0 shutout of South Alabama.
Much of this was due to the outstanding pitching performances of Weaver and Sitz. Sitz, one many fans were skeptical of to start the season, was one of the most consistent starters the Noles had all season. It took until his fourth start of the year, against Boston College, for any team to score a run against him. Dating back to his start against UCLA in the College World Series last year, he pitched 22 scoreless innings.
Weaver ended the season leading all Nole starters in strikeouts, runs allowed, and walks at 119, 26, and 19 respectively. Weaver also pitched the most innings at 98.1 in 17 appearances, finishing with a 2.29 ERA and an opposing batting average of .221.
Sitz’ year would finish as his best in his collegiate career. The righty ended the year with a team best 2.09 ERA and tied with Brandon Leibrandt for the most wins at 10 apiece. Sitz would be named a third team All-American and a finalist for the Gregg Olson Award which honors college baseball’s breakout player of the year.
Both Sitz and Weaver would be named to the Tallahassee Regional All-Tournament team, with Weaver being the Most Outstanding Player in the regional.
Looking back as to how dominant the pitching was at times, simply take a glimpse at the series against Villanova when FSU outscored the Wildcats 32-6 and racked up 43 Ks in the three game series.
Offensively, the Noles had a plethora of questions entering the season. With few known hitters on the team and no one seeing either DJ Stewart or Marcus Davis in action, there was no real gauge on how potent the bats would be.
Davis would give fans hope as he opened the season hitting .455 (15-33) with 4 homers and 14 RBI in the first 10 games. Davis would eventually finish the season hitting .301 (72-239) with 9 four-baggers and 62 RBIs in 64 games. The junior-college transfer from Cincinnati would get drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 24th round (718th overall pick).
To the delight of Seminole faithful, freshman DJ Stewart would also contribute dramatically to the Florida State lineup. The Yulee, Fla., native would hit a team best .364 (82-225) with 59 RBI and 25 doubles in 60 games. Stewart would be named a two-time ACC Player of the Week, as well as an All-ACC second team outfielder. Just a week after the All-ACC announcement, Stewart would be named to the ACC All-Tournament team after hitting .667 in three games. Stewart continued his phenomenal hitting in the Tallahassee Regional, eventually being named to the Regional All-Tournament team after hitting .636 (7-11) in FSU’s three games. The freshman would lead the Seminoles with 26 multi-hit games throughout the season and would be named a Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-American. Stewart would also be honored as a member of the first team Freshmen All-American from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
Coming close to the end of the season, Florida State would need both the hitting and pitching to start working hand-in-hand in order to wrap up the ACC Atlantic for a seventh consecutive time in the eighth year of divisional play.
Not only was the division on the line, so was a shot at a national seed.
With six games remaining in conference play, the Noles were in a tight battle with both NC State and Clemson for the Atlantic Division. Taking two-of-three in Raleigh, N.C., against then 9th ranked Wolfpack allowed FSU to hold a one game lead over Clemson and 1.5 game lead over NC State. The race would come down to the last three home games against Clemson.
After splitting the first two games against then 19th ranked Clemson, FSU remained a game ahead of the Tigers and a half game ahead of the Wolfpack. In their last regular season home game, the Seminoles were able to clinch the ACC Atlantic Division with a 6-1 victory over Clemson, finishing conference play 20-10 and earning the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament.
The Noles would struggle down the stretch going 0-4 against North Carolina in a make-up game and then being unable to win in the ACC Tournament against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, or Virginia. However, all four teams made the tournament with both UNC and UVA being national seeds. Furthermore, all for loses were either by a single run or a walk off in extra innings.
Florida State would still earn the No. 7 National Seed and the chance to host up until Omaha.
With a home field advantage, the Seminoles ran through the competition in the Tallahassee Regional, winning three straight games over Savannah State and Troy twice by a combined score of 32-4. The weekend was highlighted by Weaver’s 14 strikeout performance against Troy in the second game of the regional.
Now in the Super Regionals against Indiana, FSU aimed to get back to Omaha for the second consecutive year. The Hoosiers, in the Super Regionals for the first time in school history, would end the Seminoles’ season after winning the first two games in Tallahassee. This would be the only series Florida State lost in Tallahassee the entire season as they finished 35-5 at home.
No, Florida State did not advance to the College World Series for a 22nd time in school history. No, there will not be a ring for Mike Martin in his 34th season as FSU’s head coach.
Still, all things considered, as a team not even projected to win their division, was this season as bad as some claim?