Entering his 35th season at the helm of FSU Baseball, Mike Martin will lead the ‘Noles into battle in the toughest conference in all of college baseball. Not only did two squads, North Carolina and NC State, make it to Omaha in 2013, but six ACC teams, including FSU, are ranked in the Top 25 in four different preseason polls (the others are Virginia, North Carolina, NC State, Miami, and Clemson), which is more than any other conference. Not only are the teams strong, but due to conference expansion two new teams join the ACC mix in 2014: Pitt and Notre Dame. Looking at what’s in front of him this year, no one can blame 11 if he preemptively pops multiple Pepto Bismols to combat a queasy stomach as the ‘Noles look to win the ACC Atlantic Division for the eighth straight season.
As is the norm with FSU Baseball, the schedule is challenging. Aside from the season-opening sweep of Niagara, there isn’t a weekend series that ‘Noles fans can point to and chalk up as a sure sweep. Each and every weekend series after the sweep of Niagara will pit FSU against a team from a major conference. In all, 42 of the 55 games on the schedule are against teams from major conferences.
The good news though? The pitching staff, which was incredible last year, may be even better this year. The weekend rotation is stacked, including First Team Pre-Season All-American Luke Weaver, and those pesky mid-week games will be in the capable hands of a senior starter, Peter Miller. As if that weren’t enough, some guy named Jameis Winston will serve as the FSU closer…he’s got a decent arm, if I’m not mistaken. While power hitting may be in short supply this year, especially when compared to ‘Noles teams of the past, the 2014 ‘Noles have a lineup full of hitters who can do the little things: hit behind the runners, hit and run, drop a sac bunt, and manufacture runs. Pre-Season Third Team All-American DJ Stewart leads the offense that hopes to improve on its sub-300 batting average from last year. In all, 21 players return from the 2013 squad, including 6 position starters and 7 seniors.
The one glaring weakness on this team is at catcher. Last year’s starter, Stephen McGee, took his talents to professional baseball, leaving a quartet of unproven options including a JUCO transfer and two freshmen.
After last year’s flop in the Super Regional, a return trip to Omaha is expected.