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June 1, 2012
Florida State star James Ramsey joked that if there was a checklist for every baseball mistake, his team would have filled most of those check boxes the past three weeks.
The Seminoles may have gripped the No. 1 spot in national polls for a chunk of the 2012 season, but they've also skidded into the start of the NCAA Tournament this weekend, losing eight of its last 12 games including a surprising 0-3 performance in last week's ACC Tournament. A team that had been the beneficiary of close wins saw the tide turn of late.
"As far as us, I really don't think we've done anything differently through that stretch that we weren't doing earlier in the season. You saw some bounces go against us instead of for us, you've seen some very weird baseball things," Ramsey said.
Weird is the dynamic for the four-team regional as the Seminoles, clearly the most talented and accomplished team in the Tallahassee regional, also is the only team that enters without a semblance of momentum. No. 2 seed Mississippi State, No. 3 seed Samford (So-Con) and No. 4 UAB (Conference USA), which FSU will open tournament play with at 6 p.m. Friday, have all won their respective conference championships.
Despite a 4.49 team ERA on the year, UAB (32-28) caught a late hot streak, winning three of four C-USA Tournament games coming into regional play. And while momentum has turned away from Florida State in the win column the past three weeks, Ramsey pointed to some inspired and focused practices following the ACC Tournament as a promising sign that Florida State is ready to turn things around.
"Our preparations have really been all about ourselves, looking inwardly and not outwardly," Ramsey said. "We need to get back to playing fundamental baseball. We've gotten away from our strengths and we recognize that. We didn't recognize it too late, we recognize it right when we need to get back to fundamentals. We've had a couple great practices, very upbeat, very lively but very detail-oriented on the little things we need to do in order to not make the other teams feel good about themselves (late in games)."
In all of Florida State's eight losses dating back to the home series finale against Maryland on May 7, it has allowed its opponent to score at least five runs. The Seminoles have also tallied 17 errors in those eight losses. Ramsey and second baseman Devon Travis both said that the inspired practices have put a heavy emphasis on fundamentals. Ramsey pointed to lapses on defense and baserunning as catalysts for the slide.
Travis emphasized the importance of getting momentum back on FSU's side.
"I think this time of the year, it's the hottest team that wins it all, not the best team," Travis said. "We just got to get hot, we got to get going.
"There's nothing wrong with us, it's baseball. You're going to lose games and because you lose games doesn't mean there's anything wrong. ? We've just got to go back to the way we've been playing - confident, you know, no doubts. Get it done."
Head coach Mike Martin downplayed the value of momentum and says the mental makeup of this year's team gives him little concern about turning around its rash of recent losses.
"If it was a few other clubs that have been here in my years here, I would say that is a concern. But this team knows how to play. They understand the game," Martin said. "It's baseball. ? It's just one of those things that you just understand - this is a new season. If we had won 10 in a row, there's no way I can sit here and say 'Boy, we've got great momentum going into this."
Either way, checklist be darned, Martin and Ramsey are calling this a new season and a new opportunity.
"Our confidence is sky high, which may be something that surprises people," Ramsey said. "With the veteran leadership we have we're just pumping confidence into everybody knowing that this is the time of the season we need to peak."
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