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June 7, 2012
Presented with facts he already knows about the elite pitcher his team will face to open the NCAA Super Regional on Friday night, Florida State second baseman Devon Travis smiled, nodded and offered a succinct synopsis.
"Pretty dang tough," Travis said.
Stanford hurler Mark Appel is just that, a fact further confirmed by going No. 8 overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the MLB draft on Monday night. At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, a protypical blue-chip frame, Appel throws between 92 and 95 mph consistently and has touched 98-99 on occasion. Appel, who is 10-2 with a 2.26 ERA for the Cardinal this season, pairs that gaudy fastball with a slider, changeup and curveball.
Appel is the first Stanford pitcher to win 10 games since 2005 and has come up big in key spots for the Cardinal this season. Not only has Appel recorded 10 or more strikeouts in seven starts this season, four of those starts came against top 10 teams. He ranks No. 5 nationally with 126 strikeouts on the season.
"We're definitely excited for the challenge, we know it's going to be a real challenge, probably the toughest challenge we've had since I've been here," Travis said of facing Appel. Travis compared Appel to facing Vanderbilt standout Sonny Gray in the 2010 NCAA Super Regional opener.
"(Appel) is going to pound the strikezone ... I guess he's a lot like (Detroit Tigers ace Justin) Verlander, he throws as hard as he wants to throw," Travis said. "I think he's got four quality pitches, he spots up, it's going to be fun."
Florida State will oppose Stanford's ace with an ace of its own on Friday night, true freshman Brandon Leibrandt. The glimmering spolight of the NCAA Tournament didn't faze Leibrandt last week as he posted his best college pitching performance so far with eight shutout innings of three-hit baseball, striking out a career high 10 and walking no one.
Leibrandt knows the caliber of pitcher he is trying to match but is attempting to stay focused on a solid Stanford lineup.
"(Matching up against a top prospect) is always in the back of your mind, but I'm throwing against the batters," Leibrandt said. "It's up to the offense to take care of him, I'm just trying to do what I can to get in the dugout, let (my team) swing the sticks and score the runs."
Head coach Mike Martin believes his team will be up to the challenge that a top-flight talent like Appel will bring.
"It's one of those situations that I'm sure our guys will make adjustments to the best of their ability," Martin said confidently. "This guy is obviously one of the top pitchers in the country and it's going to be very difficult. But I have a lot of confidence in our guys to do the best we can do."
Travis can't wait to see how darn tough it will be.
"It's going to be a lot of fun. I know this atmosphere is going to be crazy, the place is going to be rocking, we'll see what happens," Travis said. "We're definitely looking forward to it."
MLB Draft goes around the horn in FSU infield
After three long and strenuous days for college and high school baseball players across the country, the 2012 Major League Baseball draft came to close on Wednesday afternoon.
In all, seven current Seminoles were selected in the 40 rounds of the draft, including all four starting infielders. Junior first baseman Jayce Boyd was the first off the board at No. 200 overall to the New York Mets in the sixth round.
Junior second baseman Devon Travis was also selected by the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday (424th overall in the 13th round), and senior third baseman Sherman Johnson was taken a round later by the Los Angeles Angels (447ths overall in the 15th round). On Wednesday Justin Gonzalez was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers 836th overall in the 27th round.
"I've got to say I can't remember that happening," FSU head coach Mike Martin said of having all four infielders selected in the same draft. "I'm very proud for each and every one of them. They're outstanding people as well as baseball players. I'm just hoping that some of them decide 'Hey what's wrong with coming back? It certainly didn't hurt James Ramsey.'"
Travis said the draft process is a tenuous one for he and his fellow draft-eligible teammates as they try to remain focused on this weekend's Super Regional with Stanford, as well as their future pro prospects. Travis said he began talking with the Tigers about being selected as early as the fifth round, before being selected in the 13th round.
"It's definitely that's something that's taken a lot out of me the past couple days," Travis said. "It's a pretty crazy thing. I went through it a little bit in high school, but nothing like this. It was insane. But definitely happy it's over."
Boyd said that the process can be stressful, but at the same time the end result may lead to career in the big leagues.
"It's a little hectic and it's stressful, but at the same time not very many people get this opportunity to be in this situation," Boyd said. "So you just try and enjoy it the most you can."
Gonzalez said that he doesn't think it will be hard for himself and the other players who were drafted - and even those who weren't, to shift their focus back from the draft to this weekend.
"It's not like I have to make a decision tomorrow," said Gonzalez. "That's the beauty of it. I get to focus on this year and all the goals we've set our for ourselves this year, and that's to win the College World Series."
Martin said he also doesn't anticipate his club having trouble focusing on the task at hand, and that ultimately advancing to the College World Series can only help the players with their draft negotiations down the road.
"You can talk to them until you're blue in the face (about staying focused)," Martin said. "It's up to the individual. I really don't think this will affect any of them because they have one goal-and that goal is to get to Omaha. And lets face it when you get out there your stock can even go that much higher because all the big boys are going be out there."
Full draft rundown
FSU had seven players selected in the MLB draft along with six FSU signees in the 2013 class:
Florida State NEWS