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June 10, 2012
If FSU coach Mike Martin can be criticized for empty trips to Omaha, if detractors can point to a handful of talented yet underachieving teams on the national stage, if they can say his opportunity to lead the program to a national championship has passed him by, then what's to say about 2012?
Following the team's 18-7 stomping of Stanford on Sunday night, Martin stood up and ended a celebratory press conference that was never supposed to happen with with four words that weren't ever supposed to be uttered this season.
"See you in Omaha," Martin shouted.
Nope, no one outside of the program could say they saw this coming with a straight face to start the year - this writer included. But Martin took a green pitching staff with more questions than the SAT to the College World Series. The Seminoles' staff returned a grand total of five - count 'em, five - quality starts from 65 games in 2011 and none of those came from what would become the team's two best pitchers. This time a year ago, those two top pitchers, Brandon Leibrandt and Mike Compton, were in high school striking out kids who were too young to possess a driver's license.
Martin's lineup led the nation in walks. His best middle reliever, Gage Smith, was redshirted two years ago, then was cut from the team in 2011. Martin's lockdown closer, Robert Benincasa, had allowed 84 baserunners in 54.2 career innings paired with a pedestrian 4.28 ERA entering 2012.
And what did FSU do with all of that uncertainty? Earn the No. 1 ranking for seven weeks. Tie the ACC record for most conference wins (24) in a season. Most importantly, Martin's Seminoles went 5-0 in the NCAA postseason, clubbing its competition 50-12 in the process to earn the school's 21st CWS appearance.
Raise your hand if you expected to see that.
Martin guided a team with both new faces and old ones with new, more vital roles. A team that was ranked No. 20 in the nation entering 2012 is among the final eight still alive.
"It's incredible. I think that going into this season the expectations were fairly low outside of these walls," senior outfielder James Ramsey said.
"I hate to play the underdog card, especially when we scored 35 runs in a super regional. Everybody else does their job to evaluate the talent, evaluate the situation, and all we had to do is have the expectation for ourselves that we know we're capable of and that is that we can win national championships. And that was manifested (Sunday night)."
So you can knock Martin for a lack of championships. You can make a valid case for the years of What Should Have Been. But if you can do that, how can you not sit back and appreciate what the cagey veteran twirled together this time out?
"It's a year that we're not through, but at the same time, but we're going to enjoy this one," Martin said Sunday.
Considering the magic that was orchestrated in 2012, even Martin's biggest detractors should do the same.
Florida State NEWS