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June 13, 2012
With a slew of freshman riding high from a 5-0 run through the NCAA postseason to date, FSU coach Mike Martin didn't have any plans on tapering back the emotion entering the week of the College World Series.
"The players are excited, I'm excited," said Martin, who makes his 15th CWS appearance as the Seminoles' head coach. "Somebody was wondering if we need to calm the players down and I said 'Why? We started working in August to arrive at this point in their careers and their life. Let them enjoy it for another day. The calming down will come when we get out there.'"
The Seminoles landed in Omaha on Wednesday afternoon in advance of their opening game against Arizona on Friday. First pitch is set for 9 p.m. ET. UCLA and Stony Brook are the other two teams in FSU's half of the bracket, and those two will play at 5 p.m. ET on Friday.
But even with an eclectic bunch, veterans - the entire starting infield makes it second trip to Omaha this week - and fresh faces including FSU's top two starting pitchers, the excitement is unanimous.
"We're trying to stay calm and relaxed, but it's such a good feeling to know you get a chance to go back to Omaha and have the chance to bring the first championship back to Tallahassee is a great feeling.
Boyd said that the veterans have been sharing Omaha stories with the younger players in hopes of preparing them for the wild scene that awaits.
"It's like a big carnival out there, like Christmas for college baseball," junior first baseman Jayce Boyd said. "It's just not an experience you're used to."
One of those first-timers, freshman pitcher Brandon Leibrandt, will be thrown into the mix quickly; he will get the start against Arizona on Friday night.
"All of the fans, the camaraderie that goes with it, I'm definitely looking forward to it," He is 2-0 in the NCAA postseason so far.
"I think it's still a little bit surreal," said second baseman Devon Travis. "I think the freshmen are stoked definitely and it's fun to see that the guys are excited."
And with all of the excitement from the FSU camp this week comes a bold prediction.
"There's still no doubt in my mind that we're going to win it," Boyd said.
Arizona paced by its potent offense
Florida State opens up its 2012 College World Series against on the nation's most potent offenses.
The Wildcats rank sixth in the nation in scoring with an average of 7.5 runs per game and have a team batting average of .333. Because of the spacious ballpark Arizona plays in, the majority of its runs don't come from home runs (it has just 20), but the Wildcats do have plenty of extra-base hits with 126 doubles and 35 triples.
"Offensively if you look beyond the batting average, they're a team that their older guys do a good job with their walk versus strike ratio, which tells you they have discipline," said FSU associate head coach and pitching coach Mike Bell. "They're experienced guys, they don't have a lot of home runs but you haven't looked at the ballpark dimensions. If you look at the triples they've hit it shows you that they've got some big gaps and big lines there, so they can swing the bat and they can score runs."
Arizona has scored at least seven runs in five of its NCAA Tournament games, including at least 15 runs in three games of regional play.
Head coach Mike Martin said he hasn't had a chance to fully break the Wildcats down on tape, but just from looking at the numbers he knows that Arizona has the potential to put a crooked number in every inning.
"You look at their numbers and your eyes bug out, because you just don't maintain that throughout the year with these bats," Martin said. "But they are for real. They're going to be a real challenge and there's no doubt that this College World Series is going to be one of tremendous excitement."
A familiar foe
When Martin looks across the diamond at TD Ameritrade stadium on Friday in Omaha, Neb. he will see a familiar face as the Arizona head coach.
The Wildcats are led by Andy Lopez, who prior to taking the Arizona job was the head coach at Florida from 1995-2001. Lopez is making his fifth CWS appearance and second with Arizona (he took Florida twice and won the whole thing in 1992 with Pepperdine).
"Andy is a great Christian man. A fierce competitor," Martin said of his longtime rival. "I knew him when he was at Florida. Got to be great friends with him, and have kept up with him."
Martin says he still vividly remembers the conversation he had with Lopez when he was fired at Florida. Lopez was on his way back to California, before Arizona came calling.
"I can remember the day that he left Florida. He called me on the way back from vacation," Martin said. "I can remember the service station I stopped at. He is a good man. I talked to him for a good while. He is a good man. He was very frustrated at that point in his career and was going back to Los Angeles. One thing led to another and Arizona came after him and he's one of the top coaches in the country there's no question about it. He's got a heck of a ball club."
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