Motivation is not a word that comes up often on the first day of practice, but ever since Florida State was eliminated by Texas A&M in the Super Regional round of the NCAA tournament on its home field last season, it has been tough for the team to think of anything else.
"To think that that's not fresh in the minds in any of the returners, it's clear as day," senior outfielder James Ramsey said. "We know the last time we were here we had some things to do that kept us from getting to Omaha and we're looking to improve upon all those."
Practice officially opened for FSU on Friday afternoon with the goal of reaching the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
"We definitely have some added motivation," third baseman Sherman Johnson said. "We want to get back to Omaha, we want to win Omaha, and we didn't like the way we lost (to Texas A&M) last year. The second game (of the series) we came back and we won and we thought we were going to win the third game, and it just didn't happen. We're definitely ready and we're focused on getting back to where we should be."
Mike Martin, who is entering his 33rd season as the Seminoles head coach, said that since his club has yet to play another game the defeat is still fresh in their minds, but once they get a few weeks into the season it will be a distant memory, for the players at least.
"You have that taste in your mouth (because) we were so close and it didn't happen," Martin said. "So we will use that to the best of our ability, but I assure you that in the middle of March, nobody will even be thinking about what Texas A&M did to us. And I'll forget all about it, too… in about 2018."
Searching for starting pitching
As the first day of spring practice began for FSU, Martin said that for the first time in years, he doesn't have any idea about who will fill out his starting rotation.
"Certainly for one of the few times in my career, I can honestly say, I'm clueless as to who's gonna be in the rotation," Martin said. "Clueless meaning, three of about seven (candidates), but usually it's three or four and we take the other one and use him as a mid-week."
Two veteran starters do return for the Seminoles - senior Hunter Scantling (3-3, 4.45 ERA in 17 appearances, 12 starts) and junior Scott Sitz (4-2, 5.92 ERA in 18 appearances, eight starts). But for the most part Martin said he will be looking at several freshman pitchers such as lefties Bradnon Leibrandt and Jordan Priddle or righty Luke Weaver to fill out his weekend rotation.
"We're searching for answers in the pitching area. We've got a lot of young guys that we will be look at, we have some impressive freshmen and they're going to get the ball," Martin said. "And if they fail, they're gonna get the ball again. They're a group that we feel can get better as the year goes on and the word that does not describe me must be used, must be implemented - patience."
Travis back to full strength
It was a long offseason for second baseman Devon Travis, who underwent surgery on his left knee, but the junior worked hard and got healthy and is ready to return to the infield. Travis battled leg injuries throughout last season, and after missing fall ball while recovering from his surgery, he feels ready to get back into the swing of things.
"I feel good. I'm happy. I definitely feel really good," he said. "Lost some weight, got my knee back."
One of Florida State's top hitters, Travis led the ACC in doubles (26) last season and was named a pre-season All-American. Now fully healthy, he is ready to once again contribute to the team's hitting and wouldn't mind leading the league again in doubles.
"Doubles would be pretty good, too," he joked.
Coach Mike Martin is looking forward to having all four of his starting infielders return and to getting Travis back in at full speed.
"Yeah, he is (100 percent). Very, very excited about that," Martin said. "He's been his old self the last few weeks, moving around with a lot of pep and a lot of bounce to his step. He's looked very good, too."
Travis' teammates have seen him play through pain and injury and are looking forward to seeing what he is able to accomplish healthy.
"He's playing pain free. Last year he was still playing with pain," third baseman Sherman Johnson said. "So we're all excited around here to see how he's gonna do without pain cause the year he had last year was awesome and we're expecting big things out of him."