As yesterday with David Ching, sports editor for the Athens Banner-Herald, to seek out the best information on the teams in the Tallahassee Regional, why not get as close to the source as possible? For those unaware, shame on you for not reading earlier posts, warchant.com is the Rivals.com site for Florida State. The baseball message board the The SBOMB is a great way to read up and get views, thoughts, and opinions on Florida State baseball.
Without further delay here the 9-Innings with Schoffel.
B9: Section B?! Give us Buckeye fans a quick background on the "animals"..
IS: The Animals of Section B are a legendary and passionate group of Florida State baseball fans who have been around the program in some fashion or another since the late 1970s. They're often loud, rowdy, and they can make life miserable for an opponent. My advice to any visitor is to play nice with them. If they sense that their antics are getting under a player's or coach's skin, they can be relentless. But at the same time, they are very knowledgeable fans and truly appreciate good baseball. So opposing pitchers routinely receive loud ovations for gutty performances. Bottom line: As a visiting fan, you're not always going to like the things the Animals do and say, but if you love college baseball, you'll appreciate their passion. Check out SectionB.com for information about their traditions. (That way you might not need to ask why they're singing the Canadian national anthem in the fifth inning.)
B9: Obviously the Seminoles have put together a solid season being able to be a # 1 seed and hosting in an NCAA Regional. What has been the catalyst or force leading the way?
IS: That's a real tough question, because this team doesn't have one major strong suit. The pitching has been solid, but not overwhelming. The defense has been decent, but not spectacular. The offense has been better than anyone expected, but the bottom third of the lineup has really struggled of late. If there's any one key to their success, it's that they have great chemistry and just find ways to win. They have made a number of late comebacks this season, and they've won with different strategies. They've played small ball. They've hit for power when they've needed to. They're capable of stealing bases. They may not be great at anything, but they're scrappy and pretty good at most everything.
B9: On the counter, any weaknesses the Seminoles have or obstacles that could keep them from winning the regional?
IS: As I mentioned earlier, the bottom third of the lineup is a real concern. They have struggled to produce much of anything lately, and you can't just surrender a full inning of offense three or four times a game. The pitching staff has been impressive in the second half of the season, but you always have to worry about the unexpected when you're throwing freshman pitchers out there for the first two games of a regional.
B9: 2008 Golden Spikes award winner and #8 overall pick Buster Posey left a big hole in the line-up I'm sure. How has coach Martin replace the void left? Or with a player of Buster's capabilities is it unfair for the production to be reproduced by one or two athletes?
IS: They haven't replaced it yet and won't any time soon. Buster Posey's 2008 season was one of those years that a team might experience once in a couple decades. The guy came within a hair of claiming the national triple crown. Surprisingly, FSU's power numbers aren't far from what they were a year ago. The biggest drop-offs have been in team batting average – hard to overcome the loss of Posey's .463 – and on defense. Posey was an exceptional catcher, and FSU has battled inconsistency with young backstops Rafael Lopez and Parker Brunelle.
B9: What were your reaction when the regional draw was released?
IS: I wasn't too surprised to see Georgia sent here; that had been predicted by a lot of the analysts. Ohio State was a little out of the blue from a geography standpoint, but it's always fun to see teams from different parts of the country. I think it will be good for the folks down here to see what the Big Ten has to offer, and it will be interesting to compare some of the top teams from three major conferences. At the same time, Florida State's fans and players learned last year that all four teams must be respected – No. 4 seed Bucknell came into Dick Howser Stadium and blanked FSU in the first game of last year's regional.
B9: What players in the Garnet and Gold should we watch out for or are keys to FSU's success this weekend?
IS: On offense, keep an eye out for leadoff man Tyler Holt. When he's hot, it seems like he reaches base seven or eight times a game. He landed in a slump recently, but he batted over .400 for most of the season. And when he's on base, he will put pressure on the defense with his speed and fearlessness. Freshman left-hander Sean Gilmartin has been sensational as a rookie, winning 11 games and earning first-team All-ACC. He will start FSU's second game, meaning he will go against the winner of the OSU-Georgia game if the Seminoles get past Marist. Gilmartin is not overpowering, but he is a tough competitor and has very good command.
B9: For the fans of all three schools traveling to Tallahassee what can they expect in terms of an atmosphere?
IS: I'm a little curious what effect the early game times will have on the crowds for Friday. I don't have very high hopes for that noon game Friday, but most of the other games will be very well-attended. If Florida State makes it through to the championship round, the atmosphere will be as good as it is at any school in the country – crowds exceeding 4,000 or more. And the Animals, of course, add a little extra flair.
B9: For Florida State to reach Omaha they must.... And they can not....
IS: They must get quality starts from freshman pitchers Brian Busch and Sean Gilmartin. The Seminoles have a solid bullpen, but I don't think they want to reach into it too early. If Busch and Gilmartin can pitch into the sixth or seventh inning those first two games, FSU should be in very good position.
They can not squander offensive opportunities. This lineup isn't explosive enough to have what happened to them in the ACC championship game, when they failed to score late with the bases loaded and one out. This team has to do a great job of advancing runners and driving them in whenever they get the chance.
B9: Five words that summarize the Florida State baseball program are...
IS: Consistent. Proud. Tough. Polished. Classy.
As always, the Buckeye Nine appreciates Schoffel's time and efforts in sitting down and providing insight to the site. Hop on over to warchant.com sometime this weekend if you haven't already and show our appreciate. Thanks again to Schoffel.