CWS 2019: Taking a closer look at Florida State
HawgBeat's coverage of the Razorbacks' Road to Redemption in Omaha is brought to you by Arkansas Oral Surgery, which has offices located in Conway and Russellville.
For the first time in school history, Arkansas is heading back to Omaha for the second straight year. The Razorbacks’ side of the bracket features Florida State, Texas Tech and Michigan in a double-elimination format similar to the regional.
Before play begins Saturday, HawgBeat is taking a closer look at all three of those teams. First up is Arkansas’ opening opponent, Florida State…
Record: 41-21 (17-13 ACC)
The No. 10 team in the HawgBeat Preseason Composite Poll, Florida State didn’t live up to those lofty expectations most of the season. After winning their first 12 games of the year, the Seminoles fell off a cliff and bottomed out at No. 97 in the RPI. They won five of their last six series, though, and snuck into the NCAA Tournament as one of the “last four in.” Yet to lose this postseason, Florida State swept the Athens Regional and Baton Rouge Super Regional to make it this far.
Head coach: Mike Martin (40th season)
One of the biggest storylines of the 2019 College World Series is that Martin, Florida State’s legendary head coach, has made it back to Omaha for the 17th time in his 40th and final season. He has an incredible 2,028-734-4 (.734) overall record, which is the most wins in NCAA history for any sport. Martin’s teams have won at least 40 games every year and he’s coached 92 All-Americans, 52 MLB players, 18 first-round draft picks, four Golden Spikes Award winners and two Dick Howser Trophy winners. The only thing missing from his trophy case is a national championship.
Florida State has reached the postseason 42 consecutive years, which is the longest active streak and two shy of tying Miami’s all-time record that was snapped in 2017. Even more impressive is that this is the Seminoles’ 23rd appearance in the College World Series, the third most by any team behind Texas (36) and Miami (25).
Unlike those teams, though, Florida State has never won a national title. Martin’s teams have finished runner-up twice and the Seminoles finished second in 1970 under Jack Stallings. The next most College World Series appearances without a title is 12 by Clemson, followed closely by two other participants in this year’s event: Mississippi State (11) and Arkansas (10).
The Seminoles were sent to the Athens Regional as the No. 3 seed and had no issues beating host school Georgia. They fell behind 2-0 early in the winner’s bracket game, but roared back to win 12-3. The Bulldogs got a rematch in the regional final, but were soundly beaten again, with a final score of 10-1.
Arkansas didn’t have to play Georgia during the regular season, but the two schools did get matched up at the SEC Tournament. Isaiah Campbell gave up only two hits in five scoreless innings before coming out to save his arm for the NCAA Tournament. The bullpen couldn’t hang on to a 1-0 lead, as the Bulldogs tied it up in the seventh and won it with two runs in the eighth.
After sweeping the Athens Regional, Florida State had to get by yet another SEC team in the super regional. LSU jumped out to a 4-0 lead through five innings of Game 1, but the Seminoles battled back, tied it in the seventh and won 6-4. In Game 2, it was Florida State who got out to an early lead only for the Tigers to tie it up and force extras. A walk-off single by Drew Mendoza clinched their spot in the College World Series.
During the regular season, Arkansas finally got the possum off its back by winning a series against LSU. The Razorbacks won the first two games handedly - 14-4 and 11-6 - and were close to pulling off a sweep, but Antoine Duplantis’ three-run home run in the eighth lifted the Tigers to a 3-2 win.
Projected Starting Lineup
C - Matheu Nelson (fr.): .277/.439/.439, 6 2B, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 32 R, 30 BB/45 K, 16 HBP, 4-7 SB, 27-34 SBA
1B - Carter Smith (jr.): .247/.366/.376, 5 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 18 R, 15 BB/20 K, 0-1 SB
2B - Nander De Sedas (fr.): .241/.365/.352, 8 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 31 RBI, 38 R, 28 BB/54 K, 12 HBP, 3-5 SB
3B - Drew Mendoza (jr.): .319/.484/.620, 12 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 56 RBI, 60 R, 69 BB/69 K, 2-4 SB
SS - Mike Salvatore (sr.): .341/.430/.541, 22 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 51 RBI, 55 R, 37 BB/28 K, 5-7 SB
LF - Tim Becker (sr.): .286/.400/.531, 3 2B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 17 R, 8 BB/18 K
CF - J.C. Flowers (jr.): .271/.372/.511, 11 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 45 R, 30 BB/64 K, 11-14 SB
RF - Reese Albert (so.): .299/.406/.552, 6 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 33 R, 26 BB/43 K, 2-3 SB
DH - Robby Martin (fr.): .332/.414/.473, 17 2B, 4 HR, 54 RBI, 33 R, 30 BB/52 K, 2-3 SB
Three years ago, Mendoza was the highest rated high school prospect to make it to college. Since then, he’s put together a solid career at Florida State, improving every year.
After earning Freshman All-America honors in 2017 and third-team All-ACC honors last year, Mendoza is in the midst of his best season yet. Although his batting average (.319) ranks third on the team, he leads the Seminoles in the other two triple crown categories, with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs. That helped him become a first-team all-conference selection this season.
A 6-foot-5, 230-pound third baseman, he was picked by the Nationals in the third round of last week’s MLB Draft.
Walk-On to Star
The most interesting play in Florida State’s lineup is easily Becker, who spent the last three years on the club baseball team before making the team as a walk-on through an open tryout this fall.
He didn’t get on the field much, but has seen his playing time increase down the stretch because of the struggles by freshman Elijah Cabell.
The senior’s fourth start of the season - and his career - was against Florida Atlantic in the opening game of the Athens Regional. All he did in that game was launch his first two career home runs. The next day against Georgia, he homered again.
So far this postseason, he is 6 for 17 with nine RBIs.
~Jr. LHP Drew Parrish (18 games/17 starts, 8-5, 5.11 ERA, 116 K/30 BB, 86 1/3 IP)
~So. RHP CJ Van Eyk (17 games/17 starts, 10-3, 3.80 ERA, 120 K/39 BB, 94 2/3 IP)
~So. RHP Conor Grady (24 games/7 starts, 9-5, 3.64 ERA, 67 K/24 BB, 59 1/3 IP)
Florida State has not yet announced its starter for Saturday night’s game, but it will most likely be Parrish. Although his numbers aren’t as good as Van Eyk’s, he’s been the Seminoles’ No. 1 starter this year.
As a sophomore, Parrish was named an All-American by multiple outlets after going 5-1 with a 2.52 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 107 innings, while holding opponents to a .186 batting average.
Even with a high ERA, he has still been a high strikeout guy. His 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings ranks 25th nationally, just behind Arkansas’ Patrick Wicklander.
On top of that, he’s a left-handed pitcher, which the Razorbacks have struggled against this season.
When it gets late in games and Florida State needs its closer, it brings in Flowers from center field. In his first season as a two-way player, he has racked up 12 saves with a team-leading 1.40 ERA as a right-hander.
Before turning it over to him, though, the Seminoles have a few other bullpen arms. The best one is right-hander Chase Haney, a redshirt junior with a 2.73 ERA in 33 innings. He and Flowers are holding opponents to a minuscule .190 and .185 batting average, respectively.
Sophomore left-hander Shane Drohan has made 11 starts in 16 appearances this season and could be Florida State’s fourth starter. If not, he could be a high-strikeout (71 in 51 2/3 innings) guy used in long relief.
All of the Seminoles’ other pitchers have ERAs of 4.00 or higher.
Florida State had four players taken in last week’s MLB Draft, its fewest since having only one draft pick in 2016…
~Drew Mendoza: Nationals - 3rd round, 94th overall
~J.C. Flowers: Pirates - 4th round, 124th overall
~Drew Parrish: Royals - 8th round, 229th overall
~Mike Salvatore: Mariners - 9th round, 276th overall
Arkansas and Florida State have never met in the regular season, but have played five times in the postseason. The Razorbacks are undefeated in those matchups, with all but one decided by two or fewer runs.
Each of the first two times head coach Dave Van Horn made it to the College World Series at Arkansas, he had to get by the Seminoles in the super regionals. In 2004, the Razorbacks swept them in Fayetteville. Five years later, they did the same in Tallahassee, with Andrew Darr hitting a walk-off double to send Arkansas to Omaha.
Van Horn was a graduate assistant for the first matchup between Arkansas and Florida State, as the Razorbacks beat them 7-6 in the 1985 NCAA South II Regional en route to the College World Series.
Stat Comparison - Arkansas | Florida State (national rank, out of 297)
RPI: No. 6 | No. 50 (entering the NCAA Tournament)
Batting average: .301 (17th) | .272 (118th)
Slugging percentage: .495 (8th) | .457 (29th)
On-base percentage: .397 (20th) | .398 (15th)
Home runs: 87 (t-8th) | 81 (t-12th)
Runs/game: 7.6 (15th) | 7.0 (t-41st)
ERA: 3.92 (44th) | 4.55 (108th)
WHIP: 1.25 (14th) | 1.41 (84th)
Strikeouts/9 innings: 9.5 (24th) | 10.3 (6th)
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.56 (31st) | 2.35 (52nd)
Fielding percentage: .972 (97th) | .964 (205th)
Stolen bases/game: 1.25 (82nd) | 0.74 (223rd)