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This time of year is never easy. Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin Jr. is certainly aware of that.

But until Monday afternoon, Martin Jr. didn’t know just how hard a road it was going to be for his Florida State Seminoles, who earned a 43rd straight berth to the NCAA Tournament.

They are the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Regional at Oxford, Miss., and will open up Friday with No. 2 seed Southern Miss, which was a candidate to be a regional host and has been ranked in the Top 25 for much of the year.

The No. 1 seed is Ole Miss, which just finished second in the SEC Tournament. The Rebels will be playing Southeast Missouri in the opening round.

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“We’re excited,” Martin Jr. said. “It will be a great environment at Ole Miss. A very tough regional. Our guys are excited about the opportunity and challenge.”

Florida State was actually supposed to play Southern Miss this season in a three-game series, but when the ACC reduced the entire league’s non-conference schedule from four series to two, the matchup with the Golden Eagles was lost.

It was something Martin Jr. and the other ACC coaches were worried about before the season even began. Because the league’s athletic directors cut the schedule down to 50 games (instead of 56), that meant two less non-conference series for each team. Which meant the RPI would be affected negatively for all teams in the conference, because they would have very little “cross-pollination” with other leagues.

And while the ACC coaches were assured by the Selection Committee before the season that RPI wasn’t going to be leaned on as much as it has been in the past, Martin Jr. said it certainly appears like the committee used the RPI and little else.

After the field was announced, Martin Jr. was asked what he thought of the selection process as a whole in 2021.

“Besides laughable?” Martin Jr. said. “I really don’t know what to say. I know there are a lot of folks that are shaking their heads. Things don’t make sense. Survive and advance. That’s what it’s all about from here on out. … But there are a lot of teams that are shaking their heads. We’re not. We’re fine. We’re in. …

“But that old saying, ‘When you don’t think it’s about politics, it is.’ I can promise you that.”

Martin Jr. pointed out that his team has the second most Top 25 wins in the country and is still a No. 3 seed in the Oxford Regional. Not that it truly matters. The Seminoles were going to be on the road regardless, and whether you’re the 2 seed or the 3 seed, you’re likely going to have to play the 1 seed the next day if you win.

So, Martin Jr. wasn’t griping about where his team fell as much as what happened to the rest of the ACC. Specifically, two former FSU players who are coaching in the league.

Mike Bell’s Pitt Panthers didn’t make the tournament at all after being preliminarily selected as a potential host site. The Panthers didn’t finish strong, which is what the head of the Selection Committee noted when asked about their exclusion. But they were replaced by Alabama, which had a similarly bad record to close out the regular season and struggled all year to win series in the SEC.

Link Jarrett’s Notre Dame team also wasn’t selected as a Top 8 national seed despite winning the ACC by 4 1/2 games.

“I hate it for Mike,” Martin Jr. said. “And Link should’ve been a Top 8 (national seed). I don’t know what kind of representation we had from our league on that committee.”

The second-year head coach and his team now turn their attention to the most important baseball of the season. This will be Martin Jr.’s first postseason as a head coach, since last year’s tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and he’ll be starting it in a place he’s never been to before.

Ole Miss has one of the rowdiest stadiums in the country, and he expects Southern Miss to bring a large contingent of fans as well. So, nothing about this weekend is going to be easy for the Seminoles.

Then again, it’s not supposed to be easy in June.

And for a 43rd June in a row, the Florida State Seminoles are still playing baseball.

“It’s a great college town,” Martin Jr. said of Oxford. “Everybody I’ve spoken with says it’s one of their top favorite venues to watch a game and compete. Nobody likes a crowd that sits on their hands, and they definitely don’t.”

The Seminoles will face Southern Miss on Friday at 3 p.m. ET, while Ole Miss takes on Southeast Missouri State later that night.


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