The Florida State baseball team is currently 18-14 overall and 13-11 in the ACC. The Seminoles, who are coming off a series win this past weekend over Boston College, will take on Georgia Tech this weekend in Atlanta in a three-game series.
Head coach Mike Martin Jr. spoke with Warchant.com’s Corey Clark about the state of the team, the quest for the postseason, if he ever expected catcher Mat Nelson could be this kind of hitter (15 home runs in 30 games), what new roles could be on the horizon for different players, and more.
Q: You’ve obviously tried several different combinations in the lineup this season, trying to find the right mix. Have you ever had a season where you started 19 different guys in the lineup?
A: No. We’re just trying to find the guys that can give us the best chance to win. And we’re gong to keep tinkering with it. Like that old saying, we’re gong to grind it ’til we find it.
Q: There’s got to be a fine line between wanting to give a player enough opportunities to work out of a slump and then thinking about the urgency of now and not waiting weeks for someone to come around?
A: Exactly. And they’re mature enough to understand that it’s go time. We cannot have a poor potent lineup. We have to have pieces of the puzzle.
Q: With everyone in the country being loaded with pitching this year, how incredible is this season Mat Nelson is having at the plate? Did you know this was possible with him as a hitter?
A: The home run rate? Nobody could have predicted that. Hitting them to center and right-center, that just shows you his maturity. He’s really, really grown. He’s a force. He’s going to be a high pick, and he’s going to catch in the big leagues for along time.
Q: Is the fact that he’s going to center and right center the biggest difference?
A: No doubt. And it’s the fact that he’s so much stronger than he was. And then you start seeing results when you start hitting that way and it’s going out and you’re like, Ok, now I can buy into this. He’s absolutely taken off.
Q: What do you think (freshman pitcher) Carson Montgomery’s role will be the rest of this season? Will he be used on the weekend at all, even out of the bullpen, or still remain in the midweek spot?
A: We’re going to try (to work him on the weekends). Every time that everything feels right, we’re going to try to space it out where he can start in that spot. But if we feel he’s a better matchup on a Saturday or a Sunday with whatever team it is, we’re not afraid to start him. And that’s the beauty of him.
Q: The top three guys in your lineup (Tyler Martin, Robby Martin, Nelson) have been good virtually all year long, but the other players have struggled mightily. How frustrating has it been that you can’t find a way to lengthen this lineup and get everyone hitting?
A: It is. It’s frustrating, no doubt. For whatever reason, there are different things with guys that have performed in the past. There’s a bunch of different things, whether it’s mental, physical or something nagging. I can’t put a finger on it and I wish I could. … We’re going to try to make some magic, find some pieces and let it ride.
Q: I saw in a press conference a few weeks ago that you said you don’t sleep a lot. Is that because the offense is struggling? Being a head coach? Or is that something that’s always been there while the season is going on?
A: It’s just part of the territory. I had trouble sleeping back when I was an assistant if things we’re going well offensively or we weren’t winning. It’s the same as it is now. It’s just, this has just really been bizarre. We’ve looked good at times, and then all of the sudden the guys are back in a rut. It’s been one thing after another. We’ve just got to keep pushing.
Q: Do you even think about the NCAA Tournament right now and where you stack up RPI-wise and what you have to do to get in?
A: Oh yeah, you think about it. That’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to get to June. And once you get to June, it’s what we’re always shooting for. And nobody knows (how much the RPI matters), that’s the weird thing. It’s just all speculation. … I don’t know how it’s going to be done.
Q: How good has your pitching been this season, starting with Friday night starter Parker Messick, and what has to get even better for you guys to reach your potential? I would assume, on the whole, you’ve been pleased with what you’ve gotten on the mound?
A: Well, Parker is special. You know exactly what you’re going to get on Friday nights. He makes it tough on opposing teams. He’s super competitive. We’ve got to get him back in the lineup. That will help. He took that shot off his ankle. He rolled his ankle, so it’s been a little bit of a challenge getting him back in there. He took BP (on Wednesday) for the first time in a long time, so that was good. But the pitching has been really good. We can do a lot of different things. There’s a couple of them that are missing a little too big; they’re walking too many people. But we can strike out people when we need to, and that’s why we feel like we’ll be right in the mix with everybody.
Q: And despite the not-so-great record, you’ve seen what this team can look like when it’s playing at its peak, when it’s playing well. You guys had a week when you went 4-0 against Florida and Miami, and all four wins were blowouts. So it’s not like you can’t play at a high level. With that in mind, do you still think this team has what it takes to compete for a spot in Omaha?
A: I do. Again, we’ve got to get that mojo and that confidence back. I like the club. I like how much they care and how much they enjoy each other’s company. And I don’t ever want to think that we can’t, because when we’re good, we’re pretty dang good.