Tallahassee Regional Capsule
Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
No. 1 Florida State (47-11)
45th appearance, at-large, won Atlantic Coast regular season, No. 6 national seed
No. 2 Mississippi State (33-20)
28th appearance, at-large, Southeastern
No. 3 Stetson (41-19)
15th appearance, at-large, won Atlantic Sun regular season
No. 4 Bethune-Cookman (33-25)
Eighth appearance, automatic, won Mid-Eastern regular season and tournament
Florida State opened its season by rattling off a 23-game winning streak that remains the longest in the nation this season. The Seminoles have scarcely cooled off since, winning the ACC regular season title in convincing fashion on the strength of a dynamic offense and experienced pitching staff. FSU leads the nation in batting (.355–that’s not a typo), led by the incredible season of junior second baseman Tony Thomas (.442/.537/.760 with 11 homers and 30 stolen bases), who has transformed himself from a strikeout machine into a sure-fire All-American and potential top-three-rounds pick. The senior-laden pitching staff is headlined by national wins leader Bryan Henry (14-1, 2.54), who has used location, deception and command to dominate for three years.
Mississippi State got off to a strong start but tripped up down the stretch, dropping four of its last five weekend series and going two-and-’cue in the SEC tournament. Injuries played a major part in that slide, as the Bulldogs are particularly banged up on the mound. The bats of catcher Ed Easley (.373 with a team-leading 12 homers and 60 RBIs), first baseman Mitch Moreland (.338, seven homers) and second baseman Jeffrey Rea (.344, 12 stolen bases) will have to carry MSU through the regional.
Stetson dominated the A-Sun as usual and might have been in position to earn a No. 2 seed before losing in the conference tournament to Jacksonville. The Hatters have proven their mettle with series wins against Louisiana State, Louisville and Central Michigan and other wins against Florida and Notre Dame. Stetson went 2-1 against Bethune-Cookman this year. Pete Dunn’s club is not particularly offensive, but the one-two pitching punch of Corey Kluber (11-2, 2.19) and Chris Ingoglia (9-5, 2.98) is strong, and closer Robbi Elsemiller (3-1, 2.32, 12 saves) can be trusted in tight spots.
Pitching is the hallmark for Bethune-Cookman, as well. The Wildcats’ 3.80 ERA ranks 30th in the nation, with workhorses Dustin Blackwell (8-5, 2.86) and Francis Rodriguez (10-3, 3.28) leading the way. Like Stetson, Bethune-Cookman tested itself in non-conference action, playing series against Tennessee, Michigan and Oral Roberts before going 16-1 in conference play. The Wildcats have a bit of sock in the lineup with Angel Mercado (.400, eight homers), Angel Negron (.346, nine homers) and Chris Henault (10 homers).