FSU Fights To The Finish, Even As Postseason Streak Ends

Image credit: Florida State righthander Jackson Baumeister (Photo courtesy of Florida State)

For more than 40 years, Florida State was the most consistent program in college baseball. Every year, the Seminoles won at least 40 games and played in the NCAA Tournament.

That streak is now over. While Florida State won Friday night at Louisville, its season will conclude Saturday with the end of the ACC’s regular season. The Seminoles (21-31, 7-21) last weekend were eliminated from contention for the ACC Tournament, extinguishing even the slim hopes that they could earn the conference’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid by winning the ACC Tournament.

At 44 seasons, FSU’s NCAA Tournament streak is tied for the longest in not only college baseball history, but in all of Division I college sports. The Seminoles share the mark with rival Miami, which saw its own streak end in 2017.

FSU’s streak is a remarkable achievement that began in 1978 and spanned six decades. In 1978, the Seminoles were playing in the Metro Conference under coach Woody Woodward. They went 44-18, starting both the 40-win and NCAA Tournament streak.

Woodward left his alma mater after the season to become the Reds field coordinator. He was succeeded by Dick Howser, who in 1979 led FSU to a 43-17-1 mark and another appearance in regionals.

After one season, Howser left his alma mater to become the Yankees manager. Mike Martin was promoted to replace him and, in time, would come to define Florida State baseball and the twin streaks. For 40 seasons, he guided the Seminoles, annually taking them to the NCAA Tournament and at least 40 wins. Over those 40 years, Florida State won more than 2,000 games and reached the College World Series 17 times.

There were some close calls along the way. In 2017, Florida State was in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament before a blistering run at the end of the season that saw it win the ACC Tournament and advance to Omaha. In 2019, Martin’s final season as head coach, the Seminoles needed a strong finish to keep both streaks alive. Their 40th win of that season was in the first game of super regionals.

After Martin retired following the 2019 season, Mike Martin Jr. was promoted to head coach. After a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Seminoles went 31-24, ending the 40-win streak. They went 34-25 in 2022, again reaching the NCAA Tournament, but Martin Jr. was fired after the season. Link Jarrett, a former Florida State player and assistant coach, was hired away from Notre Dame to succeed him.

Florida State wasn’t ranked in the Preseason Top 25, but after it started the season 6-0 and won a series at TCU there was plenty of early season excitement. But things soon went sideways for the Seminoles. They lost a series at home to Florida Gulf Coast the next week and were swept in a pair of midweek games at Central Florida.

FSU on March 17 won its series opener against Boston College, 19-8, to improve to 12-6 on the season. The Seminoles then fell into a 10-game losing streak that included a series loss to BC, a home loss to rival Florida and series sweeps at Virginia and Miami. They never recovered from it and lost seven straight series before sweeping Mercer in early May. By then, however, Florida State knew its postseason streak was all but over.

So, what went wrong for the Seminoles? There’s no one simple answer. Jarrett wasn’t hired until June 24, after Notre Dame’s run in the College World Series ended. That late start didn’t help it in the transfer portal, leaving Jarrett largely with the roster he inherited.

That roster was exceptionally young. FSU has 24 players in their first or second year of college baseball, including 16 true freshmen. That group, which was recruited by Martin Jr.’s staff, is quite talented and ranked No. 14 in the 2022 recruiting class rankings.

The newcomers had to be thrust right into action. The Seminoles had to replace their whole rotation and seven of the 11 hitters who got more than 100 plate appearances in 2022. They were never going to be the deepest team and a couple early season injuries left them particularly thin in a few spots.

FSU struggled to find a consistent rotation. The Seminoles have used 10 different pitchers as starters and their 5.87 team ERA ranks 12th in the ACC. But it’s not just a pitching problem. FSU is last in the ACC in fielding (.966) and 13th in scoring (5.83 runs per game).

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom in Tallahassee, however. FSU has continued to fight throughout the season. Last Sunday, the day after it was eliminated from ACC Tournament contention, it beat No. 1 Wake Forest, 4-3, in the series finale. It won Friday behind a solid start from sophomore righthander Jackson Baumeister (8 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 8 K).

Sophomores Jaime Ferrer (.326/.372/.535) and James Tibbs (.344/.470/.693, 17 HR) have emerged as strong building blocks for next year’s lineup, while freshmen Ben Barrett (.328/.352/.493; 0-0, 5.21) and Cam Smith (.260/.327/.525, 12 HR) look like budding stars.

Finding more players like that, whether on the recruiting trail or in the transfer portal, will be the key this summer for Jarrett and his staff. They flipped Notre Dame quickly after they arrived after the 2019 season. The Fighting Irish were 24-30 that spring and in 2021, Jarrett guided them to a 34-13 mark, the ACC title and super regionals.

Getting FSU turned around that fast won’t be easy. That Notre Dame team was much older, in part due to the pandemic allowing everyone an extra year of eligibility. But it’s still reasonable to expect the Seminoles not to be in this position again in a year. How much of a jump they can make will be one of the biggest storylines of 2024 in the ACC.

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