By Joe Foreman
Freshman starter Brandon Leibrandt will begin FSU's CWS run on the mound tonight.
OMAHA – Tonight's NCAA College World Series matchup between Arizona and Florida State will feature two of the most potent offenses in college baseball, but after going through workouts at spacious TD Ameritrade Park Thursday, coaches and players from both teams said they’re expecting a close, low-scoring game.
“One thing I noticed during B.P. (batting practice) is that the wind is blowing straight in,” FSU freshman pitcher Brandon Leibrandt said. “There’s not going to be too many home runs hit. That’s good for me.”
The Wildcats come into the CWS averaging 7.5 runs a game, ranking sixth nationally. They’ve scored 61 runs in five NCAA tournament games and bring a team batting average of .333 to Omaha.
The Seminoles, hitting .282 as a team, are averaging 6.9 runs a game (No. 13 nationally) and are coming off a 35-run explosion in their Super Regional sweep of Stanford.
Despite the numbers, Arizona head coach Andy Lopez said he’s expecting effective pitching performances from both starters in Friday’s game – Leibrandt (8-2, 2.58 ERA) and his own ace, junior right-hander Kurt Heyer (12-2, 2.28 ERA).
“I’ve got a funny feeling it’s going to come down to what it usually comes down to. Someone’s going to have to execute in the course of the game,” Lopez said. “It could be in the fifth inning, it could be in the seventh inning, it could be in the 10th inning.”
Lopez said he’s impressed by the Seminoles in every phase of their game, particularly their discipline at the plate.
“After watching video of the Stanford series, I would imagine we’re going to have to throw some strikes,” he said. “They do a very good job of managing the strike zone.”
Center fielder James Ramsey said the team has adopted the motto of 'All gas, no brake,' in Omaha.
He added that the Wildcats’ defensive gameplan is focused on Seminole senior James Ramsey.
“You’ve got to keep Ramsey off the bases. He looks like more than a baseball player,” Lopez said. “He looks like almost a spiritual leader to them. I remember J.D. Drew being the same type of player when I was at Florida.”
FSU head coach Mike Martin heaped his own share of praise on Arizona, calling the Wildcats a well-coached, fundamentally-sound team. He downplayed a reporter’s suggestion that Arizona’s bullpen is suspect.
“They don’t win the Pac-12 without being a very good baseball team,” Martin said. “We don’t look at their bullpen as a weakness. We’ve looked at them for about two nights now, backwards and forward, and we haven’t found a weakness. They’re a very strong, solid baseball team.”
Martin, who is coaching FSU for the 15th time at the CWS, said he expects his team to play well in Omaha.
“It’s just an absolute joy to be here. We wanted to be here last year for the first series in the new ballpark and we came up short, so it means a lot to be here this year,” he said. “I told the guys make sure you don’t get caught up in this wonderful moment. Just be yourself. You can’t go out there and try to do something that you haven’t done all year. Play the way you have all year and you’ll be fine.”
Ramsey said he and his teammates are enjoying their return to the big stage that comes with playing in the CWS, but they’re focused on one goal – winning a national championship.
“We’re excited, but we didn’t take a whole lot of fulfillment from just getting here,” Ramsey said. “I think in years past when we got here, we let off the gas a little bit. Our motto has been ‘All Gas, No Brake.’ I know coming back for my senior year, one thing I want to do is get a national championship for this program that is so deserving of one.”
Ramsey’s words were echoed by Leibrandt.
“We’re glad to be here, but at the same time, we’re here for business,” Leibrandt said. “We’re trying to win it, not just enjoy the moment. We’re trying to take it in, but we want to be dogpiling in the end.”
Notes from Omaha
FSU is making its 21st appearance in the College World Series, the most of any team in this year’s field. The Seminoles and Southern California are tied for fourth in all-time appearance, behind Texas (34), Miami (23) and Arizona State (22). Arizona is making its 16th CWS appearance. ... Arizona leads the all-time series with Florida State, 6-5. The last time the Seminoles and Wildcats met in Omaha was in the 1986 CWS championship game, won by Arizona, 10-2. ... The Seminoles’ all-time record against teams from the Pac-12 Conference is 46-32. ... FSU’s all-time record at the CWS is 26-40. Under Martin, the Seminoles are 18-28 in Omaha.
He said it:
“You definitely want to. He’s such a great coach,” Leibrandt said. “He’s done so much for college baseball and this program.”
--Brandon Leibrandt on trying to win Mike Martin's first national title