Florida State ace Brandon Leibrandt, who outpitched Stanford’s Mark Appel in the Super Regionals last Friday, will start tonight’s game against Arizona.
Want To Watch?
WHO: Florida State baseball team (48-15) vs. Arizona (43-17).
WHAT: College World Series opener.
WHEN: 9 p.m. today.
WHERE: Omaha, Neb.
IF WIN: Will play the the winner of today’s game between UCLA and Stony Brook.
OMAHA, Neb. — The Florida State baseball team is back in Omaha, back in the College World Series and back looking for the one honor that’s eluded the powerhouse program time and again: an NCAA championship.
“We’re excited to be here,” said FSU head coach Mark Martin, whose program is making its 21st appearance in Omaha but holds the dubious honor of reaching the CWS more times than any other program in the country without winning the big one. “It’s setting up to be an exciting show for the people here in Omaha, and we’re just 1 of 8 that are very proud to be here.”
Florida State (48-15) will open the tournament today against Arizona (43-17) at 9 p.m. FSU won the Tallahassee Super Regional, while Arizona won the Tuscon Super Regional. The Wildcats are coached by Andy Lopez, who is playing without the same pressure as his old friend Martin. Lopez won the CWS title in 1992 as the coach at Pepperdine.
But make no mistake — he’d like another.
“We’re excited and thankful (to be here). It’s always a joy when you come to this setting and allow your guys to experience what they’ve dreamed about day-in and day-out,” he said during Wednesday’s news conference. “They have dreams of being in Omaha. They have dreams of playing in this tournament; and when it comes to fruition, it really is a blessing. It’s really something that you don’t take for granted in any way, shape or form.”
Florida State and Arizona are no strangers when it comes to playing in Omaha as the two teams will square off for the sixth time in the history of the series. It also marks the second time the two schools will meet in an opening game of the CWS, the first time coming in 1970 when FSU won, 4-0.
Arizona leads the all-time series, 6-5, and the Wildcats have held the upper hand in Omaha, winning four of the five previous meetings, including three straight. The last time these two schools met in the CWS was in the 1986 championship game as the Wildcats came away with a 10-2 victory to claim their third national title and deny FSU its long-awaited first.
FSU left-hander Brandon Leibrandt (8-2), who outpitched arguably the best hurler in the country, Stanford’s Mark Appel, in the Super Regionals last Friday, will take the mound today in the CWS opener against Arizona’s Kurt Heyer (12-2).
Leibrandt is a freshman, but Martin said at this stage of the season, the son of former Atlanta Braves pitcher Charlie Leibrandt is playing like a seasoned veteran.
“He doesn’t play like a freshman,” Martin said. “He’s performed at a high level in a lot of high-pressure situations this year. We trust him 100 percent.”
Florida State is in the big dance for the third time in the last five years and has an all-time record of 26-40 at the CWS. The 26 wins are the 11th-most in NCAA history. Fifteen of the 21 trips made by Florida State to Omaha have been under the direction of Martin, who said he doesn’t think fans will see the same type of offensive outburst from his club against Arizona as they saw in last week’s Super Regionals, when the Seminoles outscored the Cardinal, 35-8, between the two games.
Especially considering Arizona has a strong pitching staff just like FSU’s.
“With the conditions it’s hard for me to expect a lot of runs scored from anybody in this game,” said Martin, whose team boasts ACC Player of the Year James Ramsey — the St. Louis Cardinals’ first-round pick in last week’s MLB Draft. “It’s obviously a very talented eight teams (left in the tournament). But conditions do have a way of keeping production down. With the arms that are here, you’ve got to look at the fact that they all know how to pitch.”
Arizona pitchers have combined to throw 14 complete games this season, the most for the program in a single year since tossing 22 in 1989. And the Wildcats have the Pac 12 Player of the Year in shortstop Alex Mejia.
The winner of today’s opener will face the winner of Stony Brook and UCLA on Sunday at 9 p.m., while the loser will face the loser of Stony Brook-UCLA at 5 p.m.