Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FSU Leans on Defense

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FSU Leans on Defense

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Thomas, Times-Union sports writer

TALLAHASSEE -- Pitching and defense go together for Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin like peanuts and caramel popcorn. Crackerjack, however, wouldn't describe the Seminoles' play in the field over the past two seasons.

By committing 234 errors in 138 games over the past two seasons, the Seminoles have pushed Martin's low threshold for mistakes to the limit. That's one reason he's so encouraged about his team's improved defensive play heading into this weekend's home-opening three-game series against No. 1 Stanford.

The second-ranked Seminoles (6-1) returned from their seven-game, season-opening swing through Hawaii with only three errors. At the same juncture last season, FSU had already booted the ball 17 times. Eight of those came against the Cardinal, who swept a three-game set from the 'Noles in Palo Alto, Calif.

"I would have to say the most encouraging part [of the Hawaii trip] was the defense, because I expect the pitching to do what they did," Martin said. "The way we played defensively the last couple of years I was very disappointed. I thought we really shined defensively out there."

The Seminoles will be without freshman shortstop Stephen Drew for up to six weeks, following surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot. But, they clearly have the potential for a pitching and defense combination that could carry them back to the College World Series.

Sophomore Jeff Probst, Drew's replacement, committed 12 errors at shortstop after replacing injured starter Brett Groves last season. He's already flawless in 32 chances this season, as is sophomore second baseman Bryan Zech, who led the team with 21 errors last season.

Martin can only imagine how effective his stellar starting pitching staff can be backed by that kind of glove work.

FSU's starting pitchers were equally impressive in the islands, posting a 4-0 record and 1. …

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