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Florida State baseball team reloads for another Super Regional run

Local players for FSU

Giovanny Alfonzo;Lincoln Park Academy;5-11;175;So.;INF

Stephen McGee;Port St. Lucie;6-3;230;Jr.;C

Alvin Swoope;Treasure Coast;5-8;175;Fr.;INF

Dylan Silva;American Heritage;6-1;215;Fr.;LHP

Florida State coach Mike Martin is used to making wholesale replacements year after year with his baseball team. But few challenges will be as daunting as the one he and his assistants face this season.

Gone are the team’s top four hitters, including St. Louis Cardinals first-round draft pick James Ramsey and former Palm Beach Central standout Devon Travis (a 13th-round pick by the Detroit Tigers). The group combined for 30 home runs, 76 doubles, 201 RBIs and scored 252 of FSU’s 459 runs.

FSU has reached the Super Regionals in 12 of the 14 years since the format was introduced — including five in a row. But if the Seminoles are to return to that round and again challenge for a College World Series spot, they will need significant contributions from a group of 15 newcomers.

“I’m anxious; I’m ready to get started,” said Martin, who begins his 34th season as FSU’s coach today at home against Rhode Island. “Just looking forward to seeing how we develop as the season goes along. We’re going to experience some ups and downs. We do every year.”

While the loss of the team’s top four hitters could have been softened by the return of the Seminoles’ top two pitchers, FSU coaches learned two weeks ago that sophomore right-hander Mike Compton would have Tommy John surgery on his elbow and miss the season. Compton went 12-2 with a 2.87 ERA, earning freshman All-America honors a season ago.

“He will definitely be missed but we also see this as an opportunity for someone else to step in and fill the No. 2 spot in the rotation,” Martin said.

FSU’s unquestioned No. 1 starter is sophomore Brandon Leibrandt, who was 8-3 with a 2.82 ERA as a freshman in 2012. The son of former major-leaguer Charlie Leibrandt is a control pitcher who keeps the ball low and finds success by inducing ground balls.

Leibrandt doesn’t overpower hitters with his fastball, but in 99 innings he had 83 strikeouts and allowed just 29 walks. He has added about 10-15 pounds in the offseason and has also been working to add a fourth pitch, a cut fastball.

“I feel heavier in a good way,” Leibrandt said. “Stronger, a little more explosive and hopefully it will relate to a little more velocity.”

Leibrandt will pitch today.on Friday as FSU opens the season at home against Rhode Island. Senior right-hander Scott Sitz (4-3, 3.72 ERA) and sophomore right-hander Peter Miller (5-2, 3.89 ERA) will start in the games on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

The pitchers will have a familiar face behind the plate. Former Port St. Lucie High standout Stephen McGee, a junior, returns after catching all 67 games last season.

But FSU lost three of four infielders and has just senior Justin Gonzalez back at shortstop. Gonzalez is FSU’s returning leader in home runs (nine), hits (54), runs (42) and RBIs (42).

The 6-foot-2 Gonzalez weighed just 165 pounds when he arrived in Tallahassee as a freshman, but he now weighs in at 205 pounds.

“When you put on that weight you don’t have to try as hard,” Gonzalez said. “You just let the pitcher supply the power. Putting an extra 40 pounds behind that swing definitely helps out a lot. Balls will carry more and hopefully find the gaps.”

FSU’s outfield is still a work in progress, and Martin said he’s looking at a number of platoon situations. Right fielder Josh Delph, who is FSU’s leading returning hitter at .267, could lead off. Freshman DJ Stewart has impressed coaches, and could also earn a starting job in center field.

Jameis Winston, who is vying for the starting quarterback job on FSU’s football team this spring, will also make his college baseball debut. Winston could play left field and might close games after FSU lost Robert Benincasa, who had 16 saves and was drafted by the Washington Nationals last June.

“Jameis Winston has been very impressive,” Martin said.

FSU will also lean on a few junior-college standouts to fill some of the gaps. Brett Knief could start in the outfield, Marcus Davis could be the designated hitter or left fielder and Casey Smit could see playing time at first base.

“Knief, Davis and Smit will be counted on to play a lot this year,” Martin said. “It is good that they have gotten some experience at the junior college level. But they are still freshman as far as I am concerned until they’ve played a few games. It is a lot different at this level.”

Local players for FSU

Giovanny Alfonzo;Lincoln Park Academy;5-11;175;So.;INF

Stephen McGee;Port St. Lucie;6-3;230;Jr.;C

Alvin Swoope;Treasure Coast;5-8;175;Fr.;INF

Dylan Silva;American Heritage;6-1;215;Fr.;LHP

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The Latest News Headlines

  • A couple has been indicted on accusations that they murdered their deaf teenage son and then burned down their house to cover up the crime, the Associated Press reported. >> Read more trending news  According to the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office in New York, Ernest F. Franklin II, 35, and his wife, Heather Franklin, 33, of Guilford, New York, were charged with second-degree murder, arson and tampering with physical evidence. The two were indicted Friday on charges of second-degree murder in the death of their adopted son, 16-year-old Jeffrey Franklin, People magazine reported. Following an investigation of a fire on March 1 at the family’s 1,300-square-foot home, the couple was arrested. Investigators believe they set fire to their home to cover up the killing of their son. An autopsy determined he died prior to the fire, according to the sheriff’s office. Local law authorities have not said how or when the boy was killed. The Franklins got married in 2011 and adopted Jeffrey six or seven years ago, the sheriff’s office said. According to People magazine, Ernest is an Iraq War veteran. Heather wrote in posts on her Facebook page that she is pregnant. The Franklins are being held without bail. They entered a plea of not guilty. “People are asking themselves, ‘How could this happen?'” Chenango County Sheriff Ernest Cutting Jr. told People magazine. “Certainly for the public here, it’s a mix of anger and frustration and disappointment.” Just days before Heather Franklin was arrested, she posted an update on her Facebook page about how much she missed her son, who she called JR. She also informed friends and family that she and her husband had added their “needs” and “wants” to the CheckedTwice.com Family Gift Registry because they lost everything in the fire. A GoFundMe page was also established, but it has been taken down. The Associated Press reported that police who responded to a 911 call about 1:15 a.m. on March 1 found the Franklin’s house, located about an hour away from Syracuse, engulfed in flames. Jeffrey was inside and unable to escape the fire, according to the sheriff’s office. Authorities initially said the cause of the fire appeared to be a wood stove, the residence’s main heating source. “People are wondering how anybody could do something so brutal to a developmentally disabled and handicapped 16-year-old boy,” Cutting told People. “There are a lot of people who would have taken him. There are organizations that would have taken care of him. Why resort to that? … It’s just a terrible, terrible tragedy.”
  • North Carolina police said they have found the bodies of two missing children Saturday morning in Hoke County. >> Read more trending news  Fayetteville police had been searching for 2-year-old Serenity and 4-day-old Genesis Freeman overnight Friday. They were in their father's custody when they disappeared and he reportedly refused to tell police where the children were. Tillman Freeman, 30, was first charged with two counts of child abuse and child neglect.  When their bodies were found in a wooded area off of Highway 211, two counts of first-degree murder were added to those charges. The children's mother was in the hospital at the time the children went missing for an unrelated reason.
  • A residential neighborhood on the westside, near Timquana Park and Timuquana Country Club was the scene of a police and Hazmat investigation Saturday morning.  Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers responded to Timuquana Rd. because a vehicle was left parked in front of a house with a sign that read, “Danger, stay back hazmat needed”. JSO says there was a strong chemical smell around the car.  JFRD Hazmat was called to the neighborhood and advised citizens to shelter inside their homes.  No evacuation was ordered. One person was found dead inside the car.  JSO Homicide Detectives are now investigating.  
  • After the collapse of health care reform legislation in the House on Friday, Republicans in the Congress and President Donald Trump now must decide what’s next on their respective agendas, as the GOP tries to pick up the pieces from a very public legislative failure over an issue that had been their central political focus for the last seven years. Here’s the look from Capitol Hill. 1. The first big setback for the Trump agenda. You can try to downplay what happened, but there was little positive to take from this health care debacle in the House. “I will not sugarcoat this; this is a disappointing day for us,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan after the vote was canceled. President Trump tried to blame Democrats, but that rang hollow since the White House had done no serious outreach to the other party. With this setback, it’s even more apparent how little has been done so far by the GOP Congress with respect to the Trump Agenda. Other than approving a series of plans to reverse specific regulations of the Obama Administration, no bills of any import have been passed. Infrastructure, jobs bills, tax cuts, cutting government – all of that sounds good – but so far, no action. And Trump wrote 'The Art of the Deal' — Bill Mitchell (@JerseyGuy_Bill) March 25, 2017 2. Trump allies turn their sights on Speaker Ryan. It wasn’t hard to hear the low rumbling of some supporters of President Trump, as they used the Friday health care debacle to immediately try to make Speaker Ryan the scapegoat. Ann Coulter bluntly said, “Ryan is not on Trump’s side.” Pro-Trump websites like InfoWars and Breitbart immediately attacked Ryan as well, with some conservatives urging the House Freedom Caucus to help dump Ryan, arguing that he is the perfect illustration of the Republican Establishment that needs to be excised from Swamp of Washington, D.C. Paul Ryan is not on @POTUS' side – https://t.co/QVOHBDIKiT #KilledTheBill #FunFactFriday — Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) March 24, 2017 3. Full repeal of Obamacare needs 60 votes in the Senate. If Republicans couldn’t muster a majority in the House – how are they going to get 60 votes in the Senate to really change the bulk of the Obama health law? The answer – they’re not going to do that any time soon. But full repeal was still the mantra from a number of Republicans as the House GOP health care bill went down the tubes on Friday. “I remain committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with conservative reforms,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN). “Congress should take its time and pass a good bill that actually repeals ObamaCare,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). But the truth is, unless Republicans get 60 votes in the 2018 elections, an Obama health law repeal bill faces a difficult road in the Congress. I applaud House conservatives for keeping their word to the American people. I look forward to passing full repeal https://t.co/ftyj6sCw0v — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 24, 2017 4. This fight on health care is already over? It seems hard to believe that Republicans are just going to drop the issue of health care reform, especially after making it such a central part of their political message in recent years. But President Trump seemed to send the signal that he is going to focus his political capital on other issues, like tax reform. “That one is going to be fun,” the President said earlier this week, as his Treasury Secretary predicted a final tax bill would on the President’s desk by early August. The last time Congress approved major tax reform was 1986. There’s a reason it hasn’t happened in over 30 years. It is not easy. And the lobbyists of Gucci Gulch will be ready. President Trump says tax reform is the next item on his agenda https://t.co/dLNduSPgl6 — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 24, 2017 5. This wasn’t really much of an effort. The White House said the President “left everything on the field” to get a health care bill. But it doesn’t look like that at all. Go back eight years, and Democrats were just launching their 13 month effort to forge what would become known as Obamacare. It went through the spring, summer, fall, winter, and then into the next spring of 2010, before being achieved. By contrast, the GOP introduced its health care bill on March 6 and gave up on March 24. Back in 2009 and 2010, Democrats struggled to keep their side together, but managed to get 60 votes for their package in the Senate. The GOP couldn’t even get a majority in the House. There is still time to go back to the drawing board. But it takes more than 18 days of work. Remember when Republicans promised they would try to fiddle with Obamacare for a few weeks and then give up? — Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru) March 24, 2017 6. Let the Republican finger pointing begin. One of the biggest immediate targets was the Freedom Caucus, the group of more conservative lawmakers which for years has been very good at holding out against the GOP leadership, but has done almost nothing in the way of substantive legislating. Some of that ire was aimed at Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the head of the Freedom Caucus. “Mark Meadows is more interested in being on the TV than solving problems,” fumed Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), who then aimed some more barbs at Meadows and pointedly made sure to tell a reporter – “You can quote me on that.” Exactly right. GOP & Trump own this,but @freedomcaucus & @Heritage_Action & others caused it. They are the pie-in-the-sky caucus. https://t.co/9tMcfk45ox — Brit Hume (@brithume) March 24, 2017 7. Don’t downplay the importance of this setback. Yes, it’s just one bill. Yes, it’s not the end of the world. But this failure was a big deal. Republicans have been talking for years about how they would repeal and replace the Obama health law. Donald Trump said he would do it right away. But for years, I have been reporting – and taking flak for saying – that while the GOP had lots of ideas, they didn’t have consensus on any plan. And that was obvious as they desperately tried to stitch together deals at the last minute to keep the bill moving. It’s pretty easy to lob verbal grenades at the other party – it’s a little different to offer substantive legislation and pass it. Humiliating defeat for GOP after years to prepare. Real blow to their argument that they could govern if only given the chance. — carl hulse (@hillhulse) March 24, 2017 8. This was not a good week for President Trump. It started Monday with the FBI Director publicly confirming that not only was there an investigation of how Russia meddled in last year’s election, but also a probe of any links between the Trump Campaign and Moscow. The FBI chief also made clear there was no evidence to back up Trump’s claim that he had been wiretapped in 2016. And the NSA shot down talk that British Intelligence had helped with surveillance on Trump Tower. Meanwhile, the Trump travel and refugee ban stayed on hold the courts, despite Mr. Trump’s declaration that judges were overstepping their authority. Then the week ended with a health care thud. Tomorrow's cover: Trump forced to cancel health care vote in stunning blow https://t.co/53Po4iXVbM pic.twitter.com/lEQe5Qc22g — New York Post (@nypost) March 24, 2017
  • The Phoenix Suns made history two nights in a row. >> Read more trending news The Suns started the youngest lineup ever Thursday, with an average of 21 years and 14 days. Worse, the Suns were down to eight players and lost by 26 to the Brooklyn Nets. The lineup was younger than several of the Sweet 16 teams still in the NCAA tournament.  Friday also netted a loss, but Devin Booker kept them in it. He scored 70 points for the Suns, and helped Phoenix claw back from a 20-point first quarter deficit. Booker’s scoring eventually won over the Boston crowd, who began cheering for him as the Suns tried to keep the game going late, calling timeouts to give Booker a chance to score more points. He finished with the highest single-game total in franchise history, but lost to the Celtics 130-120. Booker joined Wilt Chamberlain, David Robinson, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor and Kobe Bryant as players to reach 70 in one game. Booker was 21 of 40 from the field, four of 11 from the 3-point range and was 24 of 26 shooting free throws. The former Kentucky star also had eight rebounds and six assists. He averaged 20.9 points per game before Friday. 

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