TALLAHASSEE -- It only took 25 pitches for the bats in the middle of Florida State's lineup to give the college baseball world this resounding assurance: the offense will be alright.
On the first day that Division I baseball was played in the Panhandle since the Seminoles breezed past Stanford in a Super Regional last June that clinched a 21st trip to the College World Series, FSU rode the heart of its young order Friday in an 11-4 win over Rhode Island that got the 2013 season off to a strong start.
The win was mostly powered by a three-run first and a four-run sixth that aided a five-inning, six-strikeout performance by starting pitcher Brandon Leibrandt. A near-full crowd of 5,354 witnessed the victory that kicked off the three-game weekend series with the Rams.
"When you start the opening day with a lot of new guys, you're a little bit cautious of what to expect," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "After the nine innings that I just saw, I was very pleased with the way we played. We had some very good at-bats, we showed good poise on the mound."
Among the many questions revolving around this team during the offseason were those centered around finding quality replacements for the second-, third- and fourth-place hitters in the lineup. Former Seminoles Devon Travis, James Ramsey and Jayce Boyd all left after being claimed in last June's major league baseball draft.
Travis was the ACC's leader in doubles two seasons ago. Ramsey was the conference's leaders in multiple offensive categories last spring. Boyd had a .376 batting average in his final season; two percentage points behind the team-leading Ramsey.
By jumping out to a quick lead against the Rams (0-1), the Seminoles' newest three-, four- and five-hole hitters made it known that there will be no drastic offensive slip this year. The group accounted for four RBI and scored four runs.
"The buzz around college baseball is that we're going to be relying on our pitchers," junior-college transfer and designated hitter Marcus Davis said. "We have a great staff, but we have some great hitters, too. Everybody came out [Friday] trying to prove that."
Davis was among those players attempting to do just that. After fellow newcomer, third-place hitter freshman D.J. Stewart, got the game's scoring going by dropping a 3-2 pitch into right-center field for an RBI-double, Davis belted his first home run as a Seminole.
Turning on a 2-1 fastball, Davis, the No. 5 hitter, blasted a towering two-run homer that bounced into the street that runs behind the right field fence. FSU took a quick 3-0 lead.
"You can't try to be somebody you're not," Davis said, referring to the departed heart of FSU's batting order. "Those guys were great ballplayers. Everybody who left, the position guys, they were great. They did a lot for this program.
"But the new guys, we're trying to leave our stamp here. I think it's more important with us in the clubhouse that we can do it more than anything else."
What the Seminoles (1-0) also were able to do offensively was score when the pressure mounted, and they needed runs the most. Of FSU's 11 runs, nine were scored with two outs. That includes Davis' homer, and it includes a grand slam that eighth-place hitter Jose Brizuela had in the sixth inning.
"It's a credit to Mike Martin, Jr. because he spends so much time with our hitters and makes sure that they're disciplined with two strikes and not giving in to the pitcher," Martin, Sr. said. "In other words, they're fighting for that last out of the inning."
Two-sport standout Jameis Winston, one of three football players who has a chance to start at quarterback in the fall, had a bit of a slow start in his career debut. At the plate, the true freshman went 0-for-3 with a walk. He recorded one out while playing left field, and nearly came away with another in the top of the sixth.
On the one that got away, after opening to his left and sprinting for the wall to catch a deeply hit fly ball, Winston got a little lost. He turned to catch the ball instead over his left shoulder. A split second after the turn, he realized the ball was upon him. He jumped, crashing into the ad-covered fence. When he did, the ball bounced off the top of the fence for a two-run home run.
Football coach Jimbo Fisher, who took in the ballgame with his oldest son, 11-year-old Trey, later jokingly told one reporter that he cringed a little when he saw Winston leaping toward the fence.
The home run came off the bat of Rhode Island third baseman Mike LeBel, and it ended the evening for Leibrandt. Martin, Sr. said a long FSU half-inning just before the top of the sixth may have caused Leibrandt to go a little cold.
In the bottom of the sixth, with the Rams trailing 7-4, Brizuela blew the game open with his grand slam. It was only the third home run of Brizuela's career, but it was his second grand slam. It also was the sophomore's second opening-day homer.
"I guess I'm making it a tradition," Brizuela said of the opening-day long ball.
Offensively, he isn't the only one out to make a new tradition. If Friday's game was any indication, the rest of FSU's bats are busy trying to forge their own legacy that will be able to compete with the ones that have preceded them.
Friday's game also had one comedic moment. Check out home plate umpire Bruce Ravan's bumbling, stumbling attempt at signaling Davis to first base following a hit-by-pitch.