FSU baseball: Sizzling Busby leads Seminoles into Super Regional
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- At first glance, the numbers seem like they could be a misprint.
In his last seven games, a stretch that encompasses the ACC tournament and the Tallahassee Regional, Florida State sophomore Dylan Busby is hitting .500 (17 for 34) with six home runs, 18 RBI and 13 runs scored.
Throw in four doubles, a triple and a 1.206 slugging percentage, and it’s apparent that Busby is on a run worthy of Buster Posey or J.D. Drew.
He’s also a master of understatement.
“I mean, I’m just going out and playing baseball, the game I love,” Busby said. “Good things are going my way.”
As a result, good things are going FSU’s way as well.
The Seminoles have won seven of their last eight contests and seem to be playing as well as they have all season.
Good time for it, too. FSU visits No. 1 Florida for a best-of-three, NCAA Super Regional starting Saturday at 6 p.m. The winner advances to the College World Series in Omaha.
"It’s just like every other series,” Busby said. “They’re better pitchers (than we saw last week), you can tell by what they’re ranked in the country. But it’s a challenge – just go out there, see ball, hit ball.”
That’s an awfully simple approach, but simple has worked just fine for Busby.
Asked to explain his recent surge, he chalked it up to swinging at the good pitches and laying off of the bad ones.
Sounds easy enough, but it’s actually the result of a reworked mindset at the plate and several hours in the batting cage with FSU hitting coach Mike Martin Jr.
“Last year I struggled with it a lot,” Busby said. “That’s just been my main point since last year ended, just making sure I would limit the strike zone, make it a small little area.”
The results are plain to see.
Busby has improved his batting average by 86 percentage points – up from .242 to .328 – while posting significant increases in home runs (nine to 14), RBIs (45 to 55) and slugging percentage (.455 to .613).
He also took a bite out of his strikeout rate, down to 61 from 73 a year ago.
“It’s really amazing to watch,” senior third baseman John Sansone said. “He went from swinging a lot in the dirt to not even looking at it now. And he’s just crushing his pitch.”
A hand injury turned blessing in disguise may have helped, too.
Martin Jr. said that, because of Busby’s long arms, he often liked to swing out and around the ball, which disrupted his timing and contact at the plate.
But after jamming his hand while making a play in the field, Busby found he had to alter his swing in order to hold off any pain.
Turns out, that was the exact cure for what ailed him.
“He kept getting locked up and starting his swing earlier and he was chasing stuff in the middle of the other batter’s box,” Martin Jr. said. “And once he got hurt, he couldn’t do that.”
Three weeks later, armed with a healthy hand and a refined swing, Busby has been virtually unstoppable.
It reached a climax at last weekend’s regional when Busby hit back-to-back home runs against South Alabama that drew gasps from the crowd.
One sailed far over the wall in straightaway center field – the farthest wall in Dick Howser Stadium – and the other bounced high off the scoreboard in left.
“It’s absolutely crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone hit the ball that hard, that many times in a row,” Sansone said. “When he hits the ball, man, it goes farther than I’ve ever seen it. … he’s absolutely amazing when he’s like this.”
The Seminoles are hoping that Busby is like that when they make their way to Gainesville this weekend.
FSU will be looking to reverse its recent fortunes in Florida’s McKethan Stadium, which includes five straight losses and an 0-2 sweep out of last year’s Super Regional.
Then again, FSU hasn’t faced the Gators since Busby found his stride. That, mixed in with a lineup that has scored 48 runs in its last three games and a young pitching staff that seems to have turned the corner lately, has the Seminoles feeling confident.
“I’m ready for it,” Busby said. “If they throw a ball, I’ve got to know to lay off it. If they throw a strike, I’ve got to know to swing at it.”
And if he hits it, recent history suggests it’s likely to go far.