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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Familiar foe for Wildcats’ Lopez

OMAHA, Neb. – Arizona head coach Andy Lopez and Florida State head coach Mike Martin are the two longest tenured head coaches at the College World Series, both with over 1,000 wins in over 30 years of college baseball experience.

Their teams will face each other tomorrow night for the first time since the 1991 season, but this will not be anywhere close to the first time the two coaches have faced each other.

Lopez and Martin first met in 1992, following Lopez’s first and only national championship at Pepperdine. Martin has been at Florida State since 1980, and has led them to 15 World Series appearances, but has yet to win a title.

“I came out to see what it was like to win a National Championship,” Martin said.

From that meeting, not only a friendship, but an admiration between the two blossomed, stretching from that day in Malibu, Calif., through when Lopez was a coach of Martin’s and the Seminoles’ rivals, the Florida Gators.

“I had always known coach admired him, but never got a chance to meet with him,” Lopez said. “Lo and behold, two, three years later, I’m hired at the University of Florida, and we’re now arch rivals.”

In Lopez’s seven years in Gainesville, Fla., Martin and Lopez became closer, facing each other several times, and keeping their friendship at the forefront of the rivalry, to the dismay of some fans.

“I think one time we got in trouble because someone called my radio show and said it was a love fest,” Lopez said. “We talked before the game, I’d give him a hug, and he would give me a hug. Someone called up the radio and said it looks like a love fest out there.”

“I was like, ‘Gee, I didn’t know I had to hate the man,’” Lopez continued. “I’ve always admired coach.”

Their admiration and respect for each other was apparent on Thursday before the media, as the two lobbed courtesies and kind words at each other during the press conference.

“He’s a great human being,” Lopez said. “He has tremendous perspective on what we’re doing. His players play hard all the time.”

The courtesies are likely to end between now and when Arizona and Florida State kick off their quest for a national championship at 8 p.m. Friday in TD Ameritrade Park.

On the hill Friday for Arizona (43-17) is ace Kurt Heyer, going for his 13th win of the season. Florida State (48-15) will utilize the talents of 6-foot-4-inch left-handed hurler Brandon Leibrandt, who held Stanford to just one run on six hits in last Friday’s super regional opener.

“When you look at how difficult it is, and in Andy’s situation, when you don’t go to the series for three, four, five years,” Martin said. “And believe me, I know what that’s like. It’s quite a challenge and he got it done.”

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