Elijah Cabell’s resurgence fuels FSU’s series win over North Carolina
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Florida State entered the season with a lineup prone to high strikeout totals but capable of being as potent as any in college baseball. No hitter represents that sentiment more than Elijah Cabell, who finished last year’s abbreviated season with seven home runs in 17 games as a true sophomore.
Florida State head coach Mike Martin Jr. said in the preseason that Cabell has as much power as any player he’s seen come through FSU’s program. That’s some high praise coming from a guy who’s been on Florida State’s coaching staff for 24 years, in addition to three more as a player.
Cabell got off to a slow start this year. He suffered a hamstring injury right before the season began and missed Florida State’s opening weekend series against North Florida. When he returned the following weekend against Pitt, he blasted a 489-foot, 114 mph homer to center, which had only been done seven times in the Statcast era.
That would be the only home run he hit during his first 12 games of the season. Over that span, he struck out in 15 of his 28 at-bats. Martin Jr. frequently summoned pinch hitters for him at the end of games, often in critical situations too. By the third game of Florida State’s series at Virginia Tech, Cabell had been removed from the starting lineup in favor of Parker Messick and Wyatt Crowell, two guys who are listed exclusively as pitchers and had never taken an at-bat in their college baseball careers.
Florida State went on to score 58 runs over the next five games, four of which coming against top-10 opponents in Florida and Miami. The Seminoles also seemed to completely solve their strikeout issues, and it was beginning to look like Cabell might not be a regular starter in Florida State’s lineup again.
Cabell didn’t let the demotion affect his demeanor though. He brought great energy to the dugout and was lauded for his selflessness during the rough stretch. Over the next four games, he got four at-bats off the bench and delivered three hits with four RBIs. That included a game-winning two-run single in the bottom of the seventh in Florida State’s first game against Wake Forest.
“The guy’s been an unbelievable teammate through this,” Martin Jr. said after that game. “It’s always next man up, be ready when your name is called. I’ve never been more proud of Elijah.”
Cabell also did something the day before the first Wake Forest game, which has since jumpstarted a monster turnaround. After starting the season with long blonde hair that extended down beyond his shoulder blades, he got it trimmed back to where it was during last season.
Martin Jr. joked that it took three hours for Cabell’s barber to cut his hair.
His numbers before and after his haircut are humorously eye-opening.
Since getting the haircut, Cabell has homered in five of the last six games after having just one in the previous 12 games.
Cabell is still striking out quite a bit, but some swing and miss is always going to be part of his game. What’s important is that he’s back to making consistent hard contact and giving opposing pitchers something to fear in the middle of FSU’s lineup.
In today’s college sports universe, young players are often looking for instant gratification. Now more than ever, players are looking towards what’s next in their careers if their role is diminished, especially with the NCAA’s recent introduction of the transfer portal.
It’s a testament to Cabell’s character that he continued to be a supportive teammate as he lost playing time and also contributed key hits off the bench in several games. He has earned his way back into Florida State’s lineup, and his recent power resurgence has given the Seminoles a nice boost.
Most importantly, Cabell helped Florida State get back in the win column after taking two out of three against North Carolina over the weekend. It was a much-needed series win for FSU, which dropped two out of three against Wake Forest last weekend.
Florida State has won four of its last five series against ACC opponents since being swept by Pitt at home to open 2021 conference play. The Seminoles trail Notre Dame and Louisville by a slim margin for first place in the ACC Atlantic division. They’ll host Jacksonville for a non-conference matchup Tuesday before heading to Louisville for a huge three-game series against the Cardinals.
If Florida State can continue to get the Cabell it’s seen over the past couple of weeks, the Seminoles will be much more dangerous in a loaded ACC.
“True power is when you supply it…it’s legendary. It really is,” Martin Jr. said following Sunday’s win over UNC. “You know, 80 grade* in pro ball, it’s an 80 and you don’t see an 80 power very often. It’s unbelievable. He’s crazy strong and he’s coming on, playing good defense, upbeat. All is good right now.”
*Scouts grade players on a 20-80 scale: 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average, per MLB.com.
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