Link Jarrett rebuilds winning culture to get FSU back to College World Series

OMAHA, Neb. — Link Jarrett arrived in Tallahassee nearly two years ago with the same approach that guided him to the National Coach of the Year award twice at Notre Dame and the same competitiveness he harnessed as an all-conference Seminole in the early 1990s.

He took over the proud Florida State program with a five-point plan: Program development; recruiting; player evaluation; player development; game management.

He and his staff implemented that holistic approach upon arrival. Those initial struggles resulted in a 23-31 season, including 9-21 in the incredibly competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. A year later, Jarrett emboldened his already impressive career by guiding his alma mater to the College World Series — its first since 2019.

The No. 8 seed opens Friday vs. No. 1 seed Tennessee (ESPN, 7).

“I try to dive in,” Jarrett said Thursday. “When you get somewhere, what do you have to attack and fix in each one of those areas to try to get it right?”

Daniel Cantu and Alex Lodise are important components of that turnaround. Both transferred to Florida State in the offseason from South Florida and North Florida. Both wanted to help rebuild the Seminoles’ winning culture. Jarrett convinced them it was going to happen.

“I saw what coach Jarrett was building over here at FSU and I wanted to be a part of it,” Cantu said. “He brought in some really great guys to get us back here and he did a really great job helping blend this team together and help us create that team chemistry.”

First baseman Daniel Cantu, who transferred to FSU from South Florida, warms up before a regional game. (Gary McCullough/AP)
First baseman Daniel Cantu, who transferred to FSU from South Florida, warms up before a regional game. (Gary McCullough/AP)

The Seminoles now resemble a family, according to Lodise. It’s fun to be in the lineup with his teammates. The shortstop also said learning infield defense from Jarrett, who still holds the NCAA record for defensive assists (802), is a major plus.

“There’s no other coach in the country that you want to go out to the field [with] every day and, you see him, ‘Alright, we’re going to have a great practice,” Lodise said.

The Seminoles practiced Thursday in nearly triple-digit temperatures at Charles Schwab Field to prepare for Tennessee and the nation’s leading long-ball team by a country mile.

The Volunteers have pummeled 173 homers this season, which leads the country by 22 and Florida State by 50. They also lead the nation in runs scored and are second with a .613 slugging percentage.

Jarrett called the Vols’ lineup “damaging, threatening, physical, intense, balanced.”

Seminoles infielder Alex Lodise joined the program last offseason, transferring from North Florida to Tallahassee. (Gary McCullough/AP)
Seminoles infielder Alex Lodise joined the program last offseason, transferring from North Florida to Tallahassee. (Gary McCullough/AP)

FSU will counter that lineup with sophomore ace Jamie Arnold. The left-handed hurler has emerged as a capable stopper to such a high-powered lineup after meeting with coaches last season and reaffirming himself to his training.

The Seminoles know those stats. They know what awaits them Friday night. What those stats don’t say, as Jarrett told his squad, is what’s supposed to happen.

The outcome is up to them.

Jarrett’s history of playing in three College World Series and coaching in it helped him prepare FSU for this moment. Each frame of reference can help his players prepare for something they’ve never been a part of.

And if there’s anything these new-era Seminoles encounter in Omaha they’re unsure of, they’ll just look to the dugout.

“Coach Jarrett is like Pappa Bear and we’re just his younglings,” Cantu said. “We follow his lead.”