For Alex Toral, the choice was simple. After a star-studded high school career at Archbishop McCarthy High School in Southwest Ranches, there was little doubt the left-hander was going to play college baseball for the Miami Hurricanes.
That fact made it even more shocking in the summer of 2021 when, as a grad transfer, Toral made the move to one school you would hardly ever expect a UM grad to attend: the rival Florida State Seminoles.
“It was really something I never expected to happen. I didn’t get recruited to Florida State out of high school just because all the news that I always wanted to go to Miami,” Toral said in an interview with NBC 6.
What changed the mind of a Broward County native to go to a school that was his biggest rival for four seasons? Toral said it started with a conversation he had with FSU head coach Mike Martin Jr.
“I thought Florida State would give me the best opportunity to be successful and best opportunity to go to the College World Series year in and year out,” he said. “Made the choice pretty easy for me to be honest with you.”
Toral came to Tallahassee after four seasons with the ‘Canes where he had a combined 37 home runs, including a career high 24 during the 2019 season. The 2021 preseason All-American has been one of the top hitters for the Seminoles this season, leading the team with 13 home runs and 41 RBI’s after this weekend’s games.
“I was feeling good all preseason and getting my at-bats off great arms and help me prepare for whatever was ahead,” Toral said. “The season has had some bumps in it. The main thing is just be consistent, do what’s been working for me this whole season and continue on no matter what happens.”
Those bumps include having the second lowest batting average in the starting lineup (.226 on the season) and leading the ‘Noles in being struck out 65 times this season. Despite sweeps of top 10 ranked teams like Louisville and TCU, FSU (28-17) has also dropped series to Clemson and Georgia Tech - two teams with losing records in the ACC - along with getting swept by Notre Dame.
It was during those tough moments that Toral’s experience from his time in Coral Gables kicked in.
“My message stayed the same. We’re going to get hot at the right time, that’s all that matters,” he said. “The teams that you see now, number one, two, three in the nation, really hot right now. Yeah, they’re great teams but they’re hot at the wrong time.”
One of those hot teams right now is Toral’s former squad, a Miami team riding a four-game win streak, a 35-12 record and a top 10 ranking into this weekend’s three-game series in Tallahassee.
Not only will it be a battle of ranked teams in one of college baseball’s best rivalries, but it will also be the Hurricanes’ latest chance to get a win over their rivals for the first time since the 2019 season. For Toral, it will be just another series - and despite his four years in orange and green, he now is trying to keep the win streak going for his new team in garnet and gold.
“I don’t know what type of emotions are going to come out. It’s the same game I’ve been playing, but it’ll have a little extra juice in it,” he said. “I’m with these guys in the locker room right now and I’ve got to put forth my best effort and contribute to help the team that weekend and put aside all emotions that have happened between me and Miami.”
Toral has one goal before ending his college baseball career: a trip to the College World Series, something he couldn’t do with the Hurricanes and something that has been a throne in the side of his new team.
“I continue to preach to these younger guys we have a chance to be legends the rest of our lives,” Toral said. “Florida State’s been to Omaha I don’t know how many times, but they’ve never come out on top. To be able to possibly be that first team to win it would make us legends the rest of our lives.”
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