Up Close With Tony

After a month on the road, No. 1 FSU is back home preparing for this weekend's NCAA Regional. While FSU doesn't have an easy road, the 'Noles are eager to get started. "Basically, if we don't make it Omaha and win the national championship, we didn't reach our goal this year. That's our goal every year, to win the national championship. I guess we would come up short of having a great year, if we didn't make it to Omaha and win the national championship," catcher Tony Richie said.

Q: You play for almost four months in the regular season, and it comes down to just a few weeks of regional play. How do you deal with preparation for that?

"I think that you prepare yourself throughout the season. You play the whole year to try to work up to this point. This is time to play ball, and you have to be on top of your game, with everything clicking at the same time. We've built up to this point, and I think we're ready to go now."

Q: You've been on the road almost a month. Is it nice to be back home?

"It's nice to be in your own bed, and it's going to be great to play in front of our fans here. We're really looking forward to that. I can see that they've built on some new stands (in Dick Howser Stadium), so hopefully we'll have this place full this weekend."

Q: This has been one of the best seasons in this program's history, but if you don't make it to Omaha, it won't be considered a real success. How much pressure does that put on you?

"Basically, if we don't make it Omaha and win the national championship, we didn't reach our goal this year. That's our goal every year, to win the national championship. I guess we would come up short of having a great year, if we didn't make it to Omaha and win the national championship. That's the only thing we want to do."

Q: Last year, you finished the season early, losing to Notre Dame in the super-regional. How did you handle that disappointment, and how did Mike Martin handle that?

"Baseball's a game. You play it because it's fun, and you enjoy it. You're going to lose sometimes, and you can't look back on the past and reflect on that. You have to stay focused. The next day, we woke up the next morning and started playing for this year. Hopefully, that will help us."

What's different about this year's team than maybe previous teams?

"I think our team nucleus is great this year. Everybody seems to get along real well, and we know we play well together. It's contagious – like how hitting is contagious. I think, if one person does something good, everybody wants to follow in their footsteps. That's really worked out for us lately. If somebody will get a big hit, we keep on rolling through. Hopefully, we can stay hot this week and go all the way to Omaha."

Q: The pitching staff, top to bottom, has been as good as any in the country. What improvements have taken place this year?

"I think our pitching staff has grown together a lot. Most of them are older now. The starters are seniors – Petey (Trent Peterson) is a junior – but with (senior Daniel) Hodges, and (sophomore) Kevin Lynch, and Rhett James, who's a junior college guy, they're all older. They've been there before, and they know what to do when they get on the mound. They're confident. I think confidence is what keeps you going when things aren't going so well."

Q: This team really has not had too many slumps. Is it surprising, to go through a four-month season and lose two in a row only twice?

"I don't think so. I think that shows that we're a good team, that we can bounce back from a defeat. Hopefully we won't have to deal with any more defeats the rest of the year, but if it does happen, we're just going to have come out the next day and win the next ballgame, to prove that we can do it."

Q: Did the ACC tournament show you anything?

"The ACC tournament's always tough. It's the greatest conference in the country, so to play good baseball, you have to be really hot up there. That's what Georgia Tech was. They got that inning rolling, and the hits just kept coming. That's how baseball is. I don't really look back thinking that we did bad. I think we did a very good job. We played tough, and it was a long weekend. Being on that long road trip takes a toll on you. We're happy to be home, and ready to get going again."

Q: In the preseason, you said that you wanted to take more of a leadership role as a junior. With the regular season over, the team at 50 wins, the pitchers with the lowest ERA in the country, and your offensive numbers being excellent, do you think you've accomplished that, to this point?

"I think I've done a pretty good job. My main thing is to keep the pitchers in line, and they have the best ERA in the country. I feel, in that aspect, that I've done a good job with that. All the pitchers are confident when they get on the mound, and they know what they've got to do, and why they're out there. I think that my being a leader is part of the main reason they can do that."


Nole Digest Top Stories