Guts and Glory

<b>Florida State </b> survived a close call in last week's regional at Dick Howser Stadium, defeating South Alabama twice Sunday to advance. Junior catcher <b>Tony Richie</b> believes the Seminoles' displayed an important intangible. "It just goes to show that we have guts on our team," Richie said. FSU must dig down deep again this weekend against defending CWS champion Texas. The 'Horns have won five CWS championships overall and return six position players from last year's team.

Florida State survived a close call in last week's regional at Dick Howser Stadium, defeating South Alabama twice Sunday to advance. Junior catcher Tony Richie believes the Seminoles' displayed an important intangible.

"It just goes to show that we have guts on our team," Richie said.

"We can do it when our backs are to the wall. It showed a lot about our team, but hopefully we won't have to do that again this weekend. We got a lot from this team, with our whole pitching staff having to perform. It worked out great."

FSU is also hoping this weekend works out great.

The Texas Longhorns (46-18) and Seminoles (54-11-1), traditionally among college baseball's most successful programs, begin play Saturday night in one of eight best-of-three super regionals.

FSU, which has played in 18 College World Series, is playing in its fifth consecutive super regional. Texas advanced to its third super regional in five years and is the defending College World Series champion.

Four of last year's CWS participants - Texas, South Carolina, Rice and Stanford - are two wins away from return trips. Super regional participants Houston and Ohio State are looking for their first CWS appearances since 1967, while North Carolina State hasn't been to Omaha since 1968. Southwest Missouri State has never been in the CWS.

For Richie, of course, there's a sense of urgency.

A fourth-round selection in Tuesday's Major League Draft by the Chicago Cubs, Richie will embark on a professional career when the Seminoles' season ends. FSU last appeared in the CWS in 2000.

"It's very important," Richie said of reaching Omaha.

"That's why I came here – to go to the College World Series. That's what I came to do. I haven't been to the College World Series and that was my goal when I signed with Florida State. I'm going to do everything I can to help this team get to Omaha. Hopefully it'll work out, and we'll get to go."

Texas, of course, is a formidable opponent.

The Longhorns have won five CWS championships overall and return six position players from last year's team, including closer Huston Street, the CWS Most Valuable Player. Five Longhorns, including second baseman Tim Moss and shortstop Omar Quintanilla, were taken in the first eight rounds of the draft. Like FSU, Texas also staved off elimination in regional play, upending Lamar in Sunday's second game.

FINALLY HEALTHY

A key to FSU's success has been the play of Richie.

He is currently hitting .363 with 11 home runs and a team-high 75 RBI. Richie is also regarded as one of the top defensive catchers in the country, throwing out 24-of-55 base runners. He has been charged with just one passed ball and recorded an ACC-leading seven pick-offs.

Last season was a difficult one for Richie, who had trouble throwing following offseason shoulder surgery.

"It was tough," Richie said.

"To go out every day, knowing you're not 100 percent – it's hard to play that way. I just tried to work through it. Finally, I got through it, and I got better this summer. Now, my arm's 100 percent, and it feels great to be back, doing what you know you can do. It's tough to know – when you know you could throw somebody out if your arm was OK, and not be able to do it. It was tough for me to do. It's like letting down the team, in a way. Not that I'm hurt – you just have to work through those things, and make them happen.

"It's a great feeling to be able to throw again, finally. This summer, I worked really hard to get it back to full strength. I'm glad to be back – it's good to do what you know you can do."

Richie said the Seminoles know they the have to do this againt the Longhorns. In fact, last year's disappointing super regional defeat to Notre Dame serves as an unspoken reminder.

"It's not really something that comes up," Richie said.

"Everybody understands. It's unspoken. Everybody knows that when you talk about super-regionals last year – that's what happened. It's never said what happened, or why, but nobody around here has forgotten about it. We don't want that to happen again. That's why we're going to come in here and play good baseball this weekend."

Richie believes the Seminoles' rally against the Jaguars last Sunday proves FSU is worthy of the nation's No. 1 seed. The 'Noles also displayed that important intangible called guts.

"I have the feeling that everybody will go out there and play their best," he said.

CAPSULE

TEXAS (46-18) at FLORIDA STATE (54-11-1)

SITE: Dick Howser Stadium

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Texas won Austin regional: beat Bucknell 7-0; beat Lamar 7-3; lost to Lamar 6-2; beat Lamar 6-3. Florida State won Tallahassee regional: beat Jacksonville 6-0; lost to South Alabama 8-6; beat South Alabama 13-5; beat South Alabama 12-2.

COACHES: Texas, Augie Garrido (273-160-1, eighth year). Florida State, Mike Martin (1,293-427-4, 24th year).

TOURNAMENT APPEARANCES (LAST): Texas, 47 (2002). Florida State, 41 (2002).

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Texas: LHP J.P. Howell (8-2, 2.39 ERA), OF Dustin Majewski (.395, 12 home runs, 81 RBIs), SS Omar Quintanilla (.355, 68 RBIs), LHP Justin Simmons (5-5, 4.15), RHP Huston Street (8-0, 1.35, 12 saves), OF Eric Sultemeier (.318, 9, 50). Florida State: LHP Daniel Davidson (10-0, 2.63), DH Eddy Martinez-Esteval (.373, 9, 42), SS Stephen Drew (.326, 11, 59, 33 stolen bases), LHP Matt Lynch (13-3, 3.20), OF Tony McQuade (.321, 13, 56), LHP Trent Peterson (10-1, 2.68), C Tony Richie (.363, 11, 75).

Collin Mickle contributed to this report.


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