What did some of the older guys tell you to prepare you for your first trip to Omaha?
Brandon Leibrandt: To enjoy it. First, get out there, the opening ceremonies. Soak it all in. But when games come, be ready to play. They said the crowd there won't be like what we've had so far. They won't be all with us. But at the same time, keep your emotions in check and you'll be fine.
Mike Compton: They're really stressing to us younger guys that you gotta take advantage of these opportunities. We're not going there to just have fun, hang out. We're going there to win it all.
Do you plan to watch the UCLA vs. Stony Brook game to prepare or just take it easy on your off day while Leibrandt pitches?
Compton: You can't really prepare until you know who you are facing, I guess. [Pitching] coach [Mike] Bell is going to tell you what is going on before the game and everything, but we're really going to have to wait and watch and pay attention to what Leibrandt throws because you may face that team as well. So just gotta prepare for anything you face. You don't really want to overanalyze everything. You just want to pay attention to the games, just get an idea what is going on, what some of the hitters are like. Coach Bell will tell us from there what they like to do, and it will all settle in.
Even after James Ramsey or Jayce Boyd has a big game, coach Mike Martin still refers to you as the backbone of the team. Where does this come from?
Stephen McGee: I guess it's just my attitude, just my drive. It's really what I go out there each and every day to do. I don't go out there to do a mediocre job. I don't go out there just to get the job done. I go out there to excel. I go out there to help each and every guy. I'm there to make the team what they can be and try to be the best that I can be to help everybody, every person on the team, especially the pitching staff. I don't go out there just to play the game. I go out there to really show what I can do, give everything I have. I don't do anything unless it's 110 percent. I'm going to go out there and give everything I have.
You hit a lot of balls hard against Stanford in the Super Regional, particularly that last game. Is you're swing coming on just at the right time?
McGee: I'm feeling great, and I think a lot of it is just repetition. I finally found a stance that I feel really comfortable, that I'm really getting back to the basics. I'm really just becoming a better hitter, just seeing the ball really well right now, taking the bad pitches, hitting the good ones, really squaring it up and having a consistent swing right now. It feels really good.
What are you expecting out of the whole experience in Omaha?
McGee: Well, I went there in 2010, so as far as the crowd and everything, it gets crazy. It gets electric, and I can't wait. It's really exciting. It's a really fun time. I'm ready to go see the new field, TD Ameritrade. It's just a great time. It's a once-in-a-lifetime type of deal and it's really exciting, so I can't wait to see all of the new things and I'm really excited to seeing all of the new guys' reactions and what they do 'cause it's just fun.
Speaking of the younger guys, what advice do you have for Leibrandt and Compton making their first College World Series appearances?
McGee: My main advice for them -- it's not going to be much, obviously -- but my advice to them is it's nothing different. The only different thing is the atmosphere. Doesn't matter what field you go to, it's the same distance -- 60 feet, 6 inches. You've got the same plate, maybe a different umpire. He's got a different zone, but it's the same thing over and over and over. So nothing is going to change. You just keep pitching how you know how to pitch. You've been doing this for years. Look at your year. You've done this. so you know what you're doing. Just go out there and do what you know how to do.
Has it sunk in yet that you are going back?
Devon Travis: I think it's still a little bit surreal. I don't think it will really hit me personally until I see that field again. Maybe when we get on that plane it will finally sink in. But definitely still surreal.
Can you talk about the parody of college baseball today? 15, 20 years ago, we probably wouldn't be talking about a team like Stony Brook.
Travis: Crazy. We know this time of year it's the hottest team and not the best team. You know they're hot. They're real hot. Kent State beat Oregon and Stony Brook beat LSU. They look darn good. So I mean, definitely, it just tells you that you never know. The littler schools are scary now. It's not that kids want to go to the big-name schools all the time. There's kids that want to make a name for a program, and Stony Brook and Kent State are definitely doing that for themselves.
You guys are made up of a bunch of freshmen. How are the youngsters taking in the whole experience?
Travis: I remember telling them when we had a little bit of a lead during super regionals in that last game, ‘Get ready, 'cause you're about to have the best time of your life.' I told them I played in the Little League World Series and the College World Series, and the College World Series was on a completely different level. And I think that got them a little bit excited. I think the freshmen are stoked, definitely.
Is it a must to win the first game in order to make a run at the title?
James Ramsey: You don't have to. I didn't really understand it my sophomore year that [the first round in Omaha] is a regional and the [final three-game series] is a super regional. And that there's two regionals, so those other four teams really don't matter that much. So you're looking at your one opponent in Arizona that you start out with, and you're trying to get off to a good start because if you can you really set the tone for that regional, then you're going to be in the driver's seat.
Jayce Boyd: To know that you get out there and get your job done [in the first game], it's just like a monkey off you're back 'cause you don't have to fight you're way out from the depths. You just go out there and play baseball.
So do the freshmen pitchers have a bigger monkey on their backs?
Boyd: You look at Leibrandt when he pitches, and there's no way you could tell me if you had no idea about our program and you came out here and watched this guy pitch that you would think he was a freshman. There's no way. Same with Mike Compton. There's no possible way. And they get out there and just get their jobs done, and it's awesome to watch how they progressed from fall to now.
You are heading to Omaha for the second time. What are some of the emotions you are feeling?
Boyd: Words can't describe how it feels. You're anxious, you're excited and you're also just trying to stay calm and relax. But it's such a great feeling knowing that you get a chance to go back to Omaha and get that opportunity to bring you're first national championship back to Tallahassee.
Does it help you that you've been there before?
Boyd: For sure. You kinda know what to expect. You kinda know that when you get up there, there's going to be a lot of people pulling for those underdogs, kinda follow those stories a little bit. But at the same time try to keep your focus, especially in the games and outside the stadium, too, 'cause it definitely can be distracting. It's like a big carnival out there, and it's like Christmas for a college baseball player. It's a really fun experience, and it definitely helps to have a year under your belt getting out there and seeing what the experience is like.
Could you ever have predicted from the beginning of the year that a team full of freshmen would be where it is today?
Boyd: For sure. No doubt in my mind. And there's still no doubt in my mind that we're going to win.
You're facing another first rounder in Arizona's Kurt Heyer. Does that intimidate this lineup at all, and what can you expect from him?
Ramsey: Very solid. Stays in the strike zone. Commands several pitchers very well. Holds runners on well. I mean, that's what you want when you get to this point in the season. That's what you expect. Everybody's got pitchers from here on out, so you're definitely going to see everybody's best. At this part in the season, everybody's faced the great players. You're just trying to have a shot at a national championship.
Rosenblatt Stadium is gone. Have you seen the new TD Ameritrade Ballpark?
Ramsey: We drove up to the construction of it two years ago, and Coach Martin gave a great speech about how we were going to come back here. And it didn't work out that year, but it's real fitting that we do get another chance out in Omaha, hopefully to end things well for the senior class.
What's your message to the rest of the team, particularly the rookies, to prepare for this trip to Omaha?
Ramsey: I think that you have to enjoy it. You have to enjoy it. You can't just ignore the 30,000 [people] or so that are in the stands, 'cause when you do that, then all of the sudden you have the shock and awe when you get out there your first at-bat. I remember I was downplaying it a good bit my sophomore year. When I stepped in, I was like, Whoa. To let them know that it's going to hit them and they need to continue to prepare themselves the day before when we practice out there in the stadium. Just to enjoy it and also realize that you have a bunch of guys that have been there before, so ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask them what the atmosphere is like, what the scheduling is like with all of the practicing and whatnot. So we're just trying to continue to get better. We haven't played our best baseball yet.
How are the guys taking it in so far? Do you like the team's current emotional level?
Ramsey: You really haven't seen a lot of fulfillment in guys. whether it's just the look in their eyes or the way they've been going about their business since the super regional. Last time we went, it was like all the weight was off our shoulders pretty much, like our season was cashed in at that point. So we're just realizing that there's a lot left to be done. We like our chances. We like the regional that we're in, so we're excited to get going.
If you do make it to the finals, would you like another shot at the Gators?
Ramsey: You know me. We're playing Arizona. We'll cross that bridge when we get there. There's plenty of able opponents, and I think that if we continue to win, we will continue to do what we've been doing all along. We've played a lot of great teams, a lot of great schools, and we've really not been intimated. But realizing that, in order to be the best, you've gotta beat the best. So we're prepared to do that at all costs.
Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.
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