What We Learned: 'Noles in Omaha

Florida State took two programs out of the College World Series before finally falling to Arizona. What did we learn about the Seminoles during their stay in Omaha? Here are five observations.

Nobody is going to replace Ramsey

After James Ramsey played his last college baseball game and had to keep putting on and taking off his sunglasses in the postgame press conference in order to hide the tears from reporters, I asked the senior the following question: "You're a first-round pick with first-round money waiting for you in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, but we know how much you love putting on that garnet-and-gold uniform. If you had the chance, would you come back and do it all over again?"

After hesitating for a second, as the question might have caught the captain a bit off guard, his answer helped highlight what a tremendous young man he is.

"I just feel really grateful," he said. "This past year was a whirlwind. I was sitting, a lot of time praying and reflecting whether I could come back and play again, if I could afford to turn down money. But, obviously, money has never driven me and never will. Fame, success, all those kind of things have never driven me. It's been knowing that you have a chance to go out and do a lot for the university that your parents both went to, and you've got a lot of guys that put in a lot of hard work. So just knowing that I believed in every single one of these guys when I came back to school, they believed in me just as much to come back and lead them."

Florida State is not going to replace him. On the field will be hard enough, but off the field is even harder. He's special, plain and simple, so you can't just take another trip to Alpharetta and find the second coming of Ramsey.

Best of luck to him in the future, although I doubt he needs it.

Freshmen are freshmen all year long

A popular expression in athletics at the collegiate level is that freshmen are no longer freshmen once the postseason arrives -- they're essentially sophomores.

The Seminoles were hoping that would indeed be the case, as the top two starters in their rotation were both first-year players and had never experienced anything quite like the College World Series before. Sure, Brandon Leibrandt and Mike Compton were named Freshman All-Americans, which is a tip of the cap to new pitching coach Mike Bell, but there's a big difference between facing Rhode Island at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee and facing Arizona at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.

While Leibrandt threw the ball well at times in the first game against the Wildcats, he wasn't able to overcome a few mistakes behind him in the field and ultimately never got out of the fifth in an extra-innings loss. Compton made the most of an early lead vs. Stony Brook and earned an efficient victory, which eventually helped Leibrandt get another shot at 'Zona. However, his second effort was a disaster, as he airmailed a sure double-play ball into centerfield to ignite a six-run first for the 'Cats -- he failed to finish the frame -- that spelled doom for FSU.

Freshman position players also made their fair share of gaffes, physical and mental. Jose Brizuela was given a pair of errors on one play that set the stage for Arizona's six-tally first in the elimination game, and then you had the embarrassing headline in the local newspaper when John Holland got himself arrested for trying to change price tags on an item at a local sporting goods store.

There's nothing wrong with having talented players right out of high school sprinkled into the lineup card here and there, but depending on them to advance is dangerous because there are only so many J.D. Drews and Sean Gilmartins in the world.

Johnson made himself a great player

Sherman Johnson was originally an emergency walk-on, so the coaching staff had no intention of eventually playing him every day.

Nevertheless, not only did the Tampa native develop into a Gold Glove-winning third baseman, but he worked his tail off to become a pesky leadoff hitter. A draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels, he sprayed line drives all over the field throughout the College World Series and was arguably the team's best player in Omaha.

Maybe his only chance at the big-league level is as a utility infielder, pinch hitter and late-inning defensive replacement. But if he gets a chance one day, the smart money is on him making it.

Pitching and defense are now the key

If Rosenblatt was a launching pad engineered for those ridiculously-hot bats players used to swing, TD Ameritrade is a pitcher's paradise with tons of foul ground, winds consistently blowing in and hitters no longer stepping into the batter's box gripping the Hammer of Thor.

Look at Arizona. The Wildcats played the 'Noles twice and beat them twice, and they didn't do it by smashing the ball into the stands over and over again. They gave the ball to a 125-pitch workhorse in Kurt Heyer, played airtight defense behind him and seemed to capitalize every time Florida State gave them an extra out or two. If you evaluate the two teams on a player-by-player basis, the Seminoles are the superior team. But Arizona pitched better, fielded better, situationally hit better -- and now the 'Cats are on the verge of winning it all.

Leibrandt and Compton should only improve in 2013, plus Scott Sitz is a legit No. 3, but keep recruiting the best arms you can find and avoid position players that can do nothing but hit the hell out of the ball. Speed and defense are again at a premium. Your leading RBI man (Jayce Boyd) had only four homers in 66 games.

Martin may lack that killer instinct

When Mike Martin answered questions from the media for the last time in 2012, he sounded a bit like a man somewhat satisfied for having scaled his way up most of Mt. Everest despite never actually reaching the summit.

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"Sure, I want to win one," said the 33rd-year coach. "But the journey far outweighs the destination. It's not going to change me in any way if we ever do win one. But the lessons, the improvement, the camaraderie, the memories, the experience that we just had, you can't take that away from us."

Martin has done so many terrific things for FSU baseball and deserves the credit he receives as one of the all-time greats. The field at Dick Howser Stadium is named after him, and it should be. He's a class act through and through, so it's a joy to cover his team on a daily basis.

That being said, it's not what long-suffering Seminole seamheads want to hear after yet another trophy-less trip to Omaha, which is why so many of them believe Martin will always be a bridesmaid and never a bride.


John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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