OMAHA, Neb.-- Down to the final out of their careers, Florida State seniors James Ramsey and Sherman Johnson shared a teary embrace in the first base dugout at TD Ameritrade Park.
Ramsey had just popped out in foul territory in his final at-bat, and Johnson had already had his curtain call. FSU fell 10-3 to Arizona as they were eliminated from the College World Series on Thursday night.
It was a bitter end for Ramsey, who will rank among the program's all-time greats, as he was 0 for 5 at the plate in his final game at FSU.
Ramsey hit .378 this season, was named the ACC Player of the Year and went from a 22nd round draft pick in 2011 to the No. 23 overall selection in 2012. Still, the reason the outfielder from Alpharetta, Ga. came back for his senior season was a shot at the school's first national title.
"I hate to sound cliché, but I personally feel like one of the luckiest guys in college athletics to have an opportunity to play with the 26 other guys in our dugout," Ramsey said. "I don't regret anything. It's been a great year. I feel extremely blessed for every opportunity. And I'm not really that upset the season's over, from that standpoint; that knowing that the guys that played with me fought to the very last out. I just tried to be the guy with the bullseye on his back and take some of that pressure off of him at times."
With such a young pitching staff, FSU relied heavily on the leadership of Ramsey, Johnson and Hunter Scantling during the season.
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year due to youth of the staff as well as an untested bottom half of the order. But FSU put together an impressive season, spending seven weeks as the top-ranked team in the country, tying the ACC record for conference victories with 24, and earning the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Ramsey said the run is product of putting in more work in the fall than years past, and the team spending so much time together off the field.
"I think it all started in the fall, we decided to make more sacrifices than we had in the past," Ramsey said. "Guys were asked to make smarter decisions off the field. Just the things we were eating, drinking, workouts. But the thing it comes down to at the end of the day is the team started a Bible study. We started hanging out more off the field, started having the relationships deeply invested and we have brothers in Christ in the dugout. You're going to sacrifice a lot more for them."
Ramsey and Johnson wrapped up an incredible run on Thursday. The two started nearly every game for FSU the past three seasons together, winning the 2010 ACC championship, appearing in four NCAA Super Regionals and making two trips to the College World Series.
"I didn't really think about it until probably the eighth inning," Johnson said of playing his final game at FSU. "It's just tough. It's tough knowing that the colors that you've bled for four years, you don't get to wear them anymore. I was just thinking about that, I was looking up in the stands and just knowing how blessed I've been to have been to the College World Series twice."
Johnson and Ramsey will be tough to replace next year for FSU, but there is again potential for FSU to have a group of veteran leaders next season.
Junior Jayce Boyd, a sixth-round draft pick by the New York Mets is likely headed to proffesional baseball, but there is potential for Devon Travis (a 13th round selection by the Detroit Tigers) and Justin Gonzalez (27th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers) to both return for their senior campaigns.
"This team is one that not only will the fans never forget, but as a coach I'll never forget," FSU head coach Mike Martin said. "There was so much thoughtfulness; they really cared about each other. There were no selfish guys on this club. The leadership was the best that I can remember, of course we know who the leader of the team is. Next year there is a chance that key people return. They will be the leaders. It will be their team. I am extremely excited about that possibility and I just can't say enough about the way it makes me feel as a coach that these guys might be back."