When Florida State senior centerfielder James Ramsey decided not to join the Minnesota Twins after being drafted last season, he didn't bypass an MLB career, he just relied on his strong faith and followed his heart. He had things he still needed to accomplish, and he just couldn't walk away.
"I think instead of looking at it as forgoing the MLB draft, it was more so returning for my senior year at Florida State," Ramsey said. "I had some unfinished business that I wanted to take care of, on and off the field, and so it was more just about me forging a legacy here that hopefully will leave a mark for years to come."
Ramsey's legacy is firmly cemented. The 22-year-old from the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta graduated magna cum laude with a degree in finance, has garnered numerous athletic honors, including first-team All-ACC, and on Monday was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 23rd overall pick in the draft. This weekend the Seminoles' captain is hoping to help lead FSU to a series victory over Stanford in the NCAA Super Region and into the College World Series for the second time in his career.
In last weekend's Tallahassee Region, Ramsey was named most outstanding player for the second straight season after hitting a team-best .444 (4-for-9) with three runs, a double, a home run, six RBIs and four walks.
"He's the captain of this team, everybody knows it, and everybody loves it," said third baseman Sherman Johnson, an Alonso High graduate. "He's a great teammate, he's a spark plug, and he really gets everything going."
In Stanford, the Seminoles face a lineup that includes three touted pitchers — Mark Appel (No. 8 overall selection in the draft, 10-1, .227 ERA), Stephen Piscotty (No. 36 overall selection) and Brett Mooneyham (third-round selection). Appel is scheduled to start tonight, and Mooneyham is slotted for Saturday's start.
"All three are great, it's pretty crazy to tell you the truth," Johnson said. "But we've been playing loose all year, and we're not going to change anything now."
FSU's staff includes Armwood graduate Robert Benincasa, who has emerged this season as one of the nation's top closers: He has a 4-1 record with 15 saves and a 1.29 ERA in 29 appearances. The junior has allowed just seven runs, five earned, in 35 innings of work. He credits this season's success to a newfound consistency and says the postseason has taken his game to a new level.
"Throughout the course of the season, with our success and the way that I've been pitching, it's getting more and more exciting," Benincasa said. "My last outing when I got the save in the regional championship, that was probably the most exciting moment of my career. It was the first time I was pitching on the mound and actually felt my heart beat. It wasn't nerves, I think it was just pure adrenaline.
"That's definitely the first time I've ever felt that feeling, and any game from here on out, I'm ready for it."
Six FSU starters were on the roster when the Seminoles went to the CWS in 2010 — experience they believe is invaluable.
"It's huge because it just lights a little bit of a fire in you," Ramsey said. "You know exactly what it's like to play under the lights in the College World Series, and you know what kind of excitement that brings to you, to your family, to the fans.
"The chances are few and far between and when you get a chance, like we have at home, you really want to take advantage of it."
Benincasa said the team is focused on not wasting this opportunity. "We are basically two wins away, and if I have anything to do with it, if I'm in the game late, I'm going to give my all trying to get outs," he said. "If I'm the one sending us to Omaha, I'm not going to let it slip out of my hands."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.