OK, so what I want to do with this is basically catch up everyone who has not followed FSU softball all season. To do this, Bill K, formerly of Scalpem.com (a great blogger, now retired), follows FSU softball and was gracious enough to help us out.
FSU is on its way to the CWS, its first trip in a decade. Some polls show the Lady 'Noles as the No. 3 team in the country, and some lower. How good do you believe this team really is?
I was surprised that we fell to the number 8 seed after an excellent season, but the committee is more telling than the polls. The committee seeded FSU eighth probably because FSU suffers from a potentially inflated record thanks to subpar ACC softball in 2014. Notre Dame was our closest in-conference opponent and couldn't crack the Top 15 in the polls. The down year for teams like Georgia Tech and UNC, combined with the inability of N.C. State or Virginia Tech to advance, left the 'Noles as the sole ACC representative in Super Regional play. To me it looks like the committee was right in placing FSU around 8. The SEC and PAC-12 still dominate college softball.
With all of that said, this is the best team we've had since we last made a run at the title in 2004. This is the best team that Coach Alameda has put on the field and it is competitive with any team in the country right now.
Teams on the diamond often have a profile, be it great defense, an unhittable pitcher, slap/speed, or the long ball. Other times, great teams are built on having a lack of weaknesses. What is the profile of this FSU team?
I classify the Noles as well-rounded. We have speed (Tiffani Brown), we have excellent pitching (Lacey Waldrop), power bats (O'Brien, Hamilton, Senas). We have solid, if not spectacular defense, which is aided by our great pitching. We also have an experienced roster thanks to Coach Alameda's willingness to sub players in and out of the game as situations dictate.
On the diamond, the real key is getting to the tournament healthy and giving yourself a shot. FSU's already done this, so what about the other teams in/likely in. Is there a team in this tournament that has clearly been the best in the country throughout the entire year and would be considered the strong favorite to win? More than one? Relative to other years, is this a good year to be making a run at the crown given the other squads in this field?
I think until someone else proves otherwise you take your pick of SEC or PAC-12 teams in the WCWS. Also, if the Sooners make it, they will have a house full of fans to support them. Since we haven't completed Super Regional play, it's hard to make a pick, but I would put Alabama and UCLA ahead of the rest of the pack.
As for the year? As the Noles' whiteboard said yesterday, "Why not us?"
Who are the real standout players for this FSU team? What makes them special?
Maddie O'Brien - Top 10 POY finalist. She's a 20+ HR power and an on base machine. She's so respected nobody will throw to her now. Her defense is great. She makes difficult throws with a strong arm.
Lacey Waldrop (Pitcher) - Top 3 POY finalist. She had arguably the best season of anyone in the country.
Can Waldrop pitch all of the games in the tournament? If she cannot, how is FSU's pitching depth compared to other teams in the field?
She can and likely will. As you saw against Michigan, she pitched both games of a doubleheader. FSU will ride Lacey's arm until games are out of hand one way or another. Jessica Burroughs is solid behind her, but lacks experience and needs another season to work with Coach Alameda before she'll be ready to step into the spotlight. Our depth behind her is mop up duty only (with all due respect to Nori and Schinella).
Who/what are the weak points on this club? (I'd ask this if it were football, so I'll also ask it about softball. I'm not trying to hate on a college player, but rather to give the whole picture).
There are a couple of points that come to mind. First, this team has to prove it has the mentality to play with the Bamas and Oregons and Floridas and UCLAs. The Noles are on the wrong end of the scoreboard all too often against elite competition in recent years. It's time to get past that mental block. Second, the offense is still inconsistent outside of O'Brien. There are days it's a feast and days it's a famine. It needs to be more consistent against very good to great pitching in order for FSU to make a real run in OKC.
What else should I have asked you and what would your answers be to those questions?
I think that covers it pretty well Bud. FYI FSU does not refer to them as Lady Noles, just Noles. That's an FSU branding issue. If you think of anything else just let me know. I'm happy to try to answer anything.