The following chart displays the year end statistics for four players. Later in this article I will reveal the identities of the players and discuss the chart further. However, for now use the chart as a blind comparison and decide for yourself who had the best year of the four.
Head coach Lonni Alameda and her assistants – Travis Wilson and Craig Snider – pressed almost all of the right buttons for the entire postseason. If you really want to nitpick you can say that they should have played Elizabeth Mason sooner but other than that they got basically everything right and that includes off the field decisions.
The 2018 team learned from the disappointment of losing in the super regionals last year to LSU. The 2017 team was very talented. Although it's close, you can make a case that the 2017 team had more raw talent than the 2018 team. However, the 2017 team played tight in crucial situations and it cost them. The 2018 team was loose even in pressure situations. The coaches emphasized the importance of having fun and enjoying the moment. The success of this approach showed itself in the 6-0 record in elimination games.
Of course the biggest decision of the year came after game one of the Women’s College World Series Finals. Coach Alameda had to decide who to send to the circle. Would it be Meghan King who had basically been lights out for the entire postseason or would it be Kylee Hanson who had been so impressive all season but was struggling a bit in the postseason. Most people (including me) would have gone with Hanson considering that King had pitched 22 2/3 innings combined the previous three days. In addition, the Noles had a game in hand so they could have always come back with a rested King in game three if necessary. However, Alameda went with the hot hand and we all know how it turned out.
Speaking of Meghan King, the third team All-Southeast Region pitcher (I know, it’s a joke) was simply incredible from the minute she stepped off the plane in Oklahoma City. In the WCWS she pitched 34 1/3 innings (only 48 innings were available) giving up a total of 27 hits, nine walks and seven runs but only one of them was earned. Therefore her ERA was a microscopic .204. That is the lowest ERA in the history of the WCWS. You will have to search long and hard to find a better accomplishment given the competition, the stakes, the pressure and the condensed schedule. It was simply a virtuoso performance.
She does not get enough love and attention because she plays in the ACC and you don’t hear about her all the time.
Those were the thoughts of ESPN softball analyst Jessica Mendoza about Jessie Warren. The chart from the beginning of the article illustrates precisely what Mendoza means.
Player A is Sydney Romero of Oklahoma. Player B is Vanessa Shippy of Oklahoma State. Player C is Nicole DeWitt of Florida. Player D is Jessie Warren.
Here is the chart again with the names of the players included:
Romero was named first team All-American at third base by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). Shippy was named first team at large 3B while DeWitt was named second team All-American at third base and Warren was named second team at large 3B. Essentially the NFCA is saying that Romero is the best third baseman in the nation with Shippy second, DeWitt third and Warren fourth.
There is simply no way that Warren is the fourth best third baseman in the nation. I want to be clear that I am not trying to denigrate any of these players. They are all extremely good. However, the numbers don’t lie. Warren is better than Romero and DeWitt every category but fielding and some of them aren’t close. Shippy is better than Warren in batting average and on-base percentage but Warren has way more power and has more than double the RBI. Warren also got her numbers against a considerably more challenging schedule.
I would be willing to hear arguments for Shippy (although I think Warren’s year was clearly better) but Romero and DeWitt simply should not be in this conversation. Romero is a fabulous player but she was named first team on name value and the fact that she plays for the two-time defending champions. DeWitt was named above Warren because she plays for Florida in the well respected SEC (I guess).
ESPN softball analyst Michele Smith
She needs an invite to the National Team Trials. That’s the biggest shock to me. She would help them out a lot.
Simply put, Warren deserves much more respect. Perhaps after her performance in Oklahoma City she will get it.
Here is Florida State’s commitment list for 2018:
Kathryn Sandercock – Pitcher
Kiersten Landers – Outfield
Makinzy Herzog – Pitcher, Outfield
Morgan Noah – Shortstop, Pitcher
Savannah Parker – First Base, Third Base
FloSoftball ranks that class 12th nationally. Scout-Softball ranks Sandercock as the second best overall player in the nation for 2018.
Florida State currently has public commitments from 28 prospects. They range from the 2018 class to the 2023 class. That’s right; Florida State currently has commitments from two 12 year olds. For context, the University of Florida currently has commitments from two 11 year olds.
It has been routine in softball for kids in middle school to commit to colleges. These commitments don’t always stick – Sandercock originally committed to James Madison – but they often do stick.
Many coaches agreed that recruiting kids this young was an issue. Therefore in April the NFCA put new rules in effect regarding contact with recruits. In essence the new rules prohibit any contact with prospective student athletes (PSAs) before September 1st of their junior year of high school.
This is a positive development. It will allow coaches more time to evaluate kids but more importantly it will allow the kids to have more time to be certain that they are choosing the right school for them.
Normally after winning a national championship a school will experience an uptick in recruiting. An uptick may occur for Florida State but if so Seminole fans may have to wait a while for it to happen. FSU already has eight players publicly committed for the 2019 class and that was before winning the championship.
The Bottom Line
This team was led by Warren and King but the national championship was a team accomplishment in every sense of the word. Everyone contributed. All nine players featured in the regular lineup had at least one extra base hit in the WCWS.
Of course the challenge next year will be to find a way to repeat. However, the real challenge will be for the team to do what it did this year - play its best softball at the most important time. If Florida State can do that the talent will be there to make another great postseason run.