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FSU softball NCAA tournament preview

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Where does FSU stand going into the NCAA Tournament?

FloSports: FloSoftball Women’s College World Series Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State has earned the #4 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament after winning the ACC Tournament for the sixth straight time. The Seminoles will now set their sights on becoming the third straight team (Florida and Oklahoma) to repeat as champions. Of course before reaching the Women’s College World Series the Noles must win a regional and a super-regional. The Tallahassee regional has been set. We will discuss it in more detail later in the week. However, right now we will take an up close look at the reigning champions.

Thumbnail Sketch

Record:

51-8 (19-5 ACC)

Rankings:

RPI (4), Coaches (5), ESPN (6) - Last updated on Apr. 22nd, Softball America (6)

Team Statistics:

Batting Average - .337 (7th nationally); 2018 (.289)

On Base % - .428 (4th); 2018 (.395)

Slugging - .607 (4th); 2018 (.503)

Scoring - 7.12 runs per game (4th); 2018 (5.86)

ERA - 1.86 (16th); 2018 (1.50)

Fielding - .974 (22nd); 2018 (.977)

The statistics prove that Florida State is one of the best teams in the nation and fully deserving of the lofty fourth overall seed. However, every team has strengths and weaknesses. We will now discuss the team in more detail.

Strengths

FSU is a complete team. They are good (or great) at all three phases of the game - pitching, defense and hitting. However, the primary strength of this team is the tremendous lineup that the Noles run out every game. FSU has eight players who are hitting over .300 and have over 100 at-bats. Five of those players are hitting over .350. The Seminoles also have power. Florida State is the only team in the nation with six players who have double-digit home runs. FSU also has eight players with over 30 RBI. There are simply no breaks in this lineup.

As you can see from the numbers above, the Noles have improved over last season’s national championship team in every major offensive category. This is remarkable. It is hard to believe especially when you consider that the best hitter in FSU history (Jessie Warren) graduated. Two words explain the uptick in the offensive production - internal improvement.

The following chart displays the offensive statistics for all of the players who had at least 100 at-bats in both 2018 and 2019. The first number (in garnet) is this year’s statistic for each player while the second number (in gold) is last year’s statistic for each player.

The numbers speak for themselves. However, there are a few comments to make about the data.

  1. Keeping in mind that last year’s numbers (in gold) are based on 70 games played and this year’s numbers (in garnet) are based on 59 games played, nearly every player has improved (sometimes greatly) their numbers in almost every category.
  2. These numbers explain the great improvement over last year that we chronicled in the thumbnail sketch. Remember, last year’s team had Jessie Warren in the lineup.
  3. Dani Morgan is probably the most improved player in the nation. She is a totally different player this year.
  4. This may be the second most productive lineup in the nation (Oklahoma).

The lineup is obviously beastly but this team has pitching as well. Of course it starts with Meghan King in the circle. The redshirt senior (for the first time in her career) is the unquestioned ace of the staff. King is 29-5, (1.36 ERA) in 185.2 innings. Last year she finished with a 1.17 ERA but remember that included her other worldly WCWS performance where she pitched 34 13 innings while allowing only one earned run for a microscopic .204 ERA. That was the lowest ERA in the history of the WCWS. Based her her track record no one should have any worries about how King will perform on the big stage.

King in the circle backed up by that lineup combined with the fact that FSU is also a good fielding team makes this squad a handful for anyone. However, no team is perfect and there are areas that may be causes for concern.

Question Marks

Assuming that Florida State remains relatively healthy, one issue that could be concerning is pitching depth. The two pitchers besides King who are likely to see time in the circle for FSU are freshmen Makinzy Herzog and Kathryn Sandercock. They are extremely talented (both are former 5* recruits) but they have obviously never had to perform under NCAA Tournament pressure. However, they have been up to the task so far this year. Herzog is 9-2, (1.66 ERA) in 67.2 innings. Sandercock is 11-0, (1.93 ERA) in 80 innings. It will be interesting to see how head coach Lonni Alameda handles her pitching staff this year.

The other issue is the competition. Florida State is certainly a power team and fully deserving of the fourth seed. However, the teams at the top of the sport look really good this year. Oklahoma is first in the nation in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, ERA and fielding percentage. The Sooners are second in scoring. Oklahoma also has an advantage in that they will be playing de facto home games in Oklahoma City. They look like a juggernaut right now. However, when the Noles went against them head to head in February FSU was the 7-4 winner. This proves that the Seminoles are good enough to beat anyone when they are playing well but it obviously won’t be easy.

Bottom Line

Florida State won the championship last year for many reasons but the main one was that King had arguably the best performance ever in WCWS history and the team around her was talented enough to take advantage of her brilliance. This year’s team overall is just as talented as last year’s edition. If they can get on a similar roll there is no reason why this team can’t get to the winner’s circle yet again. The story will begin on Friday at 2:30pm.