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Florida State 2020 Softball Season Preview

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The Seminoles welcome many new faces but the talent level remains high in Tallahassee.

2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Softball Championship - Game 2 Photo by Shane Bevel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Florida State head coach Lonni Alameda is in her 12th year at the helm in Tallahassee. In that time she has elevated the Seminoles into an elite national program. FSU has made the NCAA Tournament every year that she has been the head coach. Florida State has advanced to the Super Regionals in each of the past seven years. In 3 of those years FSU has appeared in the College World Series and of course the Noles won it all in 2018.

FSU has been extremely successful in the ACC as well. Florida State won the ACC regular season crown for six straight years (2013-2018). The Seminoles won the conference tournament in 2011. FSU is currently on a six year conference tournament winning streak that started in 2014 and has continued through 2019.

Last year the Seminoles finished with a record of 55-10, 19-5 ACC. The Noles hosted a Super Regional as the #4 overall seed but was upset by Oklahoma State 3-2 in game three of the Tallahassee Super Regional.

Florida State will attempt to return to the College World Series this year. Let’s take a deeper look at the Noles.

Departures

Zoe Casas (Graduated)

Deja Bush (Graduated now on the track team)

Cali Harrod (Graduated)

Rock Benavides (Transferred to University of Houston)

Carsyn Gordon (Graduated)

Mackenzie Puckett (Transferred to Georgia)

Madison Kennedy (Transferred to Jacksonville University)

Makinzy Herzog (Transferred to Texas A&M)

Meghan King (Graduated)

Arrivals

Bianca Cruz (Redshirt Freshman)

Kaley Mudge (Freshman)

Kiersten Landers (Redshirt Freshman)

Devyn Flaherty (Freshman)

Josie Muffley (Sophomore Transfer from Tulsa)

Caylan Arnold (Senior Transfer from Tennessee)

Emma Wilson (Freshman)

Kaia LoPreste (Freshman)

Brianna Enter (Freshman)

Chloe Culp (Freshman)

Personnel

Change is endemic in college sports. Seniors graduate and freshman arrive. The recent prevalence of transfers has made the rate of change escalate even higher. However, even with those qualifiers, Florida State’s amount of change is taking things to a new level. As outlined above, the Seminoles are welcoming nine new faces into the fold for the 2020 season. The Noles are also losing nine players - some of whom were unexpected.

Five of the departures from last year’s team were seniors and four were transfers. The seniors were uniformly talented and losing them hurts but of course their loss was expected. However, the transfers were somewhat unexpected. Most of the transfers left for more playing time. Unfortunately for FSU there was one who didn’t fit this profile.

Makinzy Herzog was a 5* consensus top 5 recruit. She quickly demonstrated why she had such a lofty ranking. Last year as a freshman she hit (.316/.342/.467) with three home runs and 26 RBI. She was also 10-2 in the circle with a 1.56 ERA and a .179 batting average against while starting 14 games and pitching 71.2 innings. This year Herzog would have challenged to be the ace of the staff while swinging a hot bat. She left to be closer to her family. Her loss hurts but there is still a ton of talent left in Tallahassee.

Outfield

Senior Dani Morgan will lead the outfield from center field. Morgan enjoyed a breakout season last year and would have probably won the national most improved player of the year award - if that award existed. Morgan played 63 of FSU’s 65 games last year and started every game she played. Morgan hit (.377/.423/.694) with 14 HR, 58 RBI and 127 total bases.

Joining Morgan in the outfield will be freshman Kiersten Landers. Landers redshirted last year due to sustaining an ACL injury. However, she is back and healthy this year and that is great news for Nole fans. Landers is off to a great start this year hitting (.545/.565/.591) with 7 RBI and 8 runs scored in only six games. Landers is a speedster who will be a fixture at the top of the lineup.

With Morgan in center and Landers in left field the right field spot is open and still up for grabs. We are likely to see a few players in this spot depending on the opposition and which players happen to be playing well at any given time. Freshmen Devyn Flaherty and Kaley Mudge have been getting the most time in right field so far but this position may remain in flux for most of the season.

Infield

Junior Sydney Sherrill will be the regular starter at third base. Simply put, Sherrill is one of the best players in the nation. Sherrill hit (.405/.469/.782) with 16 HR, 60 RBI and 141 total bases. She was even 8 for 8 in stolen bases. Sherrill started all 65 games last season for FSU. She also has a rifle for an arm at third base. If Florida State makes it back to the College World Series Sherrill will be a huge reason for the success.

Another linchpin of the team is Elizabeth Mason who will be the everyday player at first base. Mason is a redshirt junior and she posted big numbers last year. Mason hit (.343/.439/.651) with 11 HR, 57 RBI and 110 total bases. Mason has proved herself as a hitter and will likely put up impressive numbers this year as well. However, this will be Mason’s first year playing first base every day as Carsyn Gordon has graduated. It will be interesting to see how Mason does defensively at a position in which she hasn’t had much experience at the college level.

The starting catcher will be Anna Shelnutt. The senior hit (.293/.359/.585) with 11 HR, 35 RBI and 86 total bases. Florida State is in good hands will Shelnutt behind the dish. She brings experience and a very reliable bat to the table. Catcher is a demanding position so when Shelnutt needs a rest she will be backed up by freshman Kaia LoPreste.

The middle infield was saved for last because frankly we don’t know right now who will be starting at shortstop or second base from game to game. Those decisions will be based on the opponent and which players are playing the best at any given time. It is entirely possible that someone will step up and seize one of these positions to become the every day starter but that hasn’t happened yet.

At second base the two most likely candidates are senior Leslie Farris (.254/.296/.537) with 3 HR, 11 RBI and 36 total bases and sophomore Morgan Noah (.212/.255/.288). Sophomore Josie Muffley seems like she has an edge at the shortstop position but Devyn Flaherty will also be a factor there.

The coaches have confidence in all of these players defensively but the decisions on playing time will be driven in large part on which player fits best in the lineup on a given day against a given opponent.

Pitchers

Florida State has been blessed in recent years with great pitching talent. Recently the Noles have had at least one if not a pair of aces on the staff each year including greats like Lacey Waldrop, Jessica Burroughs, Kylee Hanson and of course Meghan King.

Sophomore Kathryn Sandercock (13-0, 1.99 ERA) is the heir to that legacy. Sandercock, a former 5* recruit, has a world of talent and a huge upside. With the graduation of former ace Meghan King FSU really needs Sandercock to step up and take the mantle. Fortunately for Florida State she is not the only talented pitcher on the roster. Senior transfer Caylan Arnold (11-8, 2.26 ERA for Tennessee) has the experience to step in and contribute immediately. Junior Kara Bilodeau is a transfer from Auburn who had her season cut short last year by injury but she has the talent to give the Noles some important innings. Senior Cassidy Davis is a versatile talent who can hit as well as step up for the Seminoles in the circle. Freshmen Bianca Cruz and Brianna Enter will also get a look.

Florida State may have to get it done by committee in the circle but fortunately for Nole fans there seem to be several arms who have the talent to get the job done.

Season Outook

Florida State has the ingredients of a strong contender to make it back to the College World Series. The Seminoles validated this judgement by sweeping former top ranked Alabama last week in the JoAnne Graf Classic. Obviously nothing is certain and there are other great teams out there. However, there is a reason that FSU is now a consensus top five team. This is a strong roster led by a coach in Lonni Alameda who always seems to know which buttons to push. With a little luck this team could be in for quite a successful season.

Next Game

Florida State will participate in the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational. The Noles begin the tournament on Friday at 1pm (ESPNU) against No. 1 Washington and will play a second game tomorrow at 6pm (ESPN3) against No. 13 Minnesota.