No. 10 Florida State (44-11-1) fell to No. 2 UCLA (47-5) by a 4-0 score in the College World Series in Oklahoma City, OK.
Rachel Garcia (18-1) started in the circle for UCLA. Kaley Mudge led off for Florida State. Mudge worked a 10 pitch walk to start the game. However, Mudge was caught stealing for the first out of the inning. Garcia got the next two outs in order to get out of the inning. Kathryn Sandercock (24-3) took the ball for the Seminoles. Sandercock set the Bruins down in order in the first.
After a strikeout to start the second inning Garcia gave up a single to Cassidy Davis. Devin Flaherty then reached on a fielder’s choice. Dani Morgan followed with a single to right field. FSU had runners on first and second with two outs but the inning ended with an Anna Shelnutt strikeout. Sandercock kept cruising retiring the Bruins in order once again.
In the third, Mudge delivered a one out single. She eventually stole second but Kalei Harding popped out to second base to end the inning. In the bottom of the third Sandercock got the first two outs by strikeout. Anna Vines then reached on a single when Josie Muffley had trouble getting the ball out of her glove at shortstop. However, Bubba Nickles ended the inning by bouncing out to Sandercock in the circle.
Garcia started the fourth by fanning the first two Noles. Flaherty then beat out a single to second. Flaherty then stole second. Dani Morgan then walked on four pitches. However, the inning ended on another strikeout. Sandercock quickly retired the first two Bruins. However, she walked Rachel Garcia. Delanie Wisz then ended the inning by grounding into a fielder’s choice at second.
Garcia retired the Noles in order for the first time in the top of the fifth. Sandercock started the inning with a strikeout. Kinsley Washington hit a bouncing ball to second that Flaherty had trouble fielding. Flaherty eventually got a handle on it but she rushed her throw to first and it got away from Elizabeth Mason allowing Washington to advance to second on the throwing error. After a Julie Rodriguez pop up, Vines singled to second. Washington aggressively kept running from second and beat the throw home to score the first run for UCLA. Sandercock ended the inning with a groundout from Nickles.
In the sixth, Mason delivered a one out single. However, she was stranded after stealing second when Garcia fanned the next two Noles. Briana Perez started the sixth with a bunt. Shelnutt retired her with a good play for the first out. Aaliyah Jordan followed with a single to right. Rachel Garcia grounded out but she advanced pinch runner Lauryn Carter to second. Wisz then doubled to the gap in left center field scoring Carter. Lonni Alameda came out to replace Sandercock with Danielle Watson. Maya Brady greeted Watson with a two run homer over the centerfield wall. After a Washington single Alyssa Garcia flied out to end the inning.
Garcia set the Noles down 1-2-3 to end the game.
Kathryn Sandercock was the hard luck loser for FSU. Sandercock went 5.2 innings allowing 5 hits, 3 runs (2 earned) with a walk and 6 strikeouts. Danielle Watson pitched a third of an inning allowing 2 hits and an earned run.
There will be some who question taking out Sandercock especially when Brady was up next and Sandercock had fanned Brady both times she had faced her in the game. That is fair but let’s not delude ourselves. The game was not lost because of the pitching change. The game was lost because FSU made a couple of fielding mistakes and the Noles couldn’t get timely hits.
Rachel Garcia is one of the best pitchers in the nation. She is a two time national player of the year. She probably isn’t going to give her opponents many chances for runs but FSU did have them early in the game. Garcia eventually found her groove but early on the Seminoles were seeing her pitches well and taking good swings. FSU had runners in scoring position in the second, third and fourth innings. The Seminoles just couldn’t capitalize on those opportunities. When the Noles struggle at the plate like they did today it really reduces the margin of error in the other phases of the game. In other words, the pitching and fielding have to be near perfect to get the win and they weren’t tonight. Sandercock pitched well enough to win most games but not in this one where she didn’t get run support.
FSU will now regroup and prepare for the next game. The Noles can take comfort in that they emerged from the loser’s bracket in 2018 (after a loss to UCLA) to win the national championship. We’ll see if the Seminoles can repeat that magical 2018 run.
Florida State will meet Arizona on Saturday. The Seminoles need a win to keep the season alive.