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Prince’s Perspective: FSU softball advances over Alabama to the Championship Series of the College World Series

The offense showed up in this one.

NCAA Softball: Women’s College World Series Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 Florida State (48-11-1) defeated No. 3 Alabama (52-9) by an 8-5 score to advance to the Championship Series of the College World Series in Oklahoma City, OK.

Game Recap

Alabama was designated the home team in this game. Montana Fouts took the ball for the Tide one outing removed from the perfect game she pitched against UCLA. FSU started out fast in this game. Kaley Mudge led off with a single up the middle. Sydney Sherrill worked an eight pitch walk to advance Mudge to second. Elizabeth Mason came up next and sent a three run blast over the left field wall.

After that, Fouts was able to retire the side with three straight outs but the damage was done. Kathryn Sandercock stepped in the circle for Florida State. She started strong setting the Crimson Tide down in order in the first inning.

In the second inning Josie Muffley worked a walk to get on base. Anna Shelnutt reached on a grounder to third. Maddie Morgan threw the ball away and the error allowed Muffley to advance to third. FSU now had runners at the corners with no outs. After a Kalei Harding pop out, Mudge used her speed to beat out a bunt single scoring Muffley.

Sherrill walked to load the bases but Fouts ended the threat with a pair of strikeouts. Sandercock kept cruising in the bottom of the inning retiring the Tide 1-2-3.

The Seminoles kept their feet on the gas in the third inning. Devyn Flaherty beat out an infield single to short. Dani Morgan singled through the left side advancing Flaherty to second. After Muffley struck out, Shelnutt moved the runners over to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. Harding then delivered the clutch hit with a single through the left side scoring both Flaherty and Morgan. Morgan just beat the tag at home in a very close play. Harding advanced to second on the throw.

Harding’s hit chased Fouts and Bama coach Patrick Murphy put last night’s starter Lexi Kilfoyl into the circle. Mudge greeted her with yet another single up the middle scoring Harding. Mudge advanced to second on the throw.

Sherrill then showed why she is the queen of doubles as she sent one to the left field gap scoring Mudge.

The Noles had now jumped out to an 8-0 lead.

However, Bama refused to quit. Taylor Clark delivered with a one out hit to left field. Elissa Brown followed with a single through the right side. Alabama now had runners on first and second with nobody out. Sandercock then struck out Alexis Mack for the second out. All-American Bailey Hemphill then ruined the shutout with a single to right scoring Clark. Hemphill advanced to second on the throw. Kaylee Tow beat out a single to second base with some great hustle scoring Brown. Jenna Johnson ended the threat with a ground out to first but the Tide had cut the lead to 8-2.

In the fourth Dani Morgan worked a two out walk on four pitches and promptly stole second. However, she was stranded there. KB Sides started the bottom of the fourth with a double to centerfield. That hit brought out head coach Lonni Alameda. She replaced Sandercock with Caylan Arnold in the circle. Arnold shut the door with three straight outs.

In the fifth Mudge continued her scorching hot hitting with a two out double to centerfield. However, she was stranded there. Bama made a move in the bottom of the inning. Brown started it off with a single to left centerfield. Mack put down a sacrifice bunt to move Brown to second. Hemphill came up and deposited a 1-1 pitch over the left field wall to cut the Nole lead to 8-4. Hemphill’s blast chased Arnold and Danielle Watson came in to relieve her. Tow grounded out to Mason at first. Johnson walked on four pitches. Sides singled through the right side and Bama had runners on first and second with two outs. Savannah Woodard singled up the middle scoring Johnson but Mason made a great defensive play to cut off the throw home and firing to Sherrill at third to gun down Sides who was trying for the extra base.

Mason used her speed to beat out an infield single to short to start the sixth. D’Aun Riggs pinch hit for Cassidy Davis and she advanced Mason to second with a ground ball out. Mason would advance to third with aggressive baserunning on a ball in the dirt. However, she would be stranded at third. Watson found her groove retiring Bama in order in the bottom of the sixth.

In the seventh, Harding delivered a two out single. Mudge then singled through the left side advancing Harding to second. However they were stranded at first and second. Bama was down 8-5 with only three outs to use. Tow worked a two out walk but Watson ended the game on a Johnson fly out.

Florida State celebrated another trip to the Championship Series with an 8-5 victory.

Post Game

Kathryn Sandercock went 3 innings allowing 5 hits and two runs (both earned) with no walks and a pair of strikeouts. Caylan Arnold went 1.1 innings allowing 2 hits and 2 earned runs with no walks or strikeouts. Danielle Watson pitched 2.2 innings allowing 2 hits and an earned run with 2 walks and no strikeouts.

Kaley Mudge had a night that she will never forget. The freshman was 5 for 5 with a pair of runs scored and 2 RBI. Tide coach Murphy said after the game that he had never seen someone go 5 for 5 in a softball game.

Elizabeth Mason was 2 for 4 with a huge three run homer in the first inning. Kalei Harding may have broken out of her slump with a 2 for 4 performance including a run scored and 2 RBI. Sydney Sherrill delivered the other RBI for the Seminoles.

What can you say about this team? They simply find a way. Most of the postseason the Noles have used late game heroics but tonight they jumped out to an early lead and then were able to protect it well enough to seal the victory. There was drama in the game as the Tide didn’t quit but it is very hard to crawl out of an eight run hole especially against a team that plays defense as well as FSU.

Speaking of defense, Florida State did not commit an error in the two game semi-final round against Alabama. That is huge. It is much tougher to score runs when the defense does not help the offense with mistakes.

I must admit that I didn’t think that FSU could beat Alabama in a slugfest but I was proven wrong. It really helps when your leadoff hitter refuses to make an out. Mudge was simply spectacular. Mason was the other MVP. The senior did it with offense and defense. She picked a couple of tough balls at first and her cutoff in the fifth to end the inning was extremely important to blunt Bama’s momentum.

However, there is very little time for celebration. The Oklahoma Sooners await. Many people believe that the Sooners have the best lineup in the history of college softball. They are also playing de facto home games in Oklahoma City. The Seminoles will be serious underdogs as most people will be expecting a coronation to begin tomorrow. However, I wouldn’t count this Seminole team out. Never underestimate the heart of a champion.

Next Game

Florida State will meet Oklahoma in the Championship Series. The best of three series will begin on Tuesday night at 7:30pm. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.