No. 10 Florida State (40-10-1) defeated Kennesaw State (26-26) today by a 6-2 score at JoAnne Graf Field in Tallahassee, FL.
The Owls started off fast. Brea Dickey laced the first pitch she saw from FSU starting pitcher Kathryn Sandercock into the gap for a double to start the game. Christen Florence followed her with a perfect bunt for a single that also moved Dickey over to third base. Lexi Solorzano followed with a grounder to second that Devyn Flaherty fielded. Flaherty tried to start a double play by firing to Josie Muffley who was covering second but Muffley’s throw to first wasn’t in time to get Solorzano. Dickey scored on the play to give KSU a 1-0 lead. Taylor Cates then lined out to Elizabeth Mason at first. Mason then alertly tagged Solorzano before she could scramble back to first for the double play to end the inning.
Kaley Mudge got the start in the outfield and led off the game for the Seminoles. Mudge sent the first pitch she saw from KSU starter Melanie Bennett into the gap for a double. Unfortunately for the Seminoles they couldn’t capitalize as the next three batters popped up twice and grounded out to end the inning.
Kennesaw went down in order in the second. Cassidy Davis started the second with a walk. Flaherty followed with a single to center. FSU now had runners on first and second with no outs. Dani Morgan then popped out to second. Anna Shelnutt grounded to third. Cates stepped on the bag to retire Davis and threw to first for the double play. Her throw sailed over Andrea Summey’s head at first base and the runners advanced with Flaherty on third and Shelnutt on second. However, Muffley flied out to right center to end the threat.
Both teams went down 1-2-3 in the third inning.
The Owls were retired in the fourth with three straight ground ball outs. Davis followed a Mason groundout with a walk for the Noles. Flaherty reached on a fielder’s choice but Morgan popped out to first to end the inning.
Cheyanne Sales singled through the left side to open the fifth inning. Hope Jiles pinch ran for Sales. Katie Greep laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Jiles to second. Raleigh Williams followed with a bouncing ball to second that Flaherty couldn’t field. Jiles scored on the error to give the Owls a 2-0 lead. Summey laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Williams to second. FSU head coach Lonni Alamede then visited the mound for a pitching change inserting Danielle Watson into the game. Watson responded by ending the inning with a three pitch strikeout of Faith Alexander.
Shelnutt singled to shallow center to open FSU’s half of the fifth inning. Florence and Alexander both went for the ball. Florence actually caught the ball but Alexander collided with her and knocked the ball out of her glove allowing Shelnutt to reach. Muffley reached by beating out a ground ball after a throwing error from Bennett in the circle. FSU now had runners on first and second with no outs. Mudge tried to lay down a bunt single but her bunt luckily went over Cates’ head and everyone was safe. Sydney Sherrill reached on a fielder’s choice when Alexander went home to get Shelnutt on the force play. Kalei Harding reached on an infield single when several Owls converged on the ball and no one covered first base. Muffley scored on the play while Mudge and Sherrill advanced. The Noles had the bases loaded with one out. Mason worked a walk to score Mudge. Davis followed with another walk to force in Sherrill with the third Nole run of the inning. Flaherty grounded to short and Alexander went to first to retire Flaherty. Mason tried to score on the throw but she was thrown out at home for the last out of the inning. However, Harding had scored ahead of her to give FSU a 4-2 lead.
The Owls went down in order in the top of the sixth. Morgan singled for FSU to start the sixth by beating out a bunt. However Morgan was erased when she was caught stealing. After a Shelnutt strikeout, Carson Saabye pinch hit for Muffley and worked a walk on four straight pitches. Mudge singled up the middle to advance Saabye to second. Sherrill singled through the right side. Saabye scored on the hit. Mudge scored on a throwing error by Williams. Sherrill ended up at third after the error. Harding ended the inning with a fly out to right but FSU had increased the lead to 6-2.
Watson ended the game by setting down the Owls in order in the seventh.
Florida State walked away with a 6-2 victory.
Danielle Watson (9-1) earned the win for the Seminoles on a 27 pitch outing (19 strikes) giving up one hit and striking out two. Kathryn Sandercock went 4.2 innings for FSU allowing three hits, two runs (one earned) and one strikeout.
Sydney Sherrill, Kalei Harding, Elizabeth Mason and Cassidy Davis all had RBIs for FSU.
This was the first NCAA tournament game in over 700 days and the first game all season where full fan capacity was allowed. These factors may be the reason for FSU’s sluggish start or it could have just been one of those days. However, the Noles got it together in time and turned the game around with one of their patented big innings.
FSU displayed resiliency coming back after going down two runs. The Seminoles didn’t panic and that is a good sign considering that there will be more pressure games down the road.
Florida State has been winning games this season but the Seminoles have been doing it with a lot of small ball. That was the case again today as FSU scored four runs in the big fifth inning while barely getting a ball out of the infield. However, at this stage the only thing that matters is winning and FSU will gladly advance to the winner’s bracket with this victory.
Florida State will meet UCF tomorrow at noon. The Knights beat Auburn today 5-4 to advance to the winner’s bracket. The winner of the FSU/UCF game will next play on Sunday. The loser of the FSU/UCF game will play the winner of the elimination game between Auburn and Kennesaw State in a game scheduled for 5pm tomorrow.