No. 10 Florida State (41-10-1) defeated Central Florida (40-18-1) by a 3-0 score today to advance in the NCAA tournament at JoAnne Graf Field in Tallahassee, FL.
Even though the game was played in Tallahassee, Florida State was designated as the visiting team. Therefore, the Seminoles batted first. Gianna Mancha stepped in the circle for Central Florida. Florida State went down in order in the top of the first. However, replays proved that leadoff hitter Kaley Mudge actually beat out an infield single but the referee missed the call.
Caylan Arnold entered the circle to pitch for Florida State. After getting the first two outs Arnold walked a pair of Knights. However, Arnold came back and struck out Karissa Ornelas to end the inning.
Both teams were retired in order in the second and third innings.
FSU went down in order in the fourth inning. At this point Mancha was pitching a perfect game. Jada Cody started off the fourth for UCF by reaching after getting hit by a pitch. Jazmine Esparza followed with a single through the left side. However, Arnold beared down after that and retired the Knights in order with a flyout, a popout and a strikeout.
FSU finally broke the scoring ice in the fifth. After an Elizabeth Mason flyout, Cassidy Davis crushed an 0-2 pitch over the left centerfield wall to give the Noles a 1-0 lead. Devyn Flaherty followed that blast with a single to left centerfield. Flaherty then promptly stole second. Dani Morgan sent a drive to right field that looked like it would produce extra bases but Denali Schappacher foiled the extra base bid with a fantastic leaping catch that saved at least one run. Flaherty was left stranded after Mancha induced another flyout to end the inning.
After a Juliana Wilson flyout, Justene Molina laced a single to centerfield. Arnold struck out Allyse Volpe for the second out of the inning. Schappacher followed with a single up the middle and the Knights had runners on first and second with two outs. Head coach Lonni Alameda visited the circle and inserted reliever Danielle Watson into the game. Jada Cody induced a walk to load the bases. However Watson got Esparza to pop out to end the threat.
In the sixth inning, Sydney Sherrill walked with two outs but Mancha shut the door after a Kalei Harding flyout. Watson responded by setting down UCF in order in the bottom half of the sixth.
In the seventh FSU tacked on a pair of insurance runs. Mason started it off by legging out a double that she hit down the left field line. Davis stepped up to the plate and deposited a 1-0 pitch over the centerfield wall to give the Seminoles a 3-0 lead. UCF head coach Cindy Ball-Malone visited the circle to relieve Mancha. Breanna Vasquez came in and put out the fire setting the Noles down in order. In the bottom of the seventh Watson kept cruising retiring the Knights in order to end the game. Florida State walked away with a tough 3-0 victory.
Caylan Arnold went 4.2 innings for Florida State. She gave up three hits, no runs, two walks and six shutouts on 94 pitches (60 strikes). Danielle Watson was money again for the Seminoles. Watson went 2.1 innings of no hit softball. She also had a walk and a strikeout on 30 pitches (19 strikes).
Cassidy Davis was obviously the star at the plate. The senior was 2 for 3 with 2HR and 3RBI.
All year FSU has used pitching and defense along with timely hitting to win games. That formula worked again today. Gianna Mancha was cruising for much of this game in the circle. However, Arnold was able to keep the Knights off the score sheet until her teammates were able to get the offense cranked up.
Danielle Watson is a great weapon to be able to bring in to pitch the later innings. Watson brings heat and serves as a great contrast to keep the hitters off balance.
FSU is now the only team in the winner’s bracket. The Noles have a great advantage in that they only need to win one more game to advance to the Super Regionals. They also have the rest of the afternoon off while their opponents in the Tallahassee Regional have to battle it out to advance.
Florida State will return to JoAnne Graf Field on Sunday at 2pm. The Seminoles will have to win one game while their opponent will have to beat the Noles twice to advance to the Super Regionals.