The Seminoles can remarkably wrap it up tonight or the Huskies can force a deciding game of the best-of-3
By Arnie Leshin
Believe it, Florida State is one win away from its first national softball championship.
Winning six times to avoid elimination, the 6thseeded Seminoles still began game one on Monday night as the underdog against 5th seeded Washington, which hadn’t lost yet in the NCAA Women’s Division I Championships played at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
But to FSU, the game is played on the field, and it just continued to play remarkable ball in the day one 1-0 shutdown of the Huskies.
The Seminoles can wrap up this amazing run by taking game two tonight, while Washington can force a deciding game on Wednesday if it can emerge victorious in this one.
The Huskies have played very well, depending mainly on their pitching, fielding and key hits, but it was the chili-hot Seminoles who won in this manner in the first of the best-of-3 series.
They came away with the key hit when sophomore catcher Anna Shelnutt’s solo home run in the top of the sixth inning became the lone run. It came on a 2-2 pitch from Australian freshman right-hander Gibbie Plain, it was her sixth home run of the season, and traveled over the fence in center field.
Said Shelnutt: “Everybody batting earlier in the game is what got me that one pitch that I could drive out.”
And as she approached home plate, she was mobbed by her teammates.
Then came the defense from the team’s best player, senior third baseman Jessie Warren. It was the bottom of the seventh and Washington outfielder Trysten Melhart, who made jaws drop twice after robbing Oklahoma’s Shay Knighten of balls hit into shallow right field.
Now she attempted to bunt with a runner on first and nobody else. But turnabout is fair play, especially in the world of sports.
Warren charged from third and dove to make the full-extension grab from her knees, and then quickly threw a strike to first to turn the double play and thwart a brewing Washington rally in its final at bat.
“My first instinct,” said Shelnutt, “was when she hit the ball, I saw it like 3 feet under it, and it was like, Jessie’s got that. I had total faith in her.”
Then there was the complete game hurling from senior Megan King. She allowed only five hits, struck out seven and walked two.
With their backs against the wall since falling into the loser’s bracket via a setback to UCLA, the ACC entry never quit fighting. So they nipped the Bruins, 3-1, in a must win, and then crushed the 11-time national champion, 12-6 in game two to oust UCLA.
That was its sixth elimination-game triumph this season, four in Oklahoma City after losing game one of the Regional it hosted in Tallahassee to LSU, then downed the Bayou Tigers in the deciding contest.
From there, the Seminoles clawed all the way to the championship series when no one believed in them but themselves. Elimination? Not us.
“We fight,” said Warren, who hit one of her team’s four home runs in the nightcap versus the Bruins. “It’s hard to beat us more than once. We don’t stop fighting, we don’t know how.”
And coming out of the loser’s bracket made it even more difficult. The only other team to win six post-season elimination games was UCLA in 1985 and 1997. Fitting that FSU survived again by turning back the Bruins twice. It was the fifth team to make the finals after losing on day one, and the first since Arizona in 2010.
The Huskies had won their three starts, two over two-time defending champion Oklahoma by shutouts, to gain the championship round for the first time since they won it all in 2009. Their pitching had been awesome and their defense sparkled behind the left side of the infield.
But when you’re hot, you’re hot, and that’s why Florida State displayed its own pitching, fielding, and the game-winning home run. Sort of like, anything the other team can do, it can do better, especially when you are surging with no letdown.
Tonight could either have the Seminoles hoist the championship trophy or Washington bringing on the deciding game Wednesday.