TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – Redshirt sophomore Maddie O’Brien’s big two-out, two-run home run in the fifth inning highlighted No. 19 Florida State softball’s 3-0 victory over rival North Carolina in front of 791 fans on Friday at JoAnne Graf Field.
With the Seminoles (41-15) clinging to a 1-0 lead in a competitive pitcher’s duel, O’Brien stepped to the plate with junior Courtney Senas on first base and two outs. On the first offering from North Carolina pitcher Lori Spingola (29-13), O’Brien wasted no time and belted a two-run home run to right center to provide a couple critical insurance runs for the Seminoles. The home run was O’Brien’s ninth of the season and one of the biggest of her career.
Although O’Brien’s round tripper was the biggest moment of the contest, sophomore Lacey Waldrop (22-7) was dominant once again as she helped Florida State to its 18th shutout performance of the season. Waldrop tossed her 14th complete game of the year and yielded just two hits with five strikeouts against a potent hitting team in the Tar Heels (39-19).
“All along it’s been one of our goals to win the regular-season and the ACC championship,” head coach Lonni Alameda said. “From everything that we’ve had I can’t be more proud of our team and how we’ve been and how we’ve been playing together. We aren’t the most athletic when you go player by player, but we’re jelling right now and playing real well."
UNC’s two base hits, both singles, mark the 18th time the Seminole pitching staff has scattered two hits or less this season. The Tar Heels managed to go just 2-for-24 against Waldrop, as the Chester, Va. native got the important first out against six of her seven leadoff batters faced.
Top-seeded Florida State faces No. 2 seed NC State in the ACC Championship title game on Saturday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. It will be the Seminoles’ 17th championship game appearance, showing a 10-5-1 record. It will be Florida State’s fourth title game appearance in the last five seasons under Alameda.
Freshman first baseman Victoria East came up big with her 19th multiple-hit game of the season, one shy of the team high held by Senas. East provided two singles, including a line drive shot to centerfield that indirectly led to the game’s first run. With one out and fellow freshman Alex Kossoff on second base, East’s single was mishandled by UNC centerfielder Aquilla Mateen and allowed Kossoff to score after she was already rounding third base.
Senior outfielder Morgan Bullock kept her hitting streak alive when she laced an infield single in the bottom of the sixth, stretching her streak to 14 games to tie Kirstin Austin for the team high. Bullock has reached base safely in 20 straight games, the highest of any Seminole this season.
Florida State’s two RBIs on the day, both off the bat of O’Brien, give it 303 for the season to mark the second highest total in program history. The 2013 Noles are just the second team in school history to record at least 300 runs scored, 400 base hits and 300 RBIs in a season.
On Friday, the Seminole offense’s production at the plate wasn’t imperative with the way Waldrop threw in the circle. She faced the minimum three batters in three of her seven innings pitched, and her only big jam came in the second frame. Amber Parrish led off that inning with a single to left field, then pinch runner Tisha Mahon advanced to second on a walk by Constance Orr with no outs. After a fielder’s choice to third base put runners on first and second base with one out, Waldrop got Kati Causey to strike out and Erin Satterfield to ground out to end the inning.
Waldrop finished the job in the seventh, starting the inning with a groundout by Parrish that bounced off Waldrop’s leg and tested the quick reaction time of Senas at third base. Senas fielded the ball cleanly near the circle and tossed out a hard-charging Parrish at first base. After Orr singled through the left side, Jenna Kelly struck out looking and Amy Nece flew out to shallow centerfield to end the game.
The ESPN2 telecast on Saturday at 6 p.m. between NC State and Florida State will feature Adam Amin on the call and softball legend Jennie Finch providing color commentary.