TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Getting off to a fast start to the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship has been a staple for the Florida State softball team. The fourth-seeded Seminoles made it 15 out of 16 opening day victories as they took down the number five seed North Carolina, 8-0, in five innings on Thursday (May 10).
The win advances the Seminoles to Friday’s 3 p.m. game against the top seed in the tournament, 15th-ranked Virginia Tech. North Carolina with face Virginia at 10 a.m. Friday in an elimination game.
Florida State won its third game in a row over North Carolina to improve to 43-21. The Tar Heels dropped to 43-18.
“Obviously I was really excited that our bats woke up,” FSU head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf said. “Getting a run in the first inning was a big key for us. The hitters came through and Tiffany threw a great game. I felt like we were hitting on all cylinders.”
Getting the victory for Florida State was starting pitcher Tiffany McDonald (Belfair, Wash.) as she improved to 16-13. The right-hander threw her seventh shutout of the year, giving up only one hit in the process, with five strikeouts and no walks. Taking the loss for the Tar Heels was Lisa Norris, who dropped to 23-12.
“I felt great out there today,” McDonald said. “As a pitcher it’s just a huge advantage to play at home. You don’t have to get use to a new mound or warming up in a different bullpen. We really feed off the fans and they were great today and we hope they’re back tomorrow.”
Seven of the nine hitters in the line-up picked up at least one hit for the Seminoles, with 2007 ACC Freshman of the Year Monica Montez (Corona, Calif.) and left fielder Jessica Gilmore (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.) leading the way with a pair of hits. Two-time All-American Veronica Wootson (Fontana, Calif.) crossed the plate twice as did first baseman Brittany Osmon (San Diego, Calif.). Wootson and rookie center fielder Carly Wynn were tops on the team with a pair of RBIs off two-run home runs.
Florida State struck for the first run of the game in the bottom of the first. Wootson drew a lead off walk and moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt. 2007 First-Team All-ACC selection Yuruby Alicart (Maracay, Venezuela) drilled a single through the left side of the infield to score Wootson from second. Unfortunately on the play Wynn, who drew a one-out walk, was thrown out at third on the play.
The Seminoles chased Norris from the game as they batted around in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 7-0 lead. Osmon led off the inning with a walk and moved up on a ground out. Gilmore drilled a double to center field to score Osmon and moved up to third on an error by the center fielder. Second-Team All-ACC selection Whitney Buckmon (Marietta, Ga.) came through with a single to score Gilmore then Wootson cleared the bases with a two-run home run. Montez collected her second single before Wynn crushed a two-run home run over the right field fence to score her and pinch runner LaShaun Davis (Marietta, Ga.).
The game was called by the eight-run run in the fifth inning as the Seminoles pushed one more across. Osmon led of the frame with a triple then came across with the final run on a sacrifice fly by catcher Robin Ahrberg (Stillwater, Okla.).
“It’s huge to get a win on the first day,” Graf said. “You don’t want to get into the loser’s bracket right away and this conference is so balanced anyone can beat anyone on any given day. I’m very confident in the players and the way they’re playing.”
Virginia Tech took two of the three regular season meetings, including a perfect game in the opener by 2007 ACC Pitcher of the Year Angela Tincher.