More Than a Feeling: Seminole softball showing similar sparks from 2018 title squad
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (WCTV) - “I’ve seen this movie before.”
“This team hits different.”
“Major 2018 energy.”
That is just some of the conversation that circulated on social media this weekend as the Florida State softball team stormed through the elimination bracket to force an “if-necessary” game against the Alabama Crimson Tide Monday, with the winner heading to the Women’s College World Series Championship Series.
And while FSU is still one win away from clinching a spot in the Championship Series for the second time in three tournaments, you’re right to see the similarities between this year’s Tribe and the one who brought home the hardware in 2018.
The first, and most obvious, similarity between this year’s team and the championship club is how similar their run in Oklahoma City has been.
The 2018 team lost to UCLA in the first round, then swept their way through an SEC team (UGA) and two teams from west of the Mississippi - in this case, a pair of Pac 12 squads (Oregon, UCLA).
This year, FSU began their run with a loss to UCLA before running through a pair of teams from west of the Mississippi (Arizona, Oklahoma State) and will have to beat an SEC team in Alabama a second time.
Not only has the literal path felt familiar, but the Noles are getting some stout defensive performances once again. In 2018, the Noles allowed two or fewer runs in three of their four elimination games (the lone exception: A six-run performance from the UCLA offense. But, FSU won 12-6, so it wasn’t an issue).
This year, FSU has allowed a total of five runs in their elimination games: three in their win against Arizona and two in their midnight madness victory over Oklahoma State before blanking the Crimson Tide Sunday.
The 2018 team conditioned us for the Noles to perform at their best when in the circle with their backs up against the wall, and this year has continued turned that condition into something of an expectation.
Never Say Die
FSU’s pitching and defense kept the Noles in a few games they maybe shouldn’t have been close in in OKC, allowing the offense to pick up another trend for the 2018 season: Late-inning heroics.
In 2018, the Seminoles totaled 20 runs scored in elimination games in the fourth inning or later.
This year, FSU has plated seven runs under the same circumstance.
(While obviously a greater disparity in the total between the two years, this year’s team is without an offensive performance of more than four runs, while the 2018 crew had a seven-run output and a 12-run performance, bookending their elimination bracket run.)
Queens of the Circle and Handling the Hot Corner
If I were to ask you who the two people you think of as most instrumental in the 2018 run, who would you say? I’d wager over half of you would answer: Meghan King in the circle and Jessie Warren at third.
King was nothing short of dominant during the Seminoles’ elimination run, allowing zero earned runs, scattering 12 hits and striking out 16 in 15.2 innings of work (two complete-game starts, 1.2 total IP in relief).
So far in elimination games, Sandercock has been nearly as good, allowing juts one earned run (three total runs) over 13.0 innings of work, including a complete-game victory against the Cowgirls. She’s also struck out 12 and walked just three.
Not to be overshadowed, or even overlooked, Caylan Arnold has been as reliable as you could have asked for in two starts. In 8.0 innings of work, Arnold has allowed a pair of earned runs, struck out eight and scattered six total hits.
You couldn’t be asking for better pitching if you’re a Seminoles fan, just as you couldn’t have done so in 2018.
But that’s not all: The play at third base for FSU in both runs has been one of the spotlights of each.
In 2018, Jessie Warren totaled three three defensive putouts and five defensive assists in elimination games, making her an indispensable part of the Seminole lineup even during a rather pedestrian first three games at the plate (no runs scored or RBI despite hitting .333 [4-for-12] over that span) before exploding for a 3-for-3 day with a home run and three runs scored.
This year, you could argue Sherrill has been more valuable to the FSU results: Defensively, she’s accounted for 12 total outs (four putouts, eight assists) and, despite getting just one hit in seven at-bats, she’s been able to work counts and get on base without putting the ball in play, including Sunday night’s eventual game-winning run on a bases loaded walk (Sherrill has logged two RBI and four walks through three games so far).
If FSU is going to finish the job and make the Championship Series, the road to success runs across the middle of the infield.
We still have, at least, seven more innings to determine if this year’s Seminole squad can fully replicate the magic captured four years ago, but if one thing is for certain, it’s this wild ride wont soon be forgotten and the Seminoles are starting to show a similar, if a little nerve-racking and chaotic, pattern for success when left to their final options.
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