Very fast start allows FSU softball to coast past USF into Tallahassee Regional Final

·5 min read

Between a quick turnaround and a pregame weather delay, there were plenty of potential excuses for the Florida State softball team Saturday.

But the Seminoles didn't need any of those whatsoever. Batting first in their winner's bracket game of the Tallahassee Regional in a game that was delayed 2.5 hours by inclement weather, FSU started the game with one of its most productive innings in NCAA Tournament history.

The Seminoles (54-5) brought 13 batters to the plate in a seven-run first inning against South Florida (45-15). From there, they coasted to an 8-0 run-rule victory over the Bulls in front of a home crowd at JoAnne Graf Field.

"I'm really proud of the team. Anytime you get a lightning or rain, or weather delay

it can really take the mojo out of your plans, and these kids came out and got after it

on pitch one..." FSU head coach Lonni Alameda said.

"I think we just put the pedal to the metal in the first inning that really set this the tone."

How to watch: Here's how to watch the Seminoles in the NCAA Tournament Tallahassee Regional

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With the win, the Seminoles are through to Sunday's Tallahassee Regional Final. They have won 24 straight games in the regional round and will face Mississippi State Sunday at 2 p.m. after the Bulldogs beat Howard and USF Saturday.

Florida State infielder Josie Muffley (10) shouts after scoring for the Seminoles. Florida State defeated Kennesaw State 6-2 in the first round of the Tallahassee Regionals Friday, May 21, 2021.
Florida State infielder Josie Muffley (10) shouts after scoring for the Seminoles. Florida State defeated Kennesaw State 6-2 in the first round of the Tallahassee Regionals Friday, May 21, 2021.

The Bulldogs would need to beat FSU twice while the Seminoles need just one win to advance to a home super regional next weekend.

The seven runs FSU scored in the first against the Bulls was the most scored by the Seminoles in an NCAA Tournament game since Super Regionals were introduced in 2005.

It was 4-0 before the first out of the game was recorded and nine of the first 10 batters of the frame reached base for the Seminoles. They scattered six hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch in the inning against three USF pitchers.

A pair of two-run doubles by first baseman Mack Leonard and shortstop Josie Muffley were the highlights of the inning.

"Very proud. But by this point in this season, that's what you want

from your teammates," Alameda said.

"It's not so much (about) the coaching staff anymore. It's about these guys really coaching each other up and getting after it because it's their opportunity right now to move forward. And they've done an incredible job this season."

The Seminoles' eighth run, which set up the run-rule victory over the minimal five innings, came on a solo homer by Amaya Ross to lead off the fifth inning.

Through two games of the Tallahassee Regional, FSU has outscored its opponents 16-0. Both games have gone the minimum of five innings and ended in run-rule victories.

Kathryn Sandercock continues FSU's strong work in the circle

It definitely helped Kathryn Sandercock that the Seminoles had plated seven runs before she had to step into the circle Saturday.

But the FSU starting pitcher likely didn't need nearly that much run support considering how dominant she was in her first appearance of this year's NCAA Tournament.

The FSU ace needed just 45 pitches to work four scoreless innings against the Bulls. She allowed just one baserunner on an infield single that ricocheted off Sydney Sherrill's glove and then retired the final 10 batters she faced.

“I think the first inning Mack actually said, 'Who feels really relaxed right now?'

when we came out and kind of did our infield thing," Sandercock said.

"Yeah, it's totally relaxing. It just takes the weight off your shoulders knowing that you can just kind of go out there and do your thing and if you give up a run or two, your team was already giving you a pretty good cushion."

Leonard relieved Sandercock in the fifth inning and needed just five pitches to retire the side in order and clinch the victory. Through two games this weekend, FSU's pitching staff has allowed just one hit over 10 scoreless innings.

Confusion around Corrick

Entering Saturday's game between the Seminoles and Bulls, it was assumed we were going to see a matchup of two of the better pitchers in the country with Sandercock going against USF starter Georgina Corrick.

Corrick entered the weekend leading the country in strikeouts (407), innings pitched (266.1) and wins (41) with a 0.53 earned run average. She threw a complete-game shutout in the Bulls' 4-0 win over Mississippi State Friday, throwing 121 pitches but was still expected to start against FSU.

Because of this, it was definitely a surprise when USF announced Antoinette Hill, who had thrown just 29 innings all season, would be starting against the Seminoles.

Hill was tagged for six runs and recorded just one out before she was replaced. In all, USF needed three pitchers to get out of the first inning.

Later in the game, USF head coach Ken Eriksen informed the broadcasters during an in-game interview that it's an off game for Corrick, who suffered an injury in last week's AAC Tournament. Eriksen said the most important thing for his senior pitcher is her long-term health,  as she will on to a professional softball career after this season ends.

"Definitely knew that she's been injured. I mean, when they played their

championship tournament, she didn't throw in the final because of injury and so we

saw her warming up and then she pulled (out), so whether it's injury or maybe she

only has so many bullets in the arm, she saved them for another time..." Alameda said.

"I think in the beginning, you start talking a little bit. And also, the dugout is like, 'It doesn't matter who's out there. Just do our thing.'"

Lexie Kopko wound up throwing the final 4.1 innings of Saturday's game for South Florida, allowing one run on four hits.

Reach Curt Weiler at cweiler@tallahassee.com or follow him on Twitter @CurtMWeiler.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: FSU softball run-rules USF to advance to Tallahassee Regional Final