FSU softball starts postseason with no-hitter from Danielle Watson in win over Howard
What a way for Florida State softball to start this postseason.
Danielle Watson tossed her first career no-hitter across five innings for the top-seeded team in the Tallahassee Regional, lifting the Seminoles (53-5) to their 15th straight win via an 8-0 mercy ruling of four-seed Howard (31-23) on Friday.
Watson (17-4) completed the effort in front of the largest postseason crowd in JoAnne Graf Field history (1,646). She tallied five strikeouts across 53 pitches while surrendering only one baserunner, walking Camille Navarro in the fourth inning. Catcher Michaela Edenfield threw Navarro out at first base during the ensuing Bison at-bat.
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The no-hitter marked FSU’s 31st under head coach Lonni Alameda and second this season.
“I thought she was pounding the zone pretty well, which was awesome,” Alameda said. “She actually had a rib out the last couple weeks. She got a rib re-placed back in. Now there’s a little more fluidity in her motion. She was really pounding the zone pretty well. So that was exciting to see, a big smile on her face.”
Nine of Howard’s 14 at-bats resulted in the ball being put into play. But the Seminole defense, which entered the weekend ranked No. 2 nationally in fielding percentage (.983), suffocated the Bison with eight groundouts.
All nine batters in Howard’s typical lineup average better than .300 this season. Bison head coach Tori Tyson said her team intentionally waited to swing on Watson’s outside pitches but struggled to execute in those opportunities.
“A lot of our batters got to it. I think they were just excited about getting to it and not trying to do damage on it,” Tyson said. “As you could see on the weak (grounders). That’s just presence and being in a ballgame you haven’t been in yet. They got to it, but I just wish they would have gotten through that pitch with a little more contact.”
By lasting the whole game, Watson offered ace pitcher Kathryn Sandercock rest before FSU squares off against three-seed USF (45-14) at 1 p.m. Saturday. After that game, two-seed Mississippi State (33-25) will face Howard in the loser’s bracket.
The four-team, double-elimination Tallahassee Regional concludes Sunday. The winner will challenge the team that advances from No. 15 Missouri’s Columbia Regional in a Super Regional next weekend.
“The defense is just really in tune to the pitching staff,” Alameda said. “It’s really cool, that sixth sense of knowing where that ball is going to be put into play. They are having fun together. Whether it’s game 30 or whatever game they are playing right now, they are really enjoying the moment. And that’s really showing up on the defensive side.”
Seminole offense benefited from being aggressive
Kaley Mudge didn’t hesitate.
The FSU leadoff hitter started the bottom of the first inning with a hit that normally would have resulted in a single, but she headed for second and easily completed the double. Howard’s outfielders looked to be aligned deeper to keep everything in front of them.
The Seminoles capitalized on that strategy by being aggressive on the base paths, stealing seven bases in the process. They recorded just five hits but made the most of the eight other times they reached base via a walk (6), hit by pitch (1) and error (1).
“They were playing no doubles the whole time,” Alameda said. “So when you know they are playing deep, you are going to be able to get after it, pushing extra bases. So it wasn’t much of a philosophy. It just showed up, what their positioning was. We just took advantage of that.”
Mudge eventually scored when center fielder Jahni Kerr drew a walk with the bases loaded. Kerr gave FSU its next run in the fourth inning, advancing second baseman Devyn Flaherty home on a single to right center. Designated player Chloe Culp later scored Kerr on a sacrifice fly.
Shortstop Josie Muffley ended that three-run flurry with a groundout, which brought pinch runner D’Aun Riggs home from third. Kerr, Flaherty and Riggs each stole at least one base before scoring in that inning.
A four-run fifth inning from the Seminoles effectively ended the game. First baseman Mack Leonard started the scoring with a double to right center, advancing third baseman Sydney Sherrill home from second. Kerr added a sacrifice fly, scoring pinch runner Autumn Belviy.
Then Edenfield and Culp added RBI singles. Edenfield scored Leonard. Culp brought home Edenfield.
“I think that was the story of the game,” Tyson said. “We put them on bases a couple times, and they were advancing themselves to third without a bunt. Just being aggressive on the base paths.
“And obviously, (pitcher) Analise (De La Roca) throws a lot of off-speed (pitches). So that becomes part of that game, where you are going to be a little more aggressive on the base path. They did an excellent job of reading the down angle.
“It helped them tremendously, because now it doesn’t take a hit to score a run. Put somebody on and they are at third in three pitches, it doesn’t even take a hit. That happened a lot tonight.”
Georgina Corrick to challenge FSU
Georgina Corrick showed why she’s considered one of the top pitchers in the country when leading USF to a 4-0 victory over Mississippi State on Friday.
Corrick (37-5, 0.50 ERA) surrendered only four hits while fanning nine batters in the complete-game shutout. She certainly could give FSU problems as the nation’s leader in wins, strikeouts and a few other pitching categories.
“We have scouted Corrick and know she is good,” Alameda said. “We know we are going to face someone good, and they are starting to get some long balls mixed in with their short game, which has really been their thing.
“So it’s going to be a dog fight. Tomorrow is the biggest game of the season, so we have to get after it. We’ve got to have a good plan.
“She’s going to mix some speed, which is what we saw today. The off-speed stuff is sometimes hard, so we just have to have a good plan coming in as an offense.”
Reach Carter Karels at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @CarterKarels.
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