Women's College World Series preview: Florida State advances to first final in program history
OKLAHOMA CITY — Florida State and Washington are in.
Oklahoma and the Southeastern Conference are out.
Florida State defeated UCLA twice on Sunday to advance to the Women's College World Series championship series. The Seminoles won the second game 12-6 after winning the first 3-1.
Florida State (56-12) will face Washington (52-8) in a best-of-three championship series starting Monday. Washington eliminated two-time defending champion Oklahoma with a 3-0 win earlier Sunday.
Change at the top is guaranteed. Oklahoma and SEC member Florida had combined to win the past five championships, and at least one SEC member had played for the title the previous seven years. This year, no SEC teams even reached the semifinals.
"This team fights. We don't stop fighting and we don't know how to stop fighting." - Jessie Warren.— FSU Softball (@FSU_Softball) June 4, 2018
Sights and sounds from Florida State's pair of victories over UCLA on Sunday to clinch a spot in the WCWS Championship Series for the first time in school history! pic.twitter.com/qP0kerRq1K
Washington, which won its only national title in 2009, represents the Pac-12. Florida State proudly represents the ACC, a conference that has never won a softball championship.
"We've just worked so hard to, one, want Florida State to be here, want to be in a national championship — that's been our goal," Florida State coach Lonni Alameda said. "And then, two, for the ACC. We want to show that this amazing game, you don't have to be in two conferences or maybe one of the teams in another conference to win a national championship. You don't. You can be at another school, another conference, and you can make it happen."
Current Pac-12 teams won national titles all but one year from 2001 to 2011, but none have won since. Things appear to be approaching that level of excellence again — the Pac-12 had four of the eight teams at the World Series, including No. 1 seed Oregon and two semifinalists. Now, Washington wants to take the league back to the top. The Huskies are undefeated — 37-0 — against non-conference teams this season.
"We're proud to be a part of our conference," Washington coach Heather Tarr said. "There is nothing like it. I know people say there are others like it, but I can prove that (there are not), because I've been involved in it for a long time, and it's hard."
Alameda expects a tough series against the Huskies.
"I think we pride ourselves a little bit on being scrappy and they do, too," Alameda said. "They're a scrappy team. They're fiery. You put it on the ground, they field it, and they do a great job defensively."
UCLA was in an ideal position heading into Sunday's action. The Bruins (58-7) needed just one win to advance because they had beaten Florida State earlier in the tournament, but their pitching fell apart.
UCLA's Rachel Garcia threw 111 pitches and took the loss in the first game. She started the second game, but only lasted an inning before Selina Ta'amilo stepped in. The second batter she faced, Cali Harrod, hit a home run to put the Seminoles up 1-0. Ta'amilo faced three hitters before Garcia returned to the circle. Morgan Klaevemann scored on an error, then Jessie Warren hit a two-run homer to put the Seminoles up 4-0.
UCLA's Taylor Pack hit a two-run homer in the second to cut Florida State's lead to 4-2, but Sydney Sherrill hit a three-run blast in the fourth to push the Seminoles' lead to 7-2. Florida State's Carsyn Gordon cranked a three-run homer in the fifth to make it 12-4.
Jessie Warren of @FSU_Softball told me tonight. “We don’t know how to quit.” Boy is she right. In the final game vs UCLA on Sunday, the entire FSU infield hit a home run (Warren, Harrod, Sherrill and Gordon) and the entire outfield hit a double (Morgan, Klaevemann, Casas).— Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) June 4, 2018
Garcia re-entered to pitch the sixth, and she shut the Seminoles down. UCLA's Bubba Nickles, who had run into the wall earlier while trying to prevent a home run, hit a solo shot of her own to make it 12-6.
Meghan King, who got the win in the first game, closed the second for the Seminoles. Kylee Hanson got the win in the second game. Having two strong pitchers made Alameda confident heading into Sunday's action, and the Seminoles believe it will help against Washington.
"Definitely having a one-one punch is huge for this time of year, but it's been huge for us all season," she said. "This is not something different right now that we haven't lived all year long, and so we were very lucky to have a lefty and a righty, also."