By: Steve Stone, Assistant Sports Information Director – Florida State University
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – The preparation for a second consecutive bid to the NCAA Super Regionals begins on Thursday, Sept. 26, for the Florida State softball team as it starts its first fall practice as a team at JoAnne Graf Field inside the Seminole Softball Complex.
“It’s been another busy summer for our coaching staff and we cannot wait to get back on the field and start working with our student-athletes once again,” head coach Lonni Alameda said as she begins her sixth season at Florida State. “We definitely lost some key seniors but we’ve got another talented group stepping in, and we will work extremely hard to reach beyond the point we crossed last season.”
Last year was a banner year for Alameda, who was named ACC Coach of the Year and guided Florida State to its first NCAA Super Regional since 2006. The Seminoles also dominated conference play in the regular season with an 18-2 record and boasted their first All-American since 2009 in junior pitcher Lacey Waldrop.
Three important senior departures for the Seminoles include all-conference selections Morgan Bullock (LF/CF) and Monica Perry (P) as well as talented outfielder Kirstin Austin. However, 13 letterwinners return for the Seminoles including prominent power hitter Kelly Hensley, the reigning ACC Softball Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Capital One Academic All-American. The Niceville, Fla., native who was recently accepted into medical school at FSU finished with 54 RBIs in 2013, tied for the third-most in program history.
Florida State’s entire infield returns, headlined by the middle infield tandem of redshirt junior shortstop Maddie O’Brien and redshirt senior second baseman Tiffani Brown. O’Brien was one of the nation’s smoothest shortstops last year, committing just three errors in 151 chances. The Palm Harbor, Fla., native never had a throwing error in 2013.
Brown, a Tallahassee, Fla., resident, returns for a fifth year after getting a medical redshirt for last year’s injury-plagued season. The speedy slap-hitter was batting a torrid .486 (18-for-37) in her 11 games played before suffering a season-ending injury.
Waldrop ignites another talented pitching staff that includes redshirt senior Jessica Nori, junior Bailey Schinella and redshirt freshman Jessica Burroughs. Waldrop finished 24-10 in 2013 with a 1.53 ERA and recorded 259 strikeouts in 219.1 innings pitched.
An option to replace former pitcher Monica Perry in the rotation is Burroughs, a Warner Robins, Ga., native who dominated opponents two years ago while playing at Houston County High School. She will join Schinella and Nori to form another pitching group that is filled with depth.
Eight newcomers make their fall debut in the Garnet and Gold. They include sophomore transfer Krista Garcia (Tampa. Fla., Tallahassee Community College), as well as freshmen Ellie Cooper (Fenton, Mo.), Bella D’Errico (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.), Victoria Daddis (St. Johns, Fla.), Ryann Day (Phoenix, Ariz.), Lauren Harris (St. Cloud, Fla.), Rylan Harvey (Mont Belvieu, Texas) and Corey Hendrickson (Arvada, Colo.).
The Seminoles begin their fall schedule this Saturday, Sept. 28, when they participate in a team scrimmage at JoAnne Graf Field at 10 a.m. Following the scrimmage, FSU will host Chipola College at noon.
Following the doubleheader for FSU, the Seminoles head on the road to face Georgia State on Friday, Oct. 4, at 5 p.m. in Atlanta. The next day on Saturday, Oct. 5, FSU faces Georgia in Athens at noon. The weekend wraps up with a Sunday game at Georgia at noon as well.
Florida State plays a doubleheader on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 10 a.m. and noon at JoAnne Graf Field. The first matchup is another team scrimmage, then a contest against Northwest Florida State.
The second and final road trip for FSU occurs on Sunday, Oct. 20, with a noon matchup at USF in Tampa, Fla. Fall ball concludes three weekends later with a home game against Pensacola College on Nov. 8 at 5 p.m., followed by a doubleheader that includes Wallace College on Saturday, Sept. 9.
Stay tuned to Seminoles.com as well as Florida State softball’s Twitter handle (@FSU_Softball) and Facebook page (Facebook.com/FSUsoftball) to keep up with all the offseason coverage heading into the 2014 year.