Kathryn Sandercock Adjusts To Pros By Embracing New Role
For the Florida State Seminoles, it was déjà vu. In the 2022 NCAA Regionals, the upset-minded Mississippi State Bulldogs came into Tallahassee and defeated the heavily-favored Seminoles in back-to-back games, knocking them out of the postseason.
One year later, the South Carolina Gamecocks were threatening to do the same thing. Having just defeated Florida State 4-0 in a must-win game, all the momentum was seemingly on the Gamecocks’ side for the pivotal game seven. With the memory of the previous season still in her mind, however, fifth-year pitcher Kathryn Sandercock and the rest of her Seminole teammates were not ready to go home.
“I just told myself, ‘I’m going to go out there and do everything that I possibly can. I want to put the jersey on one more time. I want one more week to play softball for Florida State,’” said Sandercock. “But I knew that if it was the last time I got to put on the jersey that I was going to leave it all out there on the field.”
And she did. The Virginia native turned in a masterful performance and pitched a perfect game, not allowing a single Gamecock to reach base in a 1-0 victory. The lone run of the game came in the third inning off a bunt single from sophomore Jahni Kerr. A wild throw allowed senior Josie Muffley to score from second, giving Sandercock all the support she needed. She was quick, however, to point out that the feat would not have been possible without her defense behind her.
“It was just the entire team being locked in and just fighting for another chance to put the jersey on for another week,” she said. “That was one of the best memories I have from college.”
How do you possibly top a memory like that? Perhaps by pitching three shutout innings and earning a save in your first professional appearance. On July 29 for Athletes Unlimited, Sandercock entered the circle in the fifth inning with a two-run lead and did not relinquish it, giving her team for that week, Team Mulipola, the 3-1 victory.
For Sandercock, it was not her first time on a big stage. It was also not her first time closing out a game. Coming into the 2023 season for Florida State, Sandercock had only seven career saves and was used to and comfortable with being a starter. However, head coach Lonni Alameda saw a potential new role for her veteran hurler.
Compared to being a starter, being a closer, according to Sandercock, is a bit different. As a closer, "there's no time to get comfortable," no time to "feel out the umpire's strike zone," no time to feel out anything in the field at all.
As a starting pitcher, Sandercock had her own mindset and her own routine she used when entering the circle. As a closer, she had to embrace a new one.
“I always try to be a competitor out on the mound, but as a closer my number one goal is to attack the zone, attack the hitters, don’t let anybody that I’m facing feel comfortable,” she said. “I want to go in and establish myself right off the bat.”
For the Seminoles, the decision by Alameda was a good one. By the season’s end, Sandercock had racked up 10 saves and currently stands as the program’s all-time leader with 17. When it was time for her to enter into a similar situation with AU, Sandercock was ready for the challenge.
"I went into a situation, my first appearance, and I was like, 'Well, I've been here before,'" said Sandercock. "It doesn't matter who you're facing, where you are, a drop ball is still a drop ball."
There was one difference, however. She was no longer pitching to her Seminole teammates Michaela Edenfield or Katie Dack. Instead, in her first appearance for AU, she was pitching to Dejah Mulipola, the Arizona great who she had just met a few days prior.
According to Sandercock, it was a change and a challenge in learning to play with teammates she had just met. However, the professionalism of the athletes around her made the transition from college to the pros possible and fun.
"Everybody is just so supportive and wants you to do well and wants to know how they can best help you and serve you,” she said. “That's kind of what we've been trying to do as teammates every new week."