USF Comes Together For Win, FSU Brings The Storm
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Heading into Friday’s contest against No. 21 South Carolina (36-18), it was clear USF head coach Ken Eriksen had drilled one piece of advice into his team’s heads: Wait for pitches low in the strike zone.
With Eriksen pantomiming as much from the dugout, that strategy clearly paid off for the Bulls (41-17), as they refused to bite on the rise balls that Gamecocks starter Kelsey Oh served up to them. Oh promptly walked four of the first five batters of the game, giving the Bulls a quick one-run lead in their 3-2 victory
“A lot of the SEC hitters chase those rise balls because they are rise ball hitters, but we aren’t. We really train low in the zone so they struggled pitching to us,” Eriksen said following the game.
Gamecocks head coach Beverly Smith deployed the quick hook, and yanked Oh after just one-third of an inning; though Cayla Drotar was able to escape the first without yielding any more runs, the damage had already been done.
“Normally I would have let Kelsey stay on the mound after getting in a jam, but today I thought would be a low scoring game and we just couldn’t risk leaving her out there,” Smith said.
South Carolina tied it up in the bottom half of the first frame on a double from Kennedy Clark, but were left playing catch-up for the remainder of the game after USF took the lead for good in the top of the third.
The Bulls were buoyed by another stellar showing from AAC Pitcher of the Year Georgina Corrick, who yielded just two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out eleven.
“I was able to change up speeds which kept them on their toes, so we could keep their hitting to a minimum. I think we were very successful with that,” Corrick said after the game.
Much of Corrick’s success came from keeping cool, calm and collected when she was in the circle so she could focus on each individual batter rather than getting worked up about other game situations.
“We didn’t want to play into their game plan, so we couldn’t allow ourselves to get frustrated with baserunners on… I had to keep my cool in those tough situations, and trust that my defense was going to have my back,” stated Corrick.
The chemistry among all members of USF’s squad was evident in their play, as players had faith in their teammates to make a clutch play in the field or deliver a particularly opportunistic base knock.
Meanwhile, Smith said that she views Friday’s performance as an uncharacteristic one for her team, especially considering their eleven strikeouts when facing Corrick. That being said, she does anticipate a turnaround for the Gamecocks as they face elimination tomorrow.
“We understand now that we will be fighting for our lives… rest assured the Gamecocks will come back tomorrow fighting,” the head coach quipped.
Florida State Brings A Barrage On Offense
While the first contest of the afternoon was closely contested, the second was anything but. The Seminoles (52-8) run-ruled Bethune-Cookman (26-30) in five innings, 8-0.
The typically explosive FSU offense managed two runs in the first three innings as they tried to figure out Wildcats starter Alexis Bermudez. They evidently cracked the code in the fourth inning, as they tacked on four more runs in the next inning-plus before the game was delayed by lightning.
Despite the game’s run-rule finish, the contest itself took nearly four hours to complete, as Carsyn Gordon’s solo shot to lead off the fifth was immediately followed by a two-hour adjournment for lightning in the area.
Cassidy Davis hit a solo shot in the second inning, at around 3:15 in the afternoon; over three hours later, she drove in the final two runs to bring the game to a finish and send the sparse crowd of largely FSU fans home happy. After the long delay, it took just nine minutes for the Seminoles to bring the game to a close.
The team’s all-around success was part of a recent trend, as first baseman Carsyn Gordon attested.
“I would definitely say that we hit a point, probably Syracuse weekend where we all started playing together as one cohesive unit,” she noted, joking that that team bonding experience also coincided with the end of the spring semester.
“Now we can finally just play softball - just Florida State Softball.”
The Seminoles also inched closer to team and NCAA records with their power outburst on Friday. Cassidy Davis’ second-inning blast was her tenth homer of the year, making the ’Noles the only Division I team with seven players to reach that mark this season (the next closest teams are James Madison and Arizona State, with five).
Florida State’s three-homer day also put the team at 97 long balls on the season, putting them just three more away from the first season in program history with triple-digit big fly figures.
All four teams will certainly be tested tomorrow, as the seemingly unstoppable FSU offense will likely go up against the unshakeable Georgina Corrick and the Bulls at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. South Carolina and Bethune-Cookman will kick off tomorrow’s competition; the winner of that game will play the loser of FSU-USF at 5 p.m., while the loser will be headed home for the season.