March 17, 2006
FULLERTON, Calif. –
It was the breakthrough win the Florida State University softball team was looking for and it happened at one of the best tournaments in the country. Backed by the best pitching performance of Tiffany McDonald’s career, the Seminoles outlasted No. 10 Arizona State, 1-0, in 10 innings to close out Thursday’s (March 16) action at the Judi Garman Classic.
Florida State got its 20th win of the season, improving to 20-12 on the year. The win was the Seminoles’ first over a Top 10 team since beating No. 7 Washington, 2-0, at the 2004 Women’s College World Series. It was also FSU’s first upset of a Top 10 team since the No. 10 Seminoles beat No. 7 Oklahoma at the 2004 NFCA Leadoff Classic. Arizona State dropped its second game in a row, falling to 28-3.
“This is a big win for us over a Top 10 team,” FSU head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf said. “This shows our team that we can win any game against any team in the country. This will be a big confidence booster. We bent, but we didn’t break and our pitching and defense came through when we needed them.”
Just by shear numbers, the game was McDonald’s (Belfair, Wash.) best at Florida State. The sophomore notched career highs with 14 strikeouts, 10 innings pitched and 41 batters faced. The righty threw her Atlantic Coast Conference-leading 14th complete game to improve her record to 13-6. McDonald is just one win shy of her total from the entire 2005 season. ASU’s Katie Burkhart was dealt her first loss, dropping her to 12-1.
“This was Tiffany’s best outing of the season by far and probably the best of her career,” Graf added. “She did a great job keeping of us in the game. She had a lot of strike outs and did a great job of keeping them off balance and gave us a chance to win.”
After having opponents take advantage of its miscues, Florida State finally got a break in the tenth inning and took advantage of one of someone else’s. With Veronica Wootson (Fontana, Calif.) on second via the international tiebreaker, designated player Brittany Osmon (San Diego, Calif.) laid down a sacrifice bunt. Sun Devil third baseman Jen McCard’s throw got away from the first baseman, allowing Wootson to score.
From there it was up to McDonald and the defense to close out the game. Facing the two, three and four hitters, she struck out pinch hitter Himmita Hixon then got Kaitlin Cochran to pop out. After a walk to Mindy Cowles, McDonald struck out pinch hitter Heidi Knabe to end the game.
“Anytime you play a Top 10 team you have to go out and attack them just like you would any other team, “McDonald said. “I knew they were good hitters so I had to really focus. Moe (catcher Melissa Wood) did a great job back there and the defense really stepped it up at end.”
Florida State used a pair of defensive gems to keep the game going in extra innings. With no outs in the eighth, Cowles hit a rocket that shortstop Yuruby Alicart (Maracay, Venezuela) snagged and threw to first. Then in the ninth, ASU had the winning run on third with one out. McCard hit a looping fly ball into shallow center field, but Carly Brieske (Safety Harbor, Fla.) made a tremendous diving catch.
“Our defense played well enough to win,” Graf added. “I would have like to have had better offense earlier, but to the girls’ credit, they kept come back each inning and they stuck with it until the end. They showed a lot of enthusiasm tonight.”
Both teams had problems scoring runs as the two teams combined to leave 24 runners on base with the Sun Devils stranding 14. Florida State’s best opportunity came in the seventh inning. Wootson led off the frame with a triple, but the Seminoles could not get her the last 60 feet to break the tie.
The Seminoles complete pool play on Friday (March 17) when they take on Notre Dame at 1:30 p.m. (PST). The winner of that game will advance to the Gold Bracket.