TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Behind the glove and bat of freshman shortstop Cali Harrod, No. 7 Florida State (52-8) got one step closer to Oklahoma City with a 6-2 victory over No. 25 Utah (35-21) on Friday afternoon at JoAnne Graf Field. Harrod went 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBI at the plate and made a run-saving catch in the sixth inning.
It is the first time the FSU has won the first game of a Super Regional as the Seminoles were 0-4 in their four previous postseason trips to the round of 16. The Noles came back from a 0-1 deficit to defeat Michigan in both games on the second day in 2014 to reach the WCWS.
“We’re really excited, it was a hard-fought game, especially there for a couple innings as it was a pitcher’s battle,” said FSU head coach Lonni Alameda. “We got to the fourth and had to start squaring up some balls and we had faith in that process and JB was keeping us in there. An exciting game and ready to get after it tomorrow.”
Both offenses struggled against starting pitchers Jessica Burroughs of FSU and Katie Donovan of Utah as neither team was able to get a runner to second base until the fourth inning.
Utah’s Delilah Pacheco drew a one-out walk in the third inning, but she was sent back to the dugout on the first pitch to the next batter as FSU catcher Sydney Broderick retired her at second on a steal attempt. It was the seventh runner thrown out by Broderick on the season. Burroughs ended the inning with a strikeout, her fourth of the game.
The Noles opened the scoring in the fourth inning as Jessica Warren drove a one-out single up the middle. She moved into scoring position when Alex Powers hit her 13th double of the season down the left field line. Sydney Broderick followed with a sacrifice fly to left field to give the Noles a 1-0 lead.
The inning continued as Zoe Casas drew a walk and was pinch run for at first by Korina Rosario. Rosario stole second, her third stolen base of the season, to move into scoring position. Cali Harrod made it 2-0 FSU with an infield single to short, scoring Powers from third base.
Utah cut the lead to 2-1 in the top of the sixth on a one-out solo home run by Kay Kay Fronda, her fifth of the season. Burroughs issued a walk to Hannah Flippen and she moved up to second base on a wild pitch with two outs. Utah’s Kristen Stewart nearly tied the game on a single to left center, but FSU’s SS Harrod made a leaping snag to end inning.
The Noles added to their lead in the bottom of the sixth as Warren led off with a walk and the sophomore came around to score on Powers’ second double of the game. Broderick added a single through the right side and Harrod cleared the bases with her fourth home run of the season to give the Seminoles a 6-1 lead, chasing Donovan from the game. Utah’s Hailey Hilburn entered the circle and recorded two strikeouts to the only two batters she faced to end the inning.
Utah refused to give up without a fight, bringing seven batters to the plate in the seventh inning, as Hilburn opened the frame with a single to right. After a foul out and fly out, consecutive singles from Ally Dickman and Pacheco loaded the bases and ended Burroughs’ day in the circle.
Meghan King entered the game and gave up an RBI single to Fronda to make it a 6-2 game before getting Hannah Flippen to ground out to end the game.
Burroughs (27-5) allowed two runs on six hits in 6.2 innings, giving up just two walks and recording seven strikeouts. King earned the second save of her career, allowing one hit over 0.1 innings.
Donovan took the loss and moved to 20-11 on the season after surrendering six runs on nine hits in 5.2 innings, with three walks and two strikeouts.
“I think we’ve talked about all season how young we are and how we are going to grow up throughout the season,” added Alameda. “We are very proud of all of our freshmen. Cali’s had some tough shoes to fill at short, and she’s consistently been ‘watering the bamboo’ as we’ve talked about, just staying in there and chipping away at things to be that player for us. She’s really been great with that and those athletic skills were great to grab that ball and she’s got a bright future ahead for us.”
The series will wrap up on Saturday with the first game at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN2. If Utah wins that game, the Utes and Seminoles will play again at 7:30 p.m. in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN. If Florida State wins any game on Saturday, they will advance to the Women’s College World Series for the ninth time in school history.
Cara Capuano and Leah Amico will provide the television commentary for all games played on Saturday, while Robin Ahrberg and Kaleigh Rafter will broadcast the games on Seminole Softball radio on Seminoles.com. Live stats will also be available on NCAA.com.
Tickets for Saturday are on sale now and are priced at $7 for adults and $5 for youth and seniors. Tickets can be ordered either on Seminoles.com, by calling 1-888-FSU-NOLE or by walking up to the ticket office at the Seminole Softball Complex on Spirit Way.
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