OKLAHOMA CITY – First things first, Anna Shelnutt is a good player, regardless of the time of year.
Florida State’s sophomore catcher entered last month’s ACC tournament hitting a solid .248 with a pair of home runs, while also serving as a steady backstop for pitchers Meghan King and Kylee Hanson in her first season as a full-time starter.
So don’t think she only shows up when the calendar flips to May or June.
Still, this is getting a little ridiculous.
With Florida State and Washington locked in a scoreless pitcher’s duel late in Monday’s Game 1 of the Women’s College World Series Final, Shelnutt sent a 3-1 pitch over the wall in left-center field that staked FSU to a 1-0 lead.
It turned out to be the game’s only run, and it has the Seminoles on the verge of a first ever national championship.
“We had great at-bats,” Shelnutt said. “We made [Washington pitcher Gabbie Plain] work. We made her throw a lot of balls, and I think everybody battling earlier in the game is what got me that one pitch that I could drive out.”
It would be one thing if tonight’s blast was the only time Shelnutt had delivered in a pressure-packed, postseason moment.
Instead, it was just the latest in a series of high-stakes deliveries that has earned Shelnutt a new moniker:
“We’ve nicknamed her ‘Postseason Anna,’” FSU coach Lonni Alameda said with a smile.
Shelnutt has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the name – she’d prefer to be thought of as a player that delivers year-round – but, if she is going to earn a reputation, having one as a postseason performer isn’t so bad.
And it’s awfully well deserved.
Since the start of ACC tournament, Shelnutt has tacked on four more homers, including this walk-off, three-run shot that sealed FSU’s fifth straight conference tournament title.
— espnW (@espnW) May 12, 2018
And also including this 11th-inning home run that helped the save the Seminoles’ season in a Super Regional elimination game against LSU.
— Re2pect ✊ (@iLetsPlayBall) May 27, 2018
“For her to be able to come in and put together good at-bats for her team with everything she does behind the plate, hats off to her,” Alameda said. “We try to hype her up every day for everything she does for us.”
Don’t just stop there, though.
Go back to the 2017 season, and it becomes clear that “Postseason Anna” has been conjuring late-year magic for her entire collegiate career.
Filling in for injured senior Sydney Broderick, Shelnutt, then a sparingly-used freshman, hit four home runs in last year’s postseason, too, and along the way set an ACC tournament record with seven RBIs in the Seminoles’ win over Virginia.
All told, in 24 postseason games – meaning ACC tournament, NCAA regionals, super regionals and Women’s College World Series – Shelnutt is 24 of 77 (.312) with four doubles, a triple, eight home runs and 20 RBIs.
So, yeah, the nickname might stick.
“I think the postseason was a fresh start for me,” Shelnutt said, “to be able to lay it all out there for my team.”
Added Alameda: “Sometimes you don’t want the nickname, like, ‘Oh, she just shows up in the postseason.’
“But the reality is she’s learned now how to endure a full season. She’s a tremendous catcher. She has just grinded it out behind the plate. … She’s a great hitter in the regular season, too. And we do rely on her a ton.”
And besides, if Shelnutt and her teammates pick up one more win, they might soon be calling her by a new nickname, anyway:
“National Champion Anna” has a nice ring to it.