May 19, 2007
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. –
Going into the NCAA Tournament the Florida State softball team knew it was going to have to take on fifth-ranked Alabama at some point. What the Seminoles didn’t count on facing the hosts in the first elimination game of the Tuscaloosa Regional. The Crimson Tide ended Florida State’s season with a 6-3 victory on Saturday (May 19).
Florida State ends its season with a 44-25 mark, its 26th 40-win season under head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. Graf will start the 2008 campaign needing just one win to become the first coach in softball history to win 1,400 games. Alabama moves on to face Cal at 4 p.m. (CDT) with the winner of that going on to Sunday’s regional final against Tennessee Tech.
“It’s a tough way to end the season,” Graf said. “We were playing well coming into the ACC Tournament, but we just didn’t seem to have it the last two weeks. It’s always tough for the seniors and this was a great senior class. They meant a lot to this program and we’re going to miss them.”
Taking the loss was Florida State starter Tiffany McDonald (Belfair, Wash.) as she finished the year at 17-17. The right hander gave up six runs on six hits with two strikeouts. Free passes haunted McDonald as she gave up eight walks and hit two batters. Getting the victory for Alabama was Blair Potter, who improved to 17-2.
Florida State got its five hits off Potter its last four at-bats. Leading the way in her final collegiate game was two-time All-American Veronica Wootson (Fontana, Calif.) as she went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Jessica Gilmore (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.) hit a two-run pinch hit home run in the seventh. Rookies Monica Montez (Corona, Calif.) and Robin Ahrberg (Stillwater, Okla.) added singles.
Alabama got the first run of the game in the top of the first. With one out and a runner on first, Kelly Montalvo hit double to center field, but Carly Wynn (Sharpsburg, Ga.) got the ball into shortstop Yuruby Alicart (Maracay, Venezuela), who fired home to get Jordan Praytor. Unfortunately, Dani Woods followed with a single to score Montalvo. McDonald got out of a jam in the second, walking a pair of batters with one out to load the bases, but she got Montalvo to strike out and end the inning.
The Seminoles got their first run of the game in top of the sixth. Wootson led off with a double and moved up to third on a sacrifice before scoring on a squeeze bunt by Alicart. The Seminoles had a chance to get more runs that inning but Potter got Whitney Buckmon (Stone Mountain, Ga.) to ground out to end the threat. FSU added two more in the seventh when Ahrberg picked up a leadoff single and scored on Gilmore’s pinch hit home run over the left field fence.
Florida State’s first hit of the day came in the fourth as Montez singled back up the middle. The Seminoles had a chance to score as Potter walked Alicart to put runners on first and second, but she got first baseman Brittany Osmon (San Diego, Calif.) to ground out and end the threat.
The Seminoles wouldn’t be as fortunate to get out of a jam in the fourth. McDonald hit the leadoff batter, but got the next two outs before issuing her sixth walk. She appeared to be out of the inning with a strikeout of Montalvo, but strike three was ruled a foul tip, giving Montalvo new life. Two pitches later she drove a ball to center field that was just out of the reach of a diving Wynn, allowing two runs to score. The Crimson Tide tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the sixth.
Saturday was the final game of Wootson’s brilliant career. A starter in all 273 games she’s played in, Wootson is ranked in numerous Florida State, ACC and NCAA offensive categories, including the Seminoles’ career leader with 29 home runs.
“A player like Veronica doesn’t come around that often,” Graf said. “She’s one of the most versatile players I’ve ever coached. She can hit for power, she can drop down a bunt, steal a base and play great defense. There’s going to be big shoes to fill at second base next year.”
Florida State loses four seniors off this year’s team – Wootson, Alicart, LaShaun Davis (Marietta, Ga.) and Brittany Krbec (Orlando, Fla.) that all started at least 50 games this year. The Seminoles return seven players that started 45 or more games, including All-Region selections Wynn and Buckmon 2007 ACC Freshman of the Year Montez, who were three of FSU’s top five hitters. For the second year in a row the Seminoles bring back their entire pitching staff that dropped the staff ERA by almost a full run from a year ago.