Feb. 18, 2005
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The 18th-ranked Florida State softball team played perhaps its best two games of the year Friday and extended its record to 6-4 on the season with victories against South Carolina (7-3) and Syracuse (1-2) during the opening day of the 2005 Sunshine State Tournament at the Seminole Softball Complex. The Tribe took care of the Gamecocks in the first battle with a decisive 4-2 win before rallying against the Orange and defeating them 5-4 in eight innings of play.
The real story of the day belonged to the offensive enhancement of the team and the emergence of NFCA 2nd Team All-American Veronica Wootson who rekindled her season after struggling in recent weeks. In two games today, Wootson not only drove in clutch hits, she also increased her season batting average by nearly 100 points.
“Right now I’m feeling great,” said Wootson outside the team locker room after the game. “I’m just glad that I came out of my shell and that I’m hitting the ball better. I’m excited that I’m able to help my team out. My team depends on me and it makes me want to work hard so I can go out there and perform as I did today. I’m just so happy and I feel refreshed.”
Associate Head Coach Louie Berndt, who watched Wootson emerge on the national scene last season to become the first ever Seminole to be named an All-American during her rookie campaign, praised Wootson after the team’s win against Syracuse.
“It was nice to see that she came out of her shell or her absence…because she is just a strong player and a dominant athlete and we cannot afford to have her, as we called it, on vacation. It’s great to see that she did come back and she had some crucial plays and was solid on both sides of the ball. You can tell that she has this special presence on the team that when she is on the rest of the team just rises to the occasion.”
The sophomore second baseman completed the day 4-for-7 (.571) at the plate with three RBIs. Offensively, freshman first baseman Brittany Osmon paced the Tribe with a perfect 1.000 slugging percentage and .600 batting average (3-5) in the two games combined. With FSU down 3-1 to the Orange in the top of the sixth inning, Osmon hit a two-run triple that gave the Seminoles the lead at the time. Florida State would eventually go into extra innings and win the ball game.
“I was pumped,” said an ecstatic Osmon, whose father John was in attendance to see his daughter play collegiate softball for the first time after flying from San Diego to watch the games. “When I came up to bat, I was thinking `hit a good pitch, hit a good pitch’ and when I hit it, I was thrilled. It says a lot about the team to bounce back. We’ve struggled a lot and to come back after that it was incredible considering that Syracuse upset UCLA. We knew it was a strong win for us coming from behind. It showed a lot of heart and intensity.
“When I was walking into the dugout after the last game, I said to myself that this is exactly why I love softball and exactly why I wanted to play at Florida State. Just seeing the girls and how excited we were and how close we are as a team…I was just so thankful to be a Seminole and so thankful for moments like this. I truly believe this was a turnaround for our team.”
The Seminoles will return to the field Saturday at approximately noontime to face Southeastern Louisiana which ended day one with a 1-1 overall record. The Lions logged a victory against Syracuse (4-2) and fell to South Carolina (3-1). Bracket play starts at 2:00 p.m. when the No. 1 vs. No. 4 seeds face-off, followed by a game between the No. 2 and 3 seeds. The championship game will take place Sunday beginning at 11:00 a.m.
FLORIDA STATE 4, SOUTH CAROLINA 2
The Seminole softball team chipped away eight hits Friday afternoon at the Sunshine State Tournament, defeating South Carolina, 4-2, in its first of possibly five games at the four-team tournament hosted by FSU. Florida State assistant coach Megan Matthews Buning, who is one of the SEC’s all-time pitching greats, faced off against her former head coach and school and helped her pitcher, Casey Hunter, earn a win against the Gamecocks.
Hunter threw 7.0 innings for the win (2-3), allowing just six hits, four walks, and striking out eight batters. Jessica Barnes took the loss for USC and fell to 3-2 (eight hits, four runs, six walks, four strikeouts).
The first three innings remained scoreless until Florida State tallied its first two runs in the top of the fourth, led off by a single from freshman Melissa Wood and pinch runner Carey Galuppi replaced her at first base. Osmon walked on the next play and both runners advanced a base on an error by the catcher. Wootson came up to the plate and registered a single and advanced to second on the throw, scoring Galuppi for the first points on the board. Two batters later, LaShaun Davis walked to load up the bases and then freshman Whitney Buckmon was hit by a pitch for the final run of the inning.
The Gamecocks rallied in the fifth as Whitney Wierzbicki led off with a double and Jessica Josker, who represented the tying run, continued with a short infield single. Meghan Cornett then hit a sacrifice to advance Whitney Wierzbicki and Jessica Josker and then with one out, McKenna Hughes came through with a double to right field and drove in the two runs and tied the score 2-2.
In the sixth, the Gamecocks had a chance to take the lead as Darcy Norem walked and Margaret Person bunted safely, giving USC runners at first and second. With only one out, the attempt would fall short from there as the Hunter retired the next two Gamecock batters with a strikeout and a foul out.
The Seminoles led off the seventh with a bunt single and were able to capitalize on an error by Cornett. With two runners on, Lesley Palmer hit a double to center field and drove in Whitney Buckmon and Tatiana George to take the 4-2 lead. Carolina was able to get out of the inning on a heads up play in left field by Person. Osman flied out to Person and then Person threw home to throw out Palmer, who was at third, to end the inning.
In the last at bat, FSU’s defense pulled through as two players grounded out and Hunter retired the final batter for the victory.
FLORIDA STATE 5, SYRACUSE 4 (8)
Veronica Wootson had three hits and two runs batted in to lead the FSU offense to a 5-4 win over the Syracuse Orange (1-2) in the second game of the day for the Tribe. Brittany Osmon had two RBI, while Tatiana George had two hits. The Seminoles improved their record to 6-4 overall.
Syracuse took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a two-out bases loaded double by Tanya Rose. Florida State cut the lead in half in the top of the fifth inning on a Kim Hoffer RBI single. SU got the run back in the home half of the inning on an RBI double by Courtney Mosch.
Florida State took its first lead of the game in the top of the sixth. Osmon tied the game with a two-run triple and Wootson gave the Seminoles a 4-3 lead with a single. The Orange tied the game in the bottom of the seventh. Switenko started the rally with a one-out single and moved to second when Mosch reached on an error. Shawna Norris drove in the tying run with a single. The inning ended when the Orange popped into a double play.
Once the game went into extra innings, the international tie-breaker rule went into effect. SU got the first two outs of the inning with the Seminole runner advancing only to third. After a walk put runners on the corners, Wooston delivered again with her second RBI of the game, scoring George. SU couldn’t advance its tie-breaker runner in the bottom of the eighth, going down in order. Buckmon made a tremendous diving catch in the outfield to seal the victory for Florida State, and players sprinted out of the dugout to meet the freshman in the outfield to congratulate her for the extraordinary effort she displayed in the final out.
Casey Hunter evened her record at 3-3 thanks to 4.2 innings of solid pitching after replacing freshman Tiffany McDonald who retired to the dugout after 3.1 innings. Hunter allowed five hits, two runs, no walks, and had six strikeouts.