May 8, 2011
A 15-hit outburst led by Ashley Stager’s two home runs coupled with an excellent relief appearance from Jessica Nori propelled the Florida State University softball team to a 9-4 victory at 17th-ranked Georgia Tech on Sunday afternoon at Mewen Field.
Round-trippers No. 8 and 9 this season for Stager highlighted the offensive rout for FSU. She finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored, while hitting career home runs No. 21 and 22. Her 22 career home runs are now fifth on the school’s all-time list.
Not to be forgotten was the crucial relief pitching of Jessica Nori (6-5), who entered the game with two outs in the third inning and never surrendered a run. Nori stayed aggressive against one of the nation’s best offenses and had excellent location throughout her entire appearance. The victory by the Weston, Fla., native is arguably the best of her young career. She allowed just two hits in 4.1 innings pitched with three strikeouts.
“We had some tremendous performances today,” head coach Lonni Alameda said. “I’m very proud of the way we finished the regular season this last game. Now we have to take care of business in the conference tournament next weekend and build off today’s win.”
Kristie McConn finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs, none bigger than her game-breaking extra base hit in the fifth. The Seminoles (27-26, 9-11) finished the regular season with their third nationally-ranked victory of the season, as they defeated then-No. 24 Kentucky and then-No. 25 BYU earlier in the year. FSU dealt the Yellow Jackets (44-9, 18-2) just their second loss in the conference.
Shayla Jackson’s RBI single in the sixth put FSU ahead at 6-4, and she later scored on a wild pitch to make it 7-4. Stager then hammered a two-run home run in the seventh to put the game out of reach.
The Seminoles produced 15 base hits off Georgia Tech pitchers Hope Rush (12-4) and Lindsey Anderson. The total is the most by FSU in conference play this season, breaking its mark of 14 hits against Boston College.
FSU’s difficulty with runners in scoring position was on display in the first inning, when Tiffani Brown and Jackson set the Seminoles up for a quality inning with consecutive singles. Jen Lapicki then struck out swinging and Celeste Gomez hit into a double play to end the momentum.
Georgia Tech got off to a hot start when Kelsi Weseman belted a two-run home run to centerfield to give the Yellow Jackets an early 2-0 advantage. Christy Jones led off the game with a single to short left field before being brought home on the round-tripper.
Courtney Senas allowed the Seminoles to crawl back in the contest when she laced a two-strike pitch into left center for a two-run double, advancing to third base on the throw home. Pinch runner Amber Bryant managed to score the second run when she collided into catcher Alysha Rudnik unintentionally to jar the ball loose. After Stager was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners with one out, Senas was thrown out at third base on a fielder’s choice and Jackson grounded out to third base.
Fielding miscues hurt the Seminoles in the bottom of the second. Jessica Sinclair’s leadoff ball in play was mishandled by Brown at third base, then Sinclair advanced to second after an errant throw by left fielder Morgan Bullock back into the infield. Danielle Dike stepped to the plate and hit an RBI double down the left field line, an unearned run for Sarah Hamilton.
Hamilton battled back in that same inning. Jones reached first base on a fielder’s choice while Hamilton’s attempt to throw out pinch runner Hayley Downs at third base was unsuccessful. With no outs and runners on the corners, Ashley Thomas fouled out to left field, and Weseman was intentionally walked to load the bases. Hamilton then struck out Kristine Priebe and Kate Kuzma to escape the big jam.
FSU kept going after Rush, as Celeste Gomez singled with one out and McConn followed with a double off the right center wall to put two runners in scoring position. Bullock proceeded to ground out sharply to the pitcher, and after Amber Bryant walked on four pitches, Senas ended the inning on a deep fly that was caught in right field.
In the third inning, Rudnik hit a one-out double to left field and later went to third base when Dike was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Hamilton struck out Jones swinging for the second out, and on a full-count offering to Jessica Weaver she threw a changeup that just missed low to bring in a run for Georgia Tech. Nori then entered the game to face Weseman with the bases loaded and got her to a fan on a high fastball for a big strikeout.
FSU will face Virginia Tech as the No. 4 seed in next Friday’s first round game of the ACC Championship at Mewen Field. First pitch is set for 7:30 p.m.