OKLAHOMA CITY-– Meghan King dreamed of this stage her entire life.
Growing up in Parkland, Fla., King and her father, Mike, would talk about one day playing in the Women’s College World Series. Little could they dream of eventually winning it at Florida State with Meghan in the circle.
“You always talk about these games and these moments. A 3-2 pitch in the seventh inning or a bases-loaded jam,” King said minutes after the Noles defeated the Washington Huskies to claim the school’s first national title. “My Dad and I would go over these in the cages on the fields. It actually came to life here and I’m just so thankful”
On the field during the postgame celebration, Mike hugged his daughter, the pride swelling in him as the players took in the scene with their families and supporters that had made the long trek to Oklahoma City.
“As father’s, we spend thousands of hours with our kids taking balls of our shins and chests, especially with having a pitcher,” he said as tears began to fill his eyes. “To see how happy she is, what more can you ask for as a parent to see that pure joy?”
King was sensational during the week, setting a new WCWS record for the lowest ERA during a single tournament at 0.20. The redshirt junior gave up just one earned run in well over 30 innings pitched at Hall of Fame Stadium.
In the Championship series, FSU coach Lonni Alameda showed a lot of confidence in her lefty, deciding to start her in both games against the Huskies.
“Honestly, Meghan was a good match-up and she threw really well in the first game,” Alameda said, noting that the staff wanted to play a tactical game as well, hiding Kylee Hanson’s arsenal for a potential game three,
“She’s gritty. She’s been there before. Just the lefty-lefty match-up was big.”
The decision paid off as in the deciding final game, King weathered an early Washington attack, fueled by some uncharacteristic defensive miscues, to sling a gem. On the night, the lefty went seven innings, giving up just one earned run and striking out four on 87 pitches.
Her calm, collected nature was instrumental in shutting the Husky offense down the rest of the night, allowing the potent Seminole attack the chance to start its onslaught. It’s the way King has always been, even during her high school days pitching for St. Thomas Aquinas, winning state titles in 2013 and 2014.
“It’s a testament to who she is. She was like this in high school when it came to State (playoffs), she would go from zero to sixty,” Mike said of Meghan. “She’s never rattled on the mound, she has great composure and she has so much trust in her teammates. As a pitcher, the mental game is 90 percent of it, so having a defense like that behind you, look out, anything is possible.”
“Heart of a lion, the desire to win. She’s the most competitive pitcher I’ve ever caught for,” FSU catcher Anna Shelnutt echoed following the game. “She’ll throw a pitch and then throw the same pitch to the same spot, she lets you know it’s her strike zone.”
For King and Hanson, in what Alameda calls her “one-one punch,” the duo took turns during 2018 carrying Florida State throughout their historic campaign. Hanson was dominant during the regular season and the early part of the NCAA Tournament, while King took her game to another level during the final few weeks of the year.
“The biggest thing, to be very honest, is when Meghan and Kylee started to figure out how to work together as a staff,” Alameda said of what allowed King to take a step forward. “It was hard for them in the beginning. Meghan’s competitive and Kylee’s competitive. When they realized they were a one-one punch, the maturity showed up and the responsibility of what they needed to do (as a tandem). I just have seen that in Meghan big time in the last month probably.”
“I completely agree with her, Kylee and I sat down one day and said to each other we were both here to compete for the team and it’s going to take both of us,” King furthered.
“We had a mental turning point and from there the results started to come, physically.”
Under Alameda, Florida State has had its share of elite pitchers, such as Lacy Waldrop and Jessica Burroughs to name a few. Both had signature moments when they evolved from great college hurlers into some of the nation’s best. As King enters her final year with FSU in 2019, she takes with her this experience, returning as one of the games premiere spinners next season.
However, the future stood still for one night as, with a King in the circle, the Seminoles claimed their thrones as the queens of college softball.