TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As her team nursed a late, one-run lead with Game 1 of the NCAA Tallahassee Super Regional hanging in the balance, Florida State’s Cali Harrod rose to the occasion.
With two outs and a runner on second in the top of the sixth inning, Utah’s Kristen Stewart lined a shot toward left-center that looked like an easy, game-tying double off the bat.
Instead, Harrod, FSU’s freshman shortstop, leapt straight up in the air, snagged the ball with the top of her glove and put an abrupt halt to the Utes’ rally.
A few moments later, Harrod chipped in at the plate with a fair-by-a-hair, three-run home run that lifted the Seminoles to an eventual 6-2 victory.
As a result, FSU won the first game of a Super Regional for the first time in program history and needs just one more victory to advance to the Women’s College World Series. Game 2 is Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on JoAnne Graf Field.
“Those athletic skills, that was pretty impressive for her to grab that ball,” Alameda said.
“She’s got a really bright future ahead for us.”
The present doesn’t look so bad, either.
A native of Roopville, Ga., Harrod has hit .265 with four home runs in her first season filling in for departed All-American Maddie O’Brien.
After spending much of the season observing and absorbing from FSU’s veterans, Harrod picked a fine time to place her stamp on the season.
“Plays like Cali’s, you just don’t know what teammate is going to get the opportunity to do it for you,” Alameda said. “They’re very selfless in that.”
But which did she enjoy more, the catch or the homer?
“That’s a hard one,” Harrod said with the smile. “I think the catch, just because, with a runner on second, plays like that get you pumped up. … Getting that catch I felt like gave us a lot of momentum going into our offense.”
Her teammates agreed.
First baseman Alex Powers said Harrod’s snag was “the game-changer.”
Pitcher Jessica Burroughs, meanwhile, feared the worst when Stewart made contact. She turned around just in time to see Harrod bring down the ball.
“At first I was like, ‘Oh no,’” Burroughs said. “Then I saw her jump and catch it and I did like a 360 twirl.”
One FSU fan lingering on the stadium concourse after the game said that Harrod’s catch was so exciting that she felt like she had jumped up and made the play herself.
The Seminoles weren’t the only ones impressed.
“I didn’t even see her catch it,” Utah coach Amy Hogue said. “I was looking in the gap, like ‘Where did it go?’ Heck of a play. That shortstop had a heck of a day.”
And, thanks to Harrod, Florida State has a chance for an even better day on Saturday.
FSU is used to climbing out of a hole on Super Regional weekend. Sometimes, like two years ago against Michigan, the Seminoles have completed the climb and clinched a spot in the WCWS.
And other times, like in last year’s visit to Tennessee, the Seminoles bounced back in Game 2 only to see their rally fall short in the rubber match.
While Alameda was quick to point out that FSU still has plenty of work to do before it can book its trip to Oklahoma City, she at least admitted that it’s nice to start out strong for a change.
“Yes, you know you’re in the driver’s seat,” she said. “But, again, you know they’re going to go back and watch video. They’re going to come with a game plan. So we just really can’t get ahead of ourselves and we’ve got to go pitch by pitch tomorrow and get that win and move on.”