WATCH: Noles fall, 3-2, in Game 3 of Super Regional
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Here’s how thin the line between Florida State and Oklahoma State was this weekend.
After three games and 23 innings, the Seminoles and Cowgirls finished with the exact same number of runs (7-7), the exact same number of hits (14-14), and comparable numbers of strikeouts (22-16).
The margin for error in the NCAA Tallahassee Super Regional was impossibly thin at times, which makes it all the more painful that the Seminoles were done in, in large part, by four errors during Saturday’s decisive Game 3.
Yes, Oklahoma State’s Chyenne Factor set the tone with a solo home run in the third inning, but a look at the box score reveals a more difficult truth:
The Cowgirls scored two unearned runs in a 3-2 victory.
“Four errors probably puts a sour taste into their mouth,” Oklahoma State coach Kenny Gajewski said.
FSU’s four miscues were its most in a single game this season, and three of them occurred in the span of two batters just a moment after Factor’s homer.
The fourth, a throwing error to second during a steal attempt in the top of the sixth, allowed an Oklahoma State runner to take third base and score what would be the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly.
“We didn’t play our best softball this time,” FSU coach Lonni Alameda said. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it. But I’m proud that we didn’t give into anything and we kept fighting.”
Indeed, in what’s likely a testament to their resolve, as well as their overall quality as a team, the Seminoles were never out of the game and had multiple opportunities to pull ahead.
Those opportunities came early – like when Carsyn Gordon put a hard-hit ball on the ground that OSU turned into a difficult double-play, just moments after Cowgirls ace Samantha Show had issued a four-pitch walk.
They came in the middle innings – like when Gordon lined out to short with two outs and runners on second and third base. It might have been Florida State’s hardest hit ball of the weekend and, had it found the gap, the Seminoles would have had the lead. Instead, the inning was over.
“If Carsyn’s ball gets through, we’re probably running around (happy) right now,” Alameda said. “It’s just the way the game goes.”
“I mean, Gordon smashed that ball,” Oklahoma State coach Kenny Gajewski added. “And the fact that it was right at us … you’ve got to have those types of breaks to make things happen.”
Finally, the Seminoles had one last opportunity in the bottom of the seventh, and, when Anna Shelnutt led off with a solo home run to left-center, it seemed like FSU might have enough late-inning magic to survive.
Were it 2018, when FSU’s “Cardiac Kids” survived six elimination games in the NCAA tournament, the Seminoles might have pulled off one more dangerous escape.
This time around, though, a strikeout and back-to-back groundouts put an end to the dramatics. And to Florida State’s run at a repeat.
“It’s just one of those things,” Alameda said. “We didn’t play our best softball this weekend, but there’s been plenty of times in the Regional or in the World Series where we haven’t played our best and we’ve bounced back fine.
“The kids were into it. There was no ‘freak-out’ button hit at any time. We were one swing away there, and all you can ask for this time of year is to give your heart and soul. And that’s what they did.”
Those hearts were hurting in the moments after the game.
Yes, Florida State’s departing seniors – including heart-and-soul pitcher Meghan King – will one day look back fondly at their careers and everything that they were able to accomplish since setting foot in Tallahassee.
For a fifth-year senior like King, that means five straight ACC titles, a host of individual awards and, of course, the 2018 Women’s College World Series championship.
It’s a full trophy case by any measure.
But it was hard to think of those things on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m just so proud of this team and this program and where it has come from and grown in the past five years,” an emotional King said after the game. “… Unfortunately, it’s not the ending for us (that we wanted).”
FSU’s underclassmen, meanwhile, hope that the disappointment they feel today will serve as the start of something great to come.
King on Saturday recalled how a bitter loss to LSU in the 2017 Super Regional led to FSU’s championship run the following year.
If everything that happened in Tallahassee this weekend serves to launch something similar, then the Seminoles can live with that result.
“The LSU loss in the Super Regional a few years ago really dug deep,” King said, “and really sparked the national championship run last year, and just that fight.
“I know the underclassmen will have that same feeling and it will drive them in everything they do in offseason.”