TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As she made her way out of Florida State’s postgame press conference on Saturday evening, second baseman Ellie Cooper offered her own take on one of FSU baseball coach Mike Martin’s favorite phrases at this time of year.
“See you in Oklahoma City,” she said.
Indeed she will.
Behind a two-run home run from Jessica Warren and a stingy pitching performance from redshirt freshman Meghan King, the Seminoles dispatched Utah, 3-0, to sweep the NCAA Tallahassee Super Regional and clinch a spot in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
It’s FSU’s ninth WCWS appearance in school history and second in the last three seasons.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the people to my left and my right, who represent our whole entire team,” FSU coach Lonni Alameda said afterward. “And it’s taken 24 of us. So I’m very excited for our next step right now and know we’re totally prepared for this opportunity.”
After several minutes of questions, it was Cooper, who Alameda called the team’s “heart and soul,” who steered things forward.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’re not here to just get to the World Series,” she said. “We’re here to go to the World Series and win games. Now that we got there, now we can focus on how we’re going to win – the first pitch of the first game.”
OK, fine, but don’t blame the Seminoles if they revel in this one just a little bit longer before turning their attention to that first game. (Incidentally, FSU will open the WCWS against Georgia, but date and time have yet to be determined.)
They’ve waited long enough for this moment, and several Seminoles said that last season’s Super Regional disappointment at Tennessee put, as Alameda said it, “a fire in their bellies,” for the last 12 months.
Even the final out of Saturday’s contest – a double-play turn from Cooper to first baseman Alex Powers – required a little bit of delayed gratification.
Not until first-base umpire Cameron Ellison finally signaled that the ball beat the runner could the Seminoles exhale. And then sprint to the middle of the field for a dogpile two years in the making.
“Everyone deserves this feeling,” Cooper said. “Everyone deserves to make their dreams come true. We’ve just worked so hard. It’s kind of hard to put in words.”
As the Seminoles celebrated, not one fan at a packed-to-the-gills JoAnne Graf Field made their way to the exits.
That includes the 800 in the stands, the hundreds camped out on the surrounding grass or the dozens perched atop the parking garage across the street.
Finally, after hugs, high-fives and a round of photos, the Seminoles gathered in front of their dugout where senior catcher Macey Cheatham led the team and the crowd in a “Noles” cheer.
Not a bad way for the Seminoles to walk off their home field for the last time in 2016.
“To be able to say that I can end my career at Oklahoma City is definitely a dream come true,” senior Victoria East said. “I know I speak for all of our seniors, it’s amazing to be a part of this team. Each week we get to extend our career and not many people can say that.”
At least this week, those seniors have some underclassmen to thank.
On Friday, it was freshman Cali Harrod whose leaping catch and three-run homer lifted the Seminoles to a victory in Game 1.
A day later, King and Warren, a sophomore third baseman, teamed up to give the Seminoles everything they needed to advance.
King allowed only five base-runners (four hits, one walk) and faced just two over the minimum to pick up her fifth complete-game shutout of the season.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” King said. “Since I was eight, I was watching these games on TV and it’s just crazy to be a part of this program and be a part of going to the College World Series.”
And Warren, the team’s top hitter, ended a brief home-run drought in emphatic fashion by sending a 3-0 pitch to the opposite field in right for a two-run homer in the third inning.
“Going into that at-bat, I just had an approach, I stuck to it and I got the pitch that I was looking for,” said Warren, whose 18 home runs are tied for seventh-most in the nation. “I just swung it and it went over.”
Over the wall and on to Oklahoma City. The Seminoles will see you there.