CLEARWATER, Fla. – The No. 7 Florida State softball team (9-3) split the final day at the 2023 TaxAct Clearwater Invitational with a run-rule win over No. 22 Louisiana (5-5) and a one-run loss to No. 12 Alabama (6-2).
Mack Leonard wasted no time in her first at-bat against Louisiana as she belted a 1-1 pitch up and out of the park for her first home run of the season. Krystina Hartley followed suit with a three-run blast over left center field, her first career long ball, to make it a 4-0 game. Leonard added her second RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly out to center, allowing Kaley Mudge to score for the fifth run in two innings.
Allison Royalty was in the circle for her third start of the season and was electric throughout, recoding four strikeouts of the Cajuns and retiring six straight batters in the middle innings. She finished the day with 5.2 innings of work on 84 pitches, her longest outing as a Seminole and second win of the season.
Leonard came in for the save on two outs and forced a groundout to Hartley for the third out of the sixth. In the bottom of the inning, Mudge sent a single just fair of the right field line, advancing Hartley to third and scoring Muffley before Leonard crushed another pitch for a near identical home run to her first one. The hit was a three-run bomb that extended the lead to 9-2. Later in the inning, Kaia LoPreste singled into right to drive home the 10th and final run and force the run rule to end the game, 10-2 after six innings.
The stage was then set for a clash of heavyweights on primetime between two national champions in Florida State and Alabama.
Kathryn Sandercock was the starting pitcher for the evening and showcased why she’s one of the best pitchers in college softball. She retired the Crimson Tide lineup in order the first time through and didn’t allow a batter on base until the fifth inning.
The Tide took the lead off of two solo shots in the bottom of the fourth inning to score the first runs of the game, but Jahni Kerr had an answer. She stepped up to the plate as the Noles’ first chance to retaliate and did so with a home run to left, her eighth career home run and second hit of the day to put the Seminoles within one.
The pitching duel continued throughout the night as both teams combined for just seven hits. Sandercock finished after 5.1 innings on 63 pitches, conceding just three hits and forcing 11 groundouts. Makenna Reid came in with a runner on and struck the first batter out swinging before forcing a fly ball that Kalei Harding camped under to end the inning.
Kerr came to bat with two outs in the top of the seventh and hit a rocket to short that allowed her to reach first as the tying run. Amaya Ross came in to pinch run and stole second base, beating the throw and advancing to third on an error on the play. FSU’s night ended with a ground ball to first base.
Florida State finished the invitational with three ranked victories after defeating No. 15 Arizona, No. 4 Arkansas and No. 22 Louisiana.
The Seminoles will return home with a quick turnaround on Wednesday against North Florida at 6 p.m. on ACCNX. They’ll then begin the Unconquered Invitational the next day with five games in three days, all available on ACCNX.
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