TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It’s a sappy time of year around the Seminole Softball Complex.
No, not the sickeningly sweet or overly sentimental kind of sappy, but rather coach Lonni Alameda’s preferred version: “s-appy.”
“You know, you’re sad and happy at the same time,” Alameda said Thursday afternoon.
That’s the way things go as the regular season nears its conclusion. While the Seminoles still have plenty of home games to play on JoAnne Graf Field – they’ll host the ACC softball tournament next month and are virtual locks to be home during the NCAA tournament – FSU’s regular-season home finale will come on Sunday, at the end of a three-game series with Duke.
Which means that one of the saddest, happiest days of any team’s season, Senior Day, is on the horizon.
“It went by way too fast,” said shortstop Cali Harrod, who along with pitcher Meghan King, first baseman Meghan King outfielders Zoe Casas and Deja Bush, is one of four seniors who will be honored in an on-field ceremony before Sunday’s game.
“I wish I could slow it down, but it’s been such an awesome four years.”
Indeed it has, which is why saying goodbye – whenever that finally happens – will be so difficult.
Over the course of their careers, Florida State’s seniors have won 210 games, claimed three ACC titles and, of course, embarked on a stunning run to the 2018 Women’s College World Series championship.
Along the way, they’ve thrown big pitches (King made the WCWS all-tournament team), come up with big catches (Casas helped snuff out a Washington rally with a leaping grab in Game 2 of the WCWS championship series) and made big hits (Gordon’s go-ahead homer in the 11th inning over last year’s Super Regional; Harrod’s three-run homer that kept the Seminoles alive during their 2016 WCWS run).
It might not be the biggest senior class. But they’ve all made their mark.
“It’s definitely an emotional day,” Gordon said. “We’re still going to have some games here, but it’s just going to be an emotional day because it’s the seniors’ day. Our last regular season game. So it’s a roller coaster of emotions.”
The Seminoles’ roller coaster over the past four years has featured far more ups than downs.
And while the success they’ve had on the field sticks out – to say nothing of everything they still hope to achieve between now and the middle of June – the seniors all say that the journey they’ve made together, from their first days as freshmen to every step that has followed, will be what they take with them.
That’s especially true for Casas, a native of Rialto, Calif., near Los Angeles, who spurned scholarship offers from west coast schools and everywhere in-between in order to join what Alameda and the Seminoles were building at FSU.
Safe to say the move paid off.
“Having this new family all the way on the other side of the country from my family on the west coast, that was the biggest thing I wanted when I came here,” Casas said. “And it’s exactly what I got. Even more than that, I’ve found my best friends.”
Sunday will mark Alameda’s 11th Senior Day at Florida State, and she said that the mantra for this latest group is virtually the same as for all the ones that came before it.
They want to leave the Florida State softball program better than when they found it.
And it’s hard to leave it much better than it is right now: As the reigning national champions and another deep postseason run potentially on the horizon.
“They’re cherishing every moment of it,” Alameda said. “I’m cherishing it too. They just love softball and they love being a part of the program. It’s really awesome, because that’s the environment and the culture you want.”
And even once the final out is recorded, whether in Tallahassee, Oklahoma City or elsewhere, Alameda believes that, just like their predecessors, this group of seniors will never truly leave FSU softball.
“In a sense,” she said, “it’s gone by fast because a game and a season goes by really fast.
“But your relationship with the kids continues to grow, and it will through life.”