MOBILE, Ala. (seminoles.com) – In the most improbable fashion, the 19th-ranked Florida State softball team made a five-run comeback with two outs in the seventh, then recorded the go-ahead run in the eighth to earn an incredible 7-6 win over No. 13 seed South Alabama on Sunday night at Jaguar Field to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals.
After falling in the first game by a 3-0 score, the Seminoles (44-17) were down 6-1 in the elimination contest with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. With senior Morgan Bullock on second base, Bailey Schinella drew a walk and freshman Alex Kossoff singled to third base, which was followed by an errant throw to first base to score Bullock and cut the deficit to 6-2.
Continuing the comeback was Kaitlin Allen, who drew a necessary walk on a full-count pitch to load the bases for junior Kelly Hensley, who was the game-tying run at the plate. Hensley swung on a 1-1 offering from South Alabama’s Hannah Campbell (22-9) and belted the tying grand slam on a ball that landed off the scoreboard in left center. Hensley’s 13th home run of the season gave the Seminoles new life.
In the top of the eighth, freshman Victoria East provided her second game-winning home run of the season when she led off the inning with a solo home run to centerfield, her fifth of the season. After taking a 7-6 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth, redshirt senior pitcher Monica Perry (19-8) shut down the Jaguars (48-9) and struck out Meghan Collins to end the game and set off a wild celebration by Florida State.
For a team that battled injuries all season and was without five projected starters for nearly all of its season, Florida State’s gutsy comeback was fitting for a team filled with grit and heart.
“This incredible game was just a microcosm of our season. We never give up and we have always fought to the end,” head coach Lonni Alameda said. “I’m so proud of how we came back to win the elimination game. This is a great feat for our program and huge step in the right direction. The way Monica pitched and the huge hits by Victoria and Kelly capped one of the most thrilling games I’ve ever been involved in.”
The Seminoles have earned a berth to their first NCAA Super Regional since 2006. Florida State is expected to head to Austin, Texas to battle No. 4 seed Texas beginning either this Thursday or Friday, although no official times or locations have been posted just yet.
Florida State is the first ACC team to reach the NCAA Super Regionals since Georgia Tech did so in 2009.
While the Seminoles could have never complete their comeback without the clutch home runs from Hensley and East, it was Perry in the circle who helped give Florida State a fighting chance. The Whitesburg, Ga. native threw 6.1 shutout innings in relief in game two and allowed seven hits and struck out seven. Perry also threw in the first game and combined for 10 shutout innings on Sunday.
Perry’s performance helped Florida State improve to 3-2 in extra-inning games this season. Bullock and junior Celeste Gomez each garnered two base hits apiece, with Gomez hammering two doubles against the nation’s leader in earned run average in Campbell. In the elimination game, the Seminoles batted 8-for-33 off Campbell.
The Seminoles’ win was also their fourth Top 25 victory this season as they defeated No. 15-ranked South Alabama. Florida State now has 18 Top 25 wins under Alameda since she began in 2009.
Florida State got into a two-out jam in the opening inning of the elimination game but managed to escape. With two outs, Brittany Fowler drew a walk and Kaitlyn Griffith singled through the left side. Lacey Waldrop battled back to strike out Haley Fagan swinging to keep the game scoreless early.
Gomez recorded a one-out double to right field in the second inning, her sixth of the season. However, Kirstin Austin and Bailey Schinella recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning as Gomez was stranded on third base following a wild pitch. Gomez would then drive in Senas on a double in the fourth, and that would be their best scoring chance until completing their five-run comeback with two outs in the seventh.
Florida State missed a golden opportunity in the bottom of the second inning in game one. Hensley began the inning with a leadoff single to right field, then advanced to second base on a fielding error from Kaitlyn Griffith off the bat of Senas. Austin followed with a bunt single through the left side that split the shortstop and second baseman. With the ball reaching the shallow part of left field, Hensley was waved home and thrown out by a long shot to keep the game scoreless with one out.
With runners in scoring position in the same inning, Celeste Gomez and Alex Kossoff struck out consecutively to end the scoring threat. In the top of the third inning, South Alabama responded with a leadoff home run to centerfield by Haley Fagan to put the Jaguars ahead 1-0. Waldrop came back to force three consecutive groundouts to get out of the frame.
South Alabama added a couple more runs in the top of the fourth as Griffith hammered a two-run home run to centerfield to reach a 3-0 advantage.
In the first game of the day, Perry pitched very well in relief. The Whitesburg, Ga. native allowed just one hit and struck out three in 3.2 innings pitched.