By Maren Angus
They weren’t supposed to be here. They play in a weak conference. They even lost Game 1 of their Super Regional. These are things people from outside Tallahassee have said but the Florida State Seminoles aren’t listening.
“We had a team meeting (Friday) with just the girls,” senior Jessie Warren said. “We just talked about going out there and having fun and playing for each other and not worry about who we are playing.”
The team meeting sparked a run through the loser’s bracket that including double dipping UCLA to clinch a spot in the WCWS Championship Series. The Seminoles didn’t care that the Bruins were predicted to play in the National Championship or that they had to face the Player of the Year.
“So the rankings weren’t anything for us because we weren’t worried about what we were ranked, what they were ranked, who they were,” Warren said. “We were just focused on ourselves and what we could do to help Florida State and help our teammates.”
On Sunday night, FSU became the first Atlantic Coast Conference program to win more than two games at the WCWS and the first to make it to the Championship Series.
“It’s a great opportunity for the ACC to be here and show we’re competitors too,” Warren said. “I think just being able to play for a National Championship is just an opportunity not many people get.”
After blowing a four-run lead and losing to UCLA on Thursday, the Seminoles won two games on Saturday. They beat Georgia 7-2 and Oregon 4-1.
Senior pitcher Kylee Hanson shook off her bad outing in her WCWS debut and gave a career-defining performance to give FSU a rematch with UCLA in the semifinals.
“Kylee transferred here for the opportunity for this right here,” head coach Lonni Alameda said. “Sometimes when you get the chance for something you dreamed of and wish for, that kind of gets a lump in your throat.”
Hanson admitted that her postseason hasn’t been up to her standards and that she has struggled but it was a talk with Alameda that helped her realize that she belonged in this tournament.
“She reassured me a lot,” Hanson said. “I’ve only been this far once, obviously, experience help you (clearly). So we talked about that a little bit, just how I have to grow up in one tournament and I have to get over and let go of what happened.”
The win over Oregon was the first time an Atlantic Coast Conference team beat the No. 1 seed in 16 years. Florida State was the team that accomplished it and the opponent was UCLA. The ‘Noles held on for a 2-1 win in the 2002 Women’s College World Series.
Maybe it was a little ironic that FSU took down Goliath and set up a rematch with the Bruins, the team that put them in the loser’s bracket. But, as Warren referred to in the press conference, it’s not about who the Seminoles are playing, They will be successful if they play Florida State softball.
“Just like Jessie says, it’s not the World Series and everyone else we’re playing,” Alameda said. “We’re literally playing Florida State softball right now. That showed up and they brought it and they’re having fun with it. I think it’s going to be an awesome match for us.”
An awesome match it was as FSU freshman Elizabeth Mason blasted a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Seminoles a 3-1 lead in Game 1.
“We knew it was going to be a hard game and we knew it would come down to one pitch,” Mason said. “Ultimately, it could’ve been anyone. Just one pitch, and that was the one.”
The Seminoles didn’t stop there and came out swinging in Game 2. The Seminoles lit the UCLA pitching staff up for 12 runs on 10 hits, seven of which were for extra bases. Four different Seminoles also hit home runs.
UCLA couldn’t catch up and FSU went on to win 12-6. Proving their critics wrong and showing the nation that a team from outside the SEC, Pac 12 and Big 12 can win at this point of the season.
“We’ve just worked so hard to be here,” Alameda said. “We want to show that you don’t have to be in two conferences or maybe one team in another conference to win a National Championship. You don’t. You can be at another school, another conference and you can make it happen.”