By Nick Fontenot
Florida State coach Lonni Alameda pulled her team together after LSU’s Game 1 win in the Tallahassee Super Regional Friday night and channeled her team’s inner Rocky Balboa.
“We sat in the room before the games (Saturday) and we talked about how (Game 2) was the second round of a championship boxing match,” Alameda said. “We were gonna throw punches and they were gonna throw punches and the third round (Game 3) would be the knockout round.”
Game 2 was indeed a slugfest — an 11-inning marathon that saw LSU’s Carley Hoover throw 210 pitches and Florida State’s Meghan King throw 186. King’s Noles prevailed 8-5, setting up “the knockout round.”
“It was a tough day for both teams,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “Both teams were dealt the same cards and Kylee Hanson was better today.”
The Tigers got to Hanson Friday, but Saturday was a different story. She allowed just one earned run to the Tigers in Game 3. Jessie Warren’s two-run home run sparked a three-run third inning for the Noles, which proved to be enough in the 3-1 deciding game to send Florida State back to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2016.
“I knew it was going to be my last time playing here and it meant a lot to go out with a bang,” Warren said. “I knew we had to come out win energy on pitch one and the girls stepped up today. (OKC) was definitely one of my goals and I have no words for the feeling I have right now.”
Torina pointed to a couple missed opportunities in Game 2, but was more focused on her departing senior pitchers — Hoover and Allie Walljasper — who leave LSU as the winningest duo in school history.
“I am upset that we lost, but I am more upset that it’s my last time calling a game for Allie Walljasper and Carley Hoover,” Torina said, battling back tears. “It has been a special career with these seniors. These careers changed this program. It is not a normal loss tonight. Some of my favorite days as a coach is with these girls. When I think of never being in a bullpen with Carley and Allie again, it breaks my heart.
“I have loved every minute of the ride with those guys. I am proud of everything they have given the program and proud of the culture they have helped develop and the legacy they leave behind. I am excited to see the future of LSU softball.”
Florida State didn’t fold after LSU’s Shemiah Sanchez blasted a game-tying grand slam in the 7th inning of Game 2. The Noles scored three runs off Hoover in the 11th and King came in for one more inning to close the Tigers out.
“Meghan is a fighter,” Alameda said. “She is a fighter and a battler and she brought it today. She knew right away (that she missed her spot on the pitch to Sanchez). I think that is the coolest thing is see them shake stuff and get after it. She took control after that and she has another gear and she knows how to keep it within her.“
Alameda praised Warren’s leadership for the Seminoles both on and off the field. She said Warren became a “mature young woman” over the weekend.
“We knew Jessie could play from the first day she got here,” Alameda said. “She took it by the horns today and got after it. It was a sense of maturity the entire game. She stayed up with a smile on her face and grinding it out. She was talking the whole time. She didn’t let down for one minute and that’s the leadership we needed. It was fun to see that come out today and she was having fun.”
Florida State now turns its attention to the WCWS, a tournament that has eluded Alameda and the Seminoles, but something Alameda said she wants to capture in a non conventional way.
“There has always been certain players do things, but literally all 22 players were in today on every pitch,” Alameda said. “It was an amazing feeling in the dugout and we knew we wouldn’t let this go.
“The World Series is the ultimate prize. We want to show that you can come from a conference that is not the SEC or not the PAC-12 and do something different and blaze a trail differently. The first step is getting there and the next step is winning it.”