WCWS Game 3: Florida State Makes Statement in Run-Rule Win Over Oklahoma StateTop Stories
The last two times we’ve seen Florida State make it to Oklahoma City, the Noles battled their way through elimination games all the way to the Women’s College World Series finals. In 2023, if they are to make it to the title series, Florida State won’t be taking the route.
The Noles have historically struggled in their first Women’s College World Series game, losing their last five (2004, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2021). Maybe the extra incentive of the updated schedule got them going. No. 3 Florida State will stay in the winners’ bracket after an 8-0 six-inning run-rule win over No. 6 Oklahoma State at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.
Florida State displayed everything in the win. Kathryn Sandercock shut down a resurgent Cowgirl lineup, the same one that scored seven runs off of her back in March. Meanwhile, Michaela Edenfield and Kaley Mudge brought the power. The Noles showed off their short game and aggressiveness on the base paths. Don’t forget about the defense that ended a potential rally. The past two weeks, it has been that way for the Noles and it led to the biggest WCWS win in program history.
“I can tell you that it’s probably been about two weeks that I think we’ve shifted,” Florida State head coach Lonni Alameda said. “We’ve been really getting after this mindset for the whole season. To play selfless ball is a really hard thing to do. When you talk about out-teaming another team in all aspects, that’s a really hard thing to do. We’ve had to have a lot of conversations of not just your skill set but your mindset.”
Much like the matchup between these two in 2021, the one that started 10 minutes before midnight, rain factored in. The game’s original start time was pushed back more than an hour and had a mid-game rain delay that was even longer. But for one Kat, she didn’t mind it.
Before the storm, Sandercock picked up three of the four strikeouts she had in her five innings of work. That included a pair in the first inning against Oklahoma State’s Rachel Becker and Kiley Naomi. That helped set the tone. Becker has been the most instrumental leadoff hitter in softball aside from Oklahoma’s Jayda Coleman. Generally when she goes, so does the offense. Sandercock attacked the All-American, striking her out twice. Only the third time all season Becker had struck out twice in a game.
Naomi had been on fire since the NCAA Tournament. She was relatively quiet but her one hit did appear to put the Cowgirls in business. She lined a ball to center that Florida State’s Jahni Kerr tracked down to play off a few hops. While Chyenne Factor scooted easily into third, Kerr made a great choice to throw the ball back into second. Devyn Flaherty grabbed the throw and quickly raced to tag Naomi trying to slide into second behind her for the final out of the inning. The Cowgirls seemed to lose any spark of offense after that.
“Yeah, we could get nothing going,” Oklahoma State head coach Kenny Gajewski said. “When Kiley got that hit, we were really focused on trying to let the ball — after the first couple of innings there, we were really trying to let the ball get deep with that hard drop. She made the first adjustment, hit the ball well. I didn’t even think that there was going to be a play at two, to be very honest. I was focused on getting her there. I thought she was going to be able to go. Obviously, she’s aggressive and fast.
“When that happened, I kind of felt the wind come out of us. We never quite got anything back. But credit Florida State, too, I mean, that’s really good coaching and a really good game plan. Sandercock was really, for us live, we faced her a bunch, that’s the best we’ve seen her, for sure. The ball was exploding down, it was exploding down and in. We just couldn’t make a good adjustment, so yeah. Couldn’t get anything going.”
Sandercock controlled both sides of the plate all evening long. Though she dominated the lower half of the zone, she didn’t induce too many groundouts. Nevertheless, Florida State’s ace only tossed 88 pitches and now has a day off. Even with the deep pitching staff, Alameda can use her ace again.
Florida State only hit three home runs on its path to Oklahoma City. Edenfield launched a ball in the first inning off Kelly Maxwell for a two-run blast. Maxwell, who has been plagued by weeks all season, lost the gave up a free pass to Kalei Harding after a long at-bat.
Unlike Sandercock, Maxwell did not come out after the delay. Instead, it was Kyra Aycock. The freshman battled a lineup that had plenty of WCWS experience. That included Kaley Mudge, who continued to be a tough out in Oklahoma City. After Josie Muffley dropped down a perfect squeeze bunt, Mudge decided to bring out the long ball for the knockout blow. On the first pitch from Aycock in the fourth, Mudge went the other way for a three-run homer and extended the lead to seven.
“This is new territory for us. We broke the curse of losing the first game, so that’s pretty exciting for us,” Alameda said. “Kat did a great job, the defense did a great job. Big swing by Micheala to get the mojo going for us.
“I think the best thing was the rain delay, our ability to stay in it, our ability to know what we need so when we get back up there, getting after Becker after a rain delay for Kat is a big one. She’s a great hitter. That was really a huge spark for us. Really proud of the squad.”
Florida State manufactured the final run to close things out in the sixth. Like Tennessee’s outing early in the day, Florida State made quite the impression. It felt like nearly a consensus that the Noles and Lady Vols had the best chance of dethroning Oklahoma if anyone could. While Tennessee will have its chance at softball’s goliath on Saturday, Florida State is set up pretty well to set up its own date with Oklahoma in what would be a rematch of the 2021 championship series if it lines up that way.
Florida State will await its opponent for Saturday’s winners’ bracket matchup. Unlike the FSU-OSU contest of 2021, Thursday’s finale between Washington and Utah was pushed to Friday. While the Noles get a day of rest for winning under the new schedule, their opponent won’t have the same fortune.
The Pac-12 matchup will take place at 1 p.m. ET. Oklahoma State will face the loser of that contest with its season on the line. Though it’ll have both Maxwell and Lexi Kilfoyl at its disposal. However, it won’t matter unless the offense swings it like it did earlier in the tournament.