October 20, 2018

Local softball stars headed to Women’s College World Series

FSU’s Anna Shelnutt, right, is greeted by her teammates after hitting a 2-run home run in the 11th inning against LSU during the second game of their NCAA Super Regional series at JoAnne Graf Field on Saturday (Photo: USA Today)

(Tallahassee, FL) — Elite Heard County softball stars Cali Harrod and Anna Shelnutt are heading to Oklahoma City this week where they will compete with some of the best softball players in the world and on the biggest stage as the FSU Seminoles battle for a NCAA Women’s College World Series Championship.

Local fans of the former Lady Braves were on the edge of their seats late into the early Sunday morning hours at FSU and many other were watching from home on the ESPN Network as the Noles battled back to win two games after dropping the first game of the best-of-three super regional versus LSU.

Between arriving at JoAnne Graf Field at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday on the verge of elimination and Carsyn Gordon catching the final out at first base at 12:33 a.m. on Sunday, there were more than nine hours of fight and determination from the Seminoles as No. 6 Florida State (52-11) defeated the No. 11 Tigers (45-17) in both games of a doubleheader to win the 2018 NCAA Tallahassee Super Regional and advance to its 10th Women’s College World Series in program history.

The Noles topped the Tigers by a score of 8-5 in 11 innings in the first game of the day which spanned over five hours and included a 78-minute weather delay. FSU followed it up with a 3-1 victory over LSU in the wee hours of the morning at JoAnne Graf Field, where many of the 1,431 in attendance remained to celebrate with the home team.

Jessie Warren carried the Seminole offense in both games as the senior hit a home run in each game and drove in four RBI on the night. She moved into ninth place in NCAA history with 269 career RBI and now is in sole possession for 10th place in the NCAA with 81 career home runs. She also scored her 223rd career run to tie Shamalene Wilson (1993-96) for the Florida State record.

“First of all, congratulations to LSU on an amazing season,” said FSU head coach Lonni Alameda. “That was a battle today. (Allie) Walljasper and (Carley) Hoover are two amazing pitchers and it is always an honor to play a team like that, that plays the game hard and to the very end.

“On our side, we talked about how today is the second round of a boxing match. There are going to be punches thrown and we’re going to take some and they are going to give some and we’ll give some and it will go back and forth, and the third round will be the knockout round. I am so proud of the girls to buy in to it and just stay in and battle and battle and battle. We had two amazing efforts by our pitchers today and it was fun to see Jessie Warren grow up in front of our eyes into an amazing and mature ballplayer.”

Shelnutt and Harrod both played big parts in the super regional win especially in a game two 8-5 classic 11th inning win.

Anna Shelnutt placed a perfect squeeze bunt with one out and Gordon slid under the tag at the plate to make it 3-1. Casas grounded a ball toward LSU 2B Becca Schulte and the fielder tried to draw contact on Shelnutt running to second instead of fielding the ball, allowing Casas to reach on a single.

The Seminole runners moved up to second and third on a wild pitch by LSU starting pitcher Carley Hoover, and Cali Harrod drove in her 29th RBI of the season with a sacrifice fly to left.

Anna Shelnutt (L) and Cali Harrod (R) with FSU teammate/pitcher Meghan King after the ACC Championship (Photo: Meghan King)

Shelnutt crushed a two-run HR to Spirit Way beyond the wall in left for an 8-5 FSU advantage in the top of the 11th, and Harrod made several sparkling plays at shortstop during the series.

This will Harrod’s second trip back to OKC following a trip during her freshman year that saw her shine including a spot where she connected on a 3-run HR to tie a game with Auburn where a win could have sent the Noles to the Championship series.

Harrod has always known for being consistent and steadfast in her approach to the game which has already led her to several huge championships in her career including Heard County’s first GHSA team State Title in 2014. The former All-State Lady Brave and travel ball National Champion says the feeling is nothing short of elation to be heading back to OKC for the second time and she believes her team has what it takes to win it all.

“I wouldn’t say it feels that much different than last time,” says Harrod. “It’s still an overwhelming joy of being able to compete at the highest level and on the biggest stage. The biggest key for us is just taking it day-by-day and pitch-by-pitch. Being where our feet are and taking everything in because it’s such a cool opportunity to be there.”

Prior to the ACC Championship tournament at Georgia Tech two weeks ago, Cali was able to show all of her teammates a glimpse of what life is like in Ephesus, GA as she hosted her teammates for a visit to her hometown on the way to Atlanta.

“It was so awesome to show my Florida State family where I came from,” says Harrod. “We had a lot of fun and was able to kick back and relax. It reminded me how blessed I really am and was a special night.”

This will be the first time playing in Oklahoma City for sophomore Seminole Anna Shelnutt, but the former Lady Brave power-hitting catcher has already proven that no moment or situation is too big.

Shelnutt’s big extra inning homer Saturday night coupled with her walk-off blast to secure the ACC Title and more clutch hits in the playoffs last season has already earned her a premier reputation as a big game performer.

ESPN announcers dubbed her “Postseason Anna” after her latest sheroics in Saturday’s game two win over the Tigers.

The Seminoles will face No. 3 UCLA (56-5) at 9:30 p.m. ET in the first round of the 2018 Women’s College World Series this Thursday night. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and with a win the Noles would advance to play the winner of Florida-Georgia on Friday at 9:30 PM also on the ESPN family of networks.

With a setback in game one, the Noles would play again Saturday at 1:30 PM versus the Florida-Georgia loser in the double elimination tournament that ends with a best-of-three championship series next Monday-Wednesday in OKC.

(Partial content courtesy of FSU Softball/Seminoles.com)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: