December 12, 2018

National Softball Champions in Heard County

2018 NCAA National Softball Champions Florida State (Photo: Florida State Seminoles Softball on Facebook)

(Oklahoma City, OK) — Following a grueling, intense and stressful week of softball at the NCAA Women’s College World Series, Cali Harrod and Anna Shelnutt achieved a dream they have both been chasing since childhood when the Florida State Seminoles captured a National Championship with a second win over the Washington Huskies in as many days at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.

The Seminoles bounced back for a come-from-behind win after trailing 3-0 in the top of the first inning.

It was yet another home run in the bottom of the first from Anna Shelnutt that fueled yet another comeback win from a team that faced elimination six times during the postseason including four just on Saturday and Sunday.

The National Championship was not only a first for Cali and Anna but a first for the Seminoles and the entire ACC Conference in a sport that has been dominated almost exclusively by PAC-12 teams since the inception of the event in 1982.

With the World series taking place in the middle of the country, few local fans other than close family and friends were able to attend in person but thanks to every game being televised nationally on the ESPN Network, the local girls and their Seminole teammates had no trouble capturing the hearts of Heard County in many special ways over the last week.

The Heard Citizen received literally hundreds of messages in the last several days from residents just wanting to confirm the time and channel for each exciting game.

The fact that the Seminoles lost their first game at the series to UCLA on Thursday only served to make the moment even more significant as FSU became only the third team in the 37 year history of the WCWS to bounce back from a game one loss and take home the title.

Cali and Anna were each huge parts of the postseason with both starting every game and each played every inning despite both being banged up a few times.

These Heard County girls are tough, however, and nothing short of a broken bone was going to keep them out of the line-up.

Shelnutt told ESPN she knew she needed to change momentum in Tuesday night’s game after her squad fell behind early.

“My whole thought process walking up for that at-bat was somebody has got to change this momentum,” Shelnutt said. “It was on their side, and if we were going to win this game, we had to get the momentum — and Jessie was already on base. We had scouted the pitcher up and down, and I knew what I was getting. I knew I was getting outside some time in that at-bat and I just had to commit.”

Florida State coach Lonni Alameda says when the chips were down after the top of the first she told her team to relax and keep having fun.

“We’ve never been on that stage,” Alameda told ESPN. “But you know, you eye it up and you kind of look around, walk in there with a big smile and be like, ‘Hey, we’re the Cardiac Kids. We need to be down by three in order to perform. This is so much fun, right? We’re right where we want to be.’ “

Junior Cali Harrod was crucial team’s success scoring seven runs while drawing nine walks and stealing two bases. She also homered in a Sunday win over UCLA, her second big HR in the college world series. Cali also launched a game-tying 3-run bomb to tie a semifinal game with Auburn in 2016 before the Tigers eventually eliminated the Noles just prior to the Championship series.

Heard County Lady Brave softball Coach Matt Hornsby with his wife Tracey , Anna Shelnutt (L), and Cali Harrod (R) after Tuesday night’s magic (Photo: Kayla McWhorter)

Remarkably, Harrod has started all 199 games at shortstop for the Noles since she arrived on campus in 2015. Her speed continued to be one of her top assets in 2018 with 33 steals in just 34 attempts to easily lead the squad.

Shelnutt was a break-out star for the Noles this postseason after delivering several huge moments during the playoffs. After two homers during the regular season she exploded for five in the postseason with most coming at just the right time, especially her 3-run walk-off blast to clinch the ACC title at Georgia Tech and her solo shot for the games only run in a 1-0 win over the Huskies on Monday.

The support from the Heard County community was enormous and grew as the Noles inched closer and closer to the title over the last few days.

The Brave Nation roots run deep for both Anna and Cali as both girls’ mothers (Yolonda Shelnutt and Charlene Harrod) played on Heard County’s first softball team in the late 1980’s.

Cali’s dad, school board member Roger Harrod, was also a multiple sport standout at Heard High that produced arguably the school’s biggest play in history when he doubled home two runs to send the Braves to a North Georgia baseball championship in 1985.

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