Noles Insider

Noles Insider - Tim Linafelt - Blogs 2016

Posted May 31, 2017 - 1:05 pm

By Ariya Massoudi Contributor

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The future is bright for Florida State softball.

 That's a tough pill to swallow after a gut-wrenching Super Regional loss to LSU, especially considering the Seminoles felt they had all the pieces to win a national title in 2017.

However, with a bevy of offensive talent and a battle-tested starting pitcher slated to return, FSU has the ingredients for another strong team next season.

“You're gonna see them grow and succeed and we're so proud of them,” said senior Jessica Burroughs, who pitched her last game as a Seminole on Sunday.

“The freshmen stepped up this year. The leadership is there, they're ready. They're prepared and I think we can leave here knowing this team is in great hands with the players that are there.”

Jessie Warren and Morgan Klaevemann will be back to anchor a lineup that led the ACC in nearly every offensive category, and ranked in the top 10 of the NCAA as well. Warren staked a claim as one of the best hitters in college softball this year on her way to ACC Player of the Year honors.

The junior third base man, who will likely earn All-America accolades later this week, finished the season hitting .413 with 23 home runs and 68 RBIs. Klaevemann's .410 batting average and elite speed will also be a welcome sight for the Noles next year.

While a strong core of veterans will lead the Seminoles' attack next spring, the emergence of the freshmen has FSU excited for what's to come.

Dani Morgan (.318, 5 HR, 36 RBI) and Anna Shelnutt (.277 5 HR, 17 RBI) each showed flashes of future stardom, and Deja Bush's speed (14-21 SB) will be a valuable asset moving forward. Further, Cassidy Davis got her feet wet in the college game at both the plate and on the mound and could be a two-way star for FSU in the future.

“It's all about experience,” Florida State head coach Lonni Alameda said moments after the season ended.

“(For) Dani Morgan, that's a huge experience for her, she'll have that for the next three years, just as Ellie (Cooper) did when she was at the World Series against Baylor (in 2014).”

Perhaps the biggest return for the Noles lies in the pitching staff, as Meghan King will enter next season with a wealth of experience. Having both pitched in a Women's College World Series and come up just short in her first few years, King will be ready to lead the Noles in the circle.

Against LSU, the native of Parkland, Fla., excelled allowing just two earned runs in over nine innings pitched through two games. On Sunday, the redshirt sophomore entered in relief with a deficit and was tasked with keeping the hot-hitting Tigers at bay to give her team a chance to come back. King responded, keeping the game within striking distance for the Noles.

“It was cool to see her come in for that type of situation and see how much she's grown as a pitcher,” Burroughs said.

King finished the year leading the ACC with 27 wins, a mark that was good for top 10 in the country, as well as a 1.50 ERA that also ranked near the best in the ACC.

A banner year for Florida State came up just short of the end goal and a trip to Oklahoma City. However, the Noles feel as if new lessons have been learned to aid them along their quests in the coming seasons.

A senior class took FSU to new heights and raised the bar to a standard that future squads will look to continue to push higher. Alameda has unquestionably elevated the program to the class of the ACC and one of the powers in college softball.

“It's been such an amazing season and there is hurt right now,” Alameda said. “It's our job to continue to carry that torch and everything that the seniors have taught us and keep moving.”

Added Burroughs: “The program is in good hands. They (the underclassmen) all listened, learned and wanted it just as bad as everyone else did,” Burroughs said smiling through some tears.

“I have no doubt they'll be back and do even better.”

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 30, 2017 - 10:24 am

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In an honest moment, Mike Martin might admit he didn't expect to be here on Monday afternoon.

“Here” meaning at home, with an ACC tournament title and six-game winning streak in tow, and an NCAA regional coming to Tallahassee this weekend.

Not bad for a team that, just two weeks ago, was thought by some pundits to be no sure thing for the tournament itself, much less have any shot to host a regional.

But after their remarkable, late-season surge, the Seminoles learned Sunday night that they'll be home this weekend after all. Top-seeded FSU (39-20) will meet No. 4-seed Tennessee Tech (40-19) Friday at 6 p.m. No. 2 UCF (40-20) and No. 3 Auburn (35-24) play at noon.

“It's baseball,” Martin said. “To accomplish what we have is certainly one of the biggest deals since I've been coaching here.”

Here's what they accomplished in the two weeks following a Sunday home loss to Wake Forest, after which Martin sighed, “We ain't getting a regional”:

  • Two victories at then-No. 2 Louisville, which hadn't lost a home series against an ACC opponent since joining the league three years ago
  • An extra-innings thriller of a victory against Notre Dame in their first game of the ACC tournament, a win punctuated by Jackson Lueck's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning
  • Another win over Louisville, this time in the second round of the conference tournament
  • A triumph over Duke in the ACC semifinal, in which sophomore starter Cole Sands had maybe his finest outing of the season. (6 2/3 innings, 8 strikeouts, 2 hits, 0 earned runs)
  • Finally, a come-from-behind victory over No. 2 North Carolina in Sunday's ACC title game. It marked FSU's second league crown in the last three seasons.

Nothing like four wins over two of the NCAA tournament committee's national seeds (UNC is No. 2, Louisville No. 7) to right the ship.


“To find ourselves here now, it's crazy to think of,” sophomore pitcher Tyler Holton said. “But we knew we had it in us. … We realized, hey, we can do this if you take one game at a time.”

Even after winning the tournament, the Seminoles weren't quite a lock to host a regional. That news didn't come until a few hours later – once the team had landed in Tallahassee after 12 days in Louisville – when the NCAA announced its 16 regional sites via a selection show on Facebook Live.

By then, the team had scattered to go home. But Martin has no doubt about the type of cheer his players let out when “Tallahassee” flashed on the screen.

“I still don't think we all really thought there was a chance we could come back and host,” senior Quincy Nieporte said. “But all the pieces of the puzzle fell together and we're back.”

Speaking of “back,” the Seminoles are back in the NCAA tournament for the 40th straight season, a number that bears extra significance this year.

For the previous 39 years, FSU's tournament streak has been second to at least one team: the Miami Hurricanes. But, despite a late-season surge, Miami's tournament bubble burst on Monday and ended a 44-year run.

Which means the nation's longest active streak now lives in Tallahassee.

Martin and his players each credited the other for helping to sustain the program's remarkable consistency.

“That speaks to Mike Martin and what he's done here,” Holton said. “Whenever you come to Florida State or hear about Florida State and their baseball program, you know it's a great program.”

Added Martin: “It's an accomplishment for our players and it certainly makes me, as a Seminole, very proud.”

One more win would bring another milestone. Florida State enters the NCAA tournament with 39 victories and can reach 40 wins for the 40th consecutive season this weekend.

It's a mark that, as recently as the end of the last month, seemed to be on shaky ground.

But after 12-2 record during the month of May, the Seminoles are right back where history says they belong: Among the nation's best and playing at home during the first weekend in June.

“I've thought that all along (that we could do this),” Martin said. “And our guys will tell you that. I think that what we have to do now is not fall in love with ourselves. We've got a very strong field coming in here. We're looking at one game right now: Tennessee Tech.”

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 28, 2017 - 5:47 pm

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Lonni Alameda believes in tireless preparation, so that her team is ready for any opportunity that arises.

An opportunity presented itself here in the sixth inning of Sunday's deciding game of the NCAA Tallahassee Super Regional, and it could not have been more glorious:

Bases loaded, no outs and superstar slugger Jessie Warren at the plate for Florida State, which needed two runs to draw even with LSU.

A base hit would have likely done the trick. A home run – like any of the 23 Warren had already hit this season – might have sealed a victory for the Seminoles and had them packing their bags for Oklahoma City.

FSU may have trailed by two, but, in the moment, the go-ahead runs felt inevitable – especially after LSU pitcher Carley Hoover threw six straight balls.

“When bases were loaded and Warren was up, it wasn't the best situation ever,” Hoover said. “Then I started off with a ball, that was even worse.”

“We had the hitters we wanted to have up,” Alameda added. “At some point, that's all you can ask for and the outcome is what the outcome is.”

Preparation and opportunity, however, are no guarantee of success, especially in a sport that can be as painfully random as softball.

Which is why Alameda could only shake her head when Warren's bat rolled over a 1-0 pitch and sent a weak grounder to third base. LSU threw the lead runner out at home and eventually escaped the inning with no further damage on the way to a 6-4 victory at JoAnne Graf Field.

The Tigers are on their way to Oklahoma City for a third straight season. The Seminoles, meanwhile, are processing a difficult lesson.

“What we have here is special, but as you can see here, nothing is guaranteed,” said team captain Ellie Cooper, one of three seniors fighting through tears at FSU's postgame press conference. “Just because you put the work in, just because you do the right things and respect the game doesn't mean you're going to win.”

Were it that simple, the Seminoles almost certainly would have been victorious.

Alameda has built a culture that believes in process over results. She preaches the importance of each individual pitch – win one, then win the next one and, over time, those wins will add up to victories on the scoreboard.

It's common to hear her reference the “softball gods,” and playing in a way that pleases them.

And, lest anyone think the Seminoles take themselves too seriously, there may not have been a looser, more fun-loving team in the nation – as evidenced by the dancing and singing and joking throughout the dugout all year.

But for as much joy as the game brings, it can turn just as cruel in an instant.

“I definitely thought we had it,” Alameda said. “We showed a lot of grit and we worked for it…. We've done everything possible to fight.”

She's right about that.

The fateful sixth inning came only after the Seminoles rallied from a 5-1 deficit, with seniors Cooper and Alex Powers leading the offensive charge.

And even after the deflating sixth – Cooper followed with a sacrifice fly and Powers with a groundout to the pitcher – the Seminoles still put a scare in the Tigers in the seventh.

Sydney Broderick led off with a single, then pinch-runner Leslie Farris advanced to second on a wild pitch. When Carsyn Gordon lined a base hit to center field, the Seminoles appeared to have another golden opportunity – runners on the corners, no outs and mounting pressure in the LSU dugout.

Instead, Gordon tried to stretch her single into a double and was thrown out at second base.

Cali Harrod and Dani Morgan then followed up with a pair of fly balls – Morgan might have just missed a home run swing – and, in a startling instant, FSU's rally was over.

“It's all you can ask for in those situations,” Cooper said. “Our goal was to just win pitches and fight, pitch by pitch. We were in the right situations at the right time with the right people at the plate.”

Which was of little comfort in the moments after the game.

FSU's seniors will one day be able to look back on their careers with pride over what they've accomplished, including a pair of WCWS trips and Florida State's emergence as the standard bearer in the ACC.

And the Seminoles' underclassmen will in a few weeks turn their attention toward next season. With Warren back in the fold, as well as the continued development of players such as Morgan, catcher Anna Shelnutt and pitcher Meghan King, FSU should once again field a formidable lineup.

They'll further those seniors' legacy by continuing to do things the way they did – with dedicated preparation and a commitment to playing the game the right way.

And when that opportunity knocks again, they'll believe that a better outcome is in store.

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 27, 2017 - 7:23 pm

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There will be no sulking in Florida State's bowl of Cheerio's.

So said coach Lonni Alameda after the FSU softball team's 1-0 loss to LSU in Game 2 of the NCAA Tallahassee Super Regional, a game in which the Seminoles were never more than a swing away from the tying run but also never looked quite like themselves at the plate.

Game 3 is set for Sunday at 1 p.m., with the winner advancing to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.

“This is exactly what we've trained for,” Alameda said. “There's no reason to be upset about it. It's not about wins and losses. It's about how you play the game. We were present and we were getting after it and we want to be that way again tomorrow.”

Maybe that's why, as they made their way to their press conference podium, the Seminoles hardly had the look of a team that had just been held to only one hit during the entire game.

Or, for that matter, had lost on their home field for the first time since May 7, 2016. (Never mind that, technically, the Tigers were the home team on Saturday.)

With one of the best foundations of seniors in school history and a nucleus of talented youngsters behind them, the Seminoles believe that they're built to handle this type of adversity.

So much so that that they might not even call what they're facing “adversity.”

To them, this is the fun part.

No, really.

“I know everyone is like, ‘Oh, you lost,' but it's fun to be in tight ball games,'” Alameda said. “It's fun to be the person at the plate –  you just can't (focus on) the outcome. You've got to keep working for it.”

A quick glance at the scenario suggest a few things working in FSU's favor.

For one, the Seminoles rarely lose consecutive games. They've done it just three times all season, once while playing back-to-back at No. 3 Florida and at South Carolina, and then again as part of a three-game skid at No. 5 Oregon earlier this month.

FSU is also confident that, after two games, it has a better idea of how to solve LSU pitchers Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper.

Which is good, since the Seminoles could see both on Sunday.

“We didn't collectively stick to the plan in the beginning of the game,” said third baseman Jessie Warren, who was held without a hit for the first time in six games. “I think if we come out and do that tomorrow, we'll have a better game.”

Finally, the Seminoles have the belief that comes from a season's worth of results – from lengthy win streaks to conference titles to a slew of individual accolades – that show their process works just fine.

What they've done has gotten them this far. It can get them one more win, too.

“I don't think, as a group, that we think there's anything different for tomorrow,” Alameda said. “All season long, we've been doing what we do. We've rebounded from these kinds of games quite well, so I'm pretty excited about that.”

Then again, so are the Tigers.

Their record isn't as impressive as FSU's, but it's hard to question their resolve. LSU fought its way out of the loser's bracket in last week's NCAA Baton Rouge Regional, and just last year rallied from a Game 1 loss in the Super Regional and won two straight on the way to a berth in the WCWS.

In Oklahoma City, the Tigers dropped their first game then rallied to win two straight and reach the tournament's semifinal.

That path might sound familiar: It's exactly what FSU did during its WCWS run a year ago, too.

“If we have outs left, we have games left,” LSU's Walljasper said. “We've always played like this the entire year. Being in this position isn't something new for us.”

So then it comes down to one game between two confident teams to decide one spot in the Women's College World Series.

Maybe Alameda is right after all.

This really is the fun part.

“This is what we've wanted all season,” she said. “You don't want a cupcake game, you want a ‘get-after-it' game. That's what it's going to be like when you roll into Oklahoma City, too. So, we've trained for it. And we want this. I'm completely excited about it.”
By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 25, 2017 - 1:54 pm

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The details of Florida State's 2017 football schedule are beginning to take shape.

The Atlantic Coast Conference on Thursday announced the six football games that will be nationally televised on ESPN or ABC during the first three weeks of the season and, as usual, the Seminoles are heavily featured.

In one of the most highly-anticipated openers in recent college football history, Florida State will begin the season in prime time, when it meets the Alabama Crimson Tide at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta.

The game is set for an 8 p.m. kickoff and will be nationally televised by ABC.

FSU and Alabama are two of college football's elite programs over the last decade, and a win for either could jumpstart a run to the College Football Playoff.

The contest will also mark the first meeting between Alabama coach Nick Saban and his former protégé, FSU's Jimbo Fisher, since Fisher became the Seminoles' head coach in 2010. (The two met in 2007, when Fisher was the Seminoles' offensive coordinator. FSU beat Alabama, 21-14, in Jacksonville.)

Two weeks later, the Seminoles will be back in the national spotlight when they host rival Miami at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The ACC revealed that FSU and Miami will kick off at 8 p.m. on Sept. 16, marking the sixth straight night game between the Seminoles and Hurricanes. ABC will televise the game.

This year's edition of the rivalry carries some extra significance: Thanks to a seven-game FSU winning streak over the Hurricanes that dates to 2010 – Fisher's first year at the helm – Miami's lead in the all-time series has been trimmed to just one game, 31-30. The Seminoles can tie that mark this year in Tallahassee.

An FSU victory would also set a new record for consecutive victories over the Hurricanes. The Seminoles' current streak is tied with a seven-game run set between 1963 and 1972.

The game figures to be one of the highest-profile matchups in Week 3 of the 2017 college football slate. Other marquee contests include Clemson at Louisville, Texas at Southern California and Tennessee at Florida.

2017 Florida State Football Schedule
Sept. 2, vs. Alabama, 8 p.m. (ABC)*
Sept. 9 vs. ULM
Sept. 16 vs. Miami, 8 p.m. (ABC)
Sept. 23 vs. North Carolina State
Sept. 30 at Wake Forest
Oct. 14 at Duke
Oct. 21 vs. Louisville
Oct. 27 at Boston College
Nov. 4 vs. Syracuse
Nov. 11 at Clemson
Nov. 18 vs. Delaware State
Nov. 25 at Florida

*-- Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 25, 2017 - 12:07 pm

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With four ACC discus championships, an appearance in the 2016 Summer Olympics and the opportunity to earn more titles and accolades in the weeks ahead, Kellion Knibb's Florida State legacy is unquestionably secure.

But while trophies and championship banners are nice, Knibb's legacy will take on a more tangible form both at this week's NCAA track and field regionals and well beyond the completion of her collegiate career.

That's due to the trail that the Jamaica native blazed and the example she set for Gleneve Grange and Shanice Love, two fellow FSU throwers and countrywomen.

The three will share the spotlight on Friday, when they compete at the NCAA East Preliminary in Lexington, Ky.

“It's like we're sisters,” said Grange, who hails from Kingston, Jamaica. “It's just such an awesome atmosphere.”

A quick look at the trio bears out the sister dynamic. Knibb, a fifth-year senior and graduate student, is the all-business big sister who barely cracks a smile until her work on the track is complete.

Grange, a junior, might have the most gregarious personality of the bunch, with big-time results to match.

And Love, a freshman who competed against Grange in Kingston, is the group's baby, learning from those who came before her while still finding her own way.

All three held Jamaican junior national records prior to their arrivals at Florida State. Knibb's record was broken by Grange, who in turn had her mark bested by Love.

Not that they ever remind each other of that.

“It's good to know that they're improving,” Grange said. “It's a good feeling … even though my record is gone.”

The opportunity for bigger and better things at the collegiate level helps ease the sting.

With Knibb at the forefront, all three throwers have high hopes of finishing among the top 12 in their event and qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Knibb and Grange are seeded first and third, respectively, in the region, with Love carrying the No. 18 seed.

All three echoed the instruction of their coach, fellow Jamaican and former Olympic thrower Dorian Scott – when asked what it would take to advance.

“I just think I have to be very technique-oriented,” Knibb said. “I don't want to focus on throwing far. I want to focus on my technique.”

And Grange: “I just need to remember technique is the key to everything.”

If Knibb's two younger teammates follow her example, they ought to be just fine.

After a junior season in which she finished unbeaten against collegiate competition, Knibb fell just short at NCAA championships with a throw of 61.44 meters – good enough for second place and to meet the Olympic standard, but not good enough to leave her feeling satisfied.

As a result, Knibb has spent her senior year almost singularly focused on taking care of her last piece of unfinished business.

That means a championship ring in the discus and, just for good measure, taking a run at the shot-put title, too.

“It would be like the icing on my entire collegiate career,” Knibb said, “to finish with a national championship.”

However the next few weeks play out, the fact remains that Knibb's time at FSU is nearing its end.

Which is where Grange and Love come in.

Together, they represent the next wave of Seminole throwers, a group looking to build on Knibb's foundation.

Carrying on Knibb's work while stepping out of her shadow is a top priority for each.

“You have to live up your name also, but you have to try and keep up with Kellion,” Grange said. “Because she's doing good. Just having her presence here is like, ‘OK, you need to focus, you need to lock in.'”

Added Love: “You have to be the best person you can be and continue the legacy.”

It's a legacy that seems to build by the day.

In a country known mostly for its sprinters – think Olympic superstar Usain Bolt or Asafa Powell – women's throwing often goes mostly unnoticed.

Knibb started to change that, and last year was one of just five female Jamaican throwers to compete in Rio de Janeiro.

So while she's led the way for her cohorts at Florida State, in a way, all three are among the pioneers of their sport.

“I like it,” Love said with a laugh. “Three Jamaican discus throwers – chillin', vibin' and everything. It's great.”

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 24, 2017 - 3:07 pm

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Athlon Sports released its preseason All-ACC teams this week and, as has become annual tradition, Florida State is well represented.

First-team defensive backs Derwin James and Tarvarus McFadden highlight a group of 12 Seminoles honored by Athlon, which is tied the most in the ACC.

The Seminoles also boast six second-team selections, three third-team choices and one player on the fourth team.

Quarterback Deondre Francois, running backs Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers and receiver Nyqwan Murray were all named to Athlon's second-team All-ACC offense, while defensive linemen Derrick Nnadi and Josh Sweat earned the same honor on defense.

Offensive linemen Landon Dickerson, defensive lineman Brian Burns and linebacker Matthew Thomas all landed on the third team, while lineman Cole Minshew was FSU's lone selection to the fourth-team squad.

The Seminoles' two first-team selections, James and McFadden, will bolster one of the nation's top defensive backfields this fall.

James, a freshman All-American in 2015, is expected to make his highly-anticipated return from an injury in FSU's season opener against Alabama.

McFadden, meanwhile, is looking to build on a breakout sophomore season that saw him grab a nation's-best eight interceptions on his way to first-team All-America and All-ACC honors, the Jack Tatum Award and a designation as a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award.

Athlon will release its preseason All-America teams next month.

Seminoles on the Athlon Preseason All-ACC Team:

First-Team Defense
CB Tarvarus McFadden
S Derwin James

Second-Team Offense
QB Deondre Francois
RB Cam Akers
RB Jacques Patrick
WR Nyqwan Murray

Second-Team Defense
DL Derrick Nnadi
DL Josh Sweat

Third-Team Offense
OL Landon Dickerson

Third-Team Defense
DL Brian Burns
LB Matthew Thomas

Fourth-Team Offense
OL Cole Minshew

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 24, 2017 - 12:23 pm

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Josue Matias left Florida State with a national championship ring, three ACC title rings and All-ACC honors from his sophomore, junior and senior years.

About the only thing he didn't have was his FSU degree.

That, however, changed earlier this month when, upon the completion of a few semesters' worth of remaining coursework, Matias graduated from Florida State with his bachelor's degree in social science.

“I just knew I had to graduate,” Matias said from his home in Nashville, Tenn., where he's participating in offseason training activities with the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

“I couldn't leave Florida State without a degree. It was for my parents and myself. I just had to do it.”

To begin that process, Matias, a three-year starter at left guard, enrolled in Florida State's degree completion program, a recently-created system that connects former Seminole student-athletes with resources and advisors to put them back on track.

Re-enrolling isn't difficult, but does require some legwork – the type that often separates those who truly want to graduate from those who just pay lip service to the idea.

Matias had to submit an online application and, once approved, develop a roadmap of courses that led to his degree.

He could seek advice from FSU's academic support staff but otherwise had to do everything for himself.

Matias never wavered in his commitment.

“Josue was adamant about getting it done,” said Ashton Henderson, Florida State's associate director of football advising and a former defensive back at Michigan State. “And it meant more to him and his family. He constantly called, constantly asked questions. He was always engaged throughout the whole process.”

That's not to say it was a breeze.

Still based in Nashville, Matias' entire course load was made up of online classes, where there was no attendance taken, no lectures and no study groups to lean on for support.

Turns out that all those years under offensive line coach Rick Trickett, whose tough-as-nails style is meant to foster self-control and personal accountability, came in handy.

“It takes a lot of discipline to go to those classes,” Matias said. “Because there were days when I just didn't want to do school work. And it's very easy just not to do it, because nobody's watching. You're just online. It's all on you.”

Matias started by taking a few hours per semester, slowly chipping away at his remaining courses.

Then, last fall, what appeared to be a significant setback to his football aspirations turned out to be a turning point for Matias' academic career.

While fighting to secure a roster spot with the Titans, Matias suffered a knee injury during a preseason game and, following surgery, missed the entire season.

Matias couldn't play football, but, blessed with an unexpected amount of free time, found he could up his efforts in the classroom.

He signed up for a full-time course load in the fall of 2016 and then took another in the spring.

With his academic career in high gear, Matias came upon a startling realization: He was on track to graduate at the end of the spring semester.

“(The injury) kind of was a blessing in disguise, honestly,” Matias said. “Because I wasn't going to be able to take a full load in the fall during the season. The injury did help me focus on school more while I was hurt.”

Like most graduating students, Matias had one last test in one last class before he knew he was finished.

In Matias' case, that class was a religion course, and the exam required that he take it in person – not online.

So Matias drove to an approved testing center on the campus at Tennessee State University, where he put pen to paper for the final time.

Soon after, Matias learned that he had passed.

He then called his mother, Martina, to celebrate.

“She was all skipping and hopping and laughing,” Matias said. “She was very happy.”

Matias still plans to pursue football for as long as he can, and believes he has a good shot at catching on with the Titans this season.

But, with his degree in hand, he's turned an eye toward the future, too.

Matias is already entertaining the notion of graduate school, and would like to one day get into the education field – and maybe even try his hand at coaching.

“I want to get to help kids,” Matias said, “and help them reach their dreams.”

 Henderson, meanwhile, hopes that Matias' story can inspire other former Seminoles to come back to Florida State and follow in his footsteps.

Henderson said there are eight former student-athletes currently participating in the degree completion program – including some recognizable names from the 1990s and 2000s – and several more flirting with the idea.

“Josue is just hopefully one of the many more stories we have to share,” Henderson said. “And hopefully we can foster and cultivate a level of people feeling more comfortable to come back and obtain their degree.

“When someone reaches out, I'll have (Matias) as a resource to say, ‘Hey, this is someone you should call to kind of help you balance, find out how did they get through it, answer any questions you have.'”

Posted May 21, 2017 - 5:46 pm

By Ariya Massoudi Contributor

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Seminoles are making it a seasonal routine.

Florida State is headed to the Super Regionals for the fifth straight year after defeating No. 25 Georgia, 8-5, to win the NCAA Tallahassee Regional. The Noles won their 13th regional game in a row with the victory over the Bulldogs and moved to 4-3 in 2017 against the Southeastern Conference.

“Very proud of our team for coming together at the right time,” FSU coach Lonni Alameda said after the game.

“Just to see them relax and trust each other is the maturity of what having experience has given us.”

Power Surge

FSU hit seven home runs in the Tallahassee Regional, including two on Sunday. For the year, the Noles have hit 71 home runs as a team. Jessie Warren connected on her ACC-leading 23rd home run of the year against the Bulldogs, a two-run blast, to give the Seminoles an early 2-0 lead in the first.

“Getting my swing off just sets the tone for the team and gives us energy,” Warren said of her first-inning home run.

“I think it also helps our pitchers and defense relax.”

Warren's long bomb was her second of the regional and she is now hitting .419 on the year with 23 homers and 67 runs batted in.

Dani Morgan added a home run in the fourth to extend the FSU lead to 7-2. The two-run shot was the her fifth of the season and the freshman finished the game 2 for 3 with three RBIs. The Noles balanced lineup caused problems all weekend for teams in Tallahassee, which is part of what makes FSU so tough to beat.

“At any point in the game anyone can get their swing off,” Morgan said. “And you just have to trust your teammates, and I think we trust each other a lot.”

In all, FSU scored 18 runs on 24 hits in three games during the regional round, displaying its blend of speed, discipline and power. The Noles entered the weekend as one of the best offensive teams in the NCAA, ranking in the top ten of five different categories, and further cemented their case during the regional.

Work Hard, Play Hard

Florida State is admittedly a fun-loving bunch.

From dancing in the outfield between outs to the many chants that come from the dugout while at the plate, the Noles enjoy being around each other.

But when it's time to work, the team is all business.

“I think it keeps us loose and helps keep us as a unit,” Morgan said.

“We are who we are on the field and off the field,” Alameda added. “If you try to be completely in the zone for 60 games in a season and be amazing in the postseason, you're going to emotionally lose it.”

The head coach praised her team's maturity and ability to focus when called upon, something the Noles hope will help them the rest of the postseason.

“You have to be able to zone in and zone out,” Alameda said. “But when you step in the circle it's about business and that's the kind of heartbeat we've talked about all season.”

Florida/Louisiana showdown on Tap

Up next the for the Seminoles is a Super Regional matchup against either No. 9 LSU, Louisiana, or McNeese State. The three teams are battling in the Baton Rouge Regional and the winner heads to Tallahassee for a chance at a trip to the Women's College World Series.

Regardless of who the Noles face, they're excited for the opportunity to play in front of their home fans again.

“The atmosphere from the parking garage to stands and the cheers back and forth, it's a home-field advantage, but also a spark for us,” Alameda said. “It's a such a cool energy boost and we haven't had that in the past.”

The Seminoles have made the WCWS twice in the past three seasons, having reached the semifinals in 2016. The squad is now just two wins away from making it back yet again.

“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Alameda said with a smile.

“It's Oklahoma City, it's what we want and it's what we've been going for.”

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 20, 2017 - 5:28 pm

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jessica Warren's name has changed.

Her swing, however, is still the same.

After three years as “Jessica,” Florida State's star third baseman is now going by “Jessie,” the name she grew up with and the one that's still used by friends and family back home in Tampa.

Then again, given the rate at which Warren hits home runs for the FSU softball team – she mashed her 22nd of the season during the Seminoles' 7-1 win over Georgia on Saturday – coach Lonni Alameda is probably happy to call Warren by whatever name she likes.

“When I got here, everyone just started calling me ‘Warren,' and ‘Jessica,'” she said. “And I never just thought to say ‘Hey, my name is Jessie.'”

That changed earlier this week, when an ESPN announcer asked Warren if she ever went by “Jessie.”

Why, yes, she had.

So ESPN committed to calling Warren by the name during its broadcasts, and, pretty soon, the change had made its way throughout the FSU softball program.

As of Saturday afternoon, everything from Warren's name card at her press conference table to her biography page on reflected her new name.

Or, rather, her old name.

“It's normal for me,” Warren said with a laugh. “I guess it'll take a couple of weeks for y'all to get used to it.”

Shelnutt the latest freshman to deliver

At least week's ACC tournament, freshman Dani Morgan broke through by hitting 6 of 8 with two home runs, a triple and five RBIs on the way to tournament MVP honors.

It's now apparently Anna Shelnutt's turn to emerge.

A freshman catcher from Franklin, Ga., Shelnutt stepped into the spotlight Saturday with a pair of home runs to straightaway center field that helped spark the Seminoles' victory over Georgia.

Shelnutt's power surge on Saturday came on the heels of a strong effort in Friday's win against Princeton and brought her two-day total to 4 for 6 at the plate with two home runs, a triple, a double and four RBIs.

“I wanted to make a big impact for my team,” said Shelnutt, a former high school teammate of fellow Seminole Cali Harrod. “I felt in my heart that I'd worked hard to give it to my team.”

Shelnutt started the season as an understudy to senior catcher Sydney Broderick, but a recent hand injury to Broderick opened the door for Shelnutt to expand her role.

Safe to say she's made the most of the opportunity: Shelnutt has hits in 13 of 39 at-bats, and, with eight extra-base hits, has an .821 slugging percentage that's second only to Warren's .940.

“It's truly a blessing for my coaches to let me come out here and (do) this for my team,” Shelnutt said.

Section B gives Noles a boost

The infamous Animals of Section B have taken their show on the road.

Or at least across the street.

With Florida State's baseball team playing at Louisville this weekend, the Animals – the passionate, witty and vocal group of fans who occupy Section B for each game at Dick Howser Stadium – made their way over to JoAnne Graf Field for Saturday's softball game.

Their presence did not go unnoticed. Not by the Seminoles, and certainly not by the Bulldogs, whose starting pitcher, Brittany Gray, had trouble finding the strike zone amidst all the noise early in the game.

Gray, who came into the game with an 18-10 record, issued four walks, hit two batters and threw just 53 of her 97 pitches for strikes.

As a result, the Seminoles steadily built a 7-0 lead and were never seriously threatened.

“Having that home-field energy here really hypes us up and keeps us going in the dugout,” Warren said.

The Animals brought a few of their favorite Howser traditions, including custom t-shirts, the “K-Time” chant and yet another rousing rendition of “O Canada” during the fifth inning.

And with so many FSU home runs – four, to be exact – there were plenty of chants for curtain calls, too, which threw off the Seminoles at first.

“The first time, yeah, I didn't know we were supposed to go do that,” Shelnutt said with a smile. “But the second time, I made the best of it.”

The Animals first struck up a relationship with the current Seminoles last season, when they trekked over for a highly-anticipated home game against Florida.

A few weeks later, at the baseball team's Super Regional in Gainesville, pitcher Meghan King struck up a conversation with a few members and let them know what a difference they made.

“I was just telling them how much it meant to us, just having that support,” King said. “And we kinda kept in touch ... and it's just been so, so great that they made the shirts and they committed so much.

“We definitely appreciate having them here.”

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