Noles Insider

Noles Insider - Tim Linafelt - Blogs 2016

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.”

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 19, 2017 - 9:24 am

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – From the moment she set foot on campus, Dani Morgan knew that Florida State felt like home.

Never mind that Florida State's campus was 15 hours from home.

“You just get that feeling,” said Morgan, a freshman on the Florida State softball team and a native of New Lenox, Ill., near Chicago.

The Seminoles are glad that she did.

Morgan braved the 15 hours from New Lenox to Tallahassee (with a one-year stay in Newnan, Ga., that helped ease the transition) and has since become a promising young starter for a program otherwise known for its veterans.

She's the only freshman to start more than 50 games in a lineup that boasts experienced star power at nearly every position, and has rewarded coach Lonni Alameda's faith by hitting .325 with 33 RBIs and four home runs.

Two of those homers came during last week's ACC tournament, which served as coming-out party for Morgan: In three nationally-televised games, Morgan finished 6 for 8 at the plate with two home runs, a triple, five RBIs and five runs scored.

It was enough give Morgan tournament MVP honors, as well as a fresh jolt of confidence heading into this week's NCAA Tallahassee Regional.

The host Seminoles, seeded fourth overall in the NCAA tournament, begin regional play against No. 4-seed Princeton Friday at 7 p.m.

“That weekend was huge in the sense of (Morgan) gaining some confidence swinging the bat,” Alameda said. “I'm excited for her and opportunities this weekend.”


To Alameda, Morgan's emergence is the latest evidence of the culture established at Florida State during her nine-year tenure: Recruit freshmen, teach them to meet expectations, then, have them set the standard for the younger players that follow.

Seniors Alex Powers and Ellie Cooper learned from the likes of All-Americans Maddie O'Brien and Lacey Waldrop.

They've gone on to do the same for next crop of Seminoles, which includes Morgan, as well as fellow freshmen Anna Shelnutt and Deja Bush, among others.

“I think the freshmen, I kind of view them as sophomores almost with the length of the season and how good our upperclassmen have been to let them know what to expect this time of year,” Alameda said. “It's awesome, but we recruit kids to step in those positions as a freshmen.”

That's not to say it's easy from Day 1.

Morgan's high-school accolades were certainly up to par, having earned All-Region honors in both Illinois and Georgia.

And, in addition to FSU, she garnered scholarship offers from college softball powers Michigan and Alabama.

So Morgan knew she could play. Still, stepping into a dugout that features the reigning ACC pitcher of the year (Jessica Burroughs), player of the year (Powers and home-run champ (Jessica Warren) can be a little intimidating for even the most accomplished of high-school stars.

“It's pretty nerve-wracking,” Morgan said with a smile. “But everyone did a good job of welcoming me in the family aspect of (the program).

“You get comfortable really quick with everyone.”

That's a welcome development for this year's Seminoles, who have aspirations that extend far beyond a regional weekend.

FSU is among the favorites to reach the Women's College World Series, and, Morgan continuing her recent tear would go a long way in helping the Seminoles make a deep run there.

And regardless of how this season turns out, Florida State's seniors said they're glad to know that, with Morgan and the other newcomers in the fold, the softball program ought to maintain its standard for a long time to come.

“It's awesome being a senior and knowing that this program's in very good hands,” Cooper said. “Dani did it last weekend. They're going to be very good for a very long time.”


By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 18, 2017 - 10:14 am

By Tim Linafelt Senior

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –  Last season, a Florida State women's golf team without a single senior stepped to the door of its sport's elite and gave it a healthy knock.

A year older, wiser and more experienced, the Seminoles are back and believe that they're ready to kick the door down.

FSU, ranked No. 5 in the country, will participate in this week's NCAA National Championship at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., where they'll be among the favorites to capture the national title.

That's due in large part to a lineup that boasts four players with experience in the NCAA Championship field.

“Last year,” senior Lydia Gumm said, “we were new and we didn't know what to expect. But I think having that one year of experience will help.”

But it's not just the experience that has the Seminoles feeling confident.

Their body of work lends itself to good vibes as well.

Led by Gumm, senior Matilda Castren, juniors Morgane and Kim Metraux and freshman Amanda Doherty, FSU has enjoyed perhaps the finest season in program history.

Not only did the Seminoles set a new school record with six tournament victories (tied for most in the country), they haven't so much as finished any lower than fourth.

That ought to come in handy at an event in which the field is trimmed to eight teams after four rounds.

From there, the top eight will pair off into match play to determine the national champion.

“You've kind of got to almost treat it as two different tournaments,” FSU coach Amy Bond said. “You've got to make it through to match play. … The one little caveat there is that after three rounds, they cut to 15 team. So you've got to make sure you're in that 15 number.”


The Seminoles also feel that their NCAA regional experience earlier this month could play in their favor, too.

FSU overcame a challenging course, wintry weather and a toe-stub in the second round to finish third at the NCAA Columbus Regional and reach the NCAA Championship. (The top six of an 18-team field advanced.)

Bond likes that the course at Rich Harvest Farms favors the Scarlet Course the Seminoles played in Columbus – the two share the same grass, as well as similar roughs and greens.

More than that, though, she likes that the Seminoles were forced to fight through a bout of adversity before finding their footing.

That came in the second round, when the Seminoles shot 10 bogeys, three double-bogeys and one triple-bogey on the way to a 12-over par mark on the front nine. Along the way, FSU slid from second place to fourth and suddenly found its position among the top six in jeopardy.

But rather than wilt in the face of mounting pressure – or in the chill of 40-degree temperatures made even cooler by a steady wind – the Seminoles instead rallied to finish 1-under par on the back nine and solidify their place on the leaderboard.

“They had to have a little bit of a gut check,” Bond said. “What last week taught me is you never give up on this team. No matter how down they are early on, they're going to find a way to bounce back.

“If they let that second round (get away), I don't know that we're standing here today.”

During her seven-year tenure in Tallahassee, Bond has jump-started a program that qualified for nationals just once during the four years prior to her arrival and, after rebuilding its foundation through recruiting, has established itself among the nation's top tier.

The Seminoles have had plenty of memorable moments over the past few years – last year's NCAA breakthrough comes to mind – but none of those previous teams have been built quite like this one.

Two seniors, two juniors and one beyond-her-years freshman have FSU on the verge of uncharted territory.

It's exactly as Bond envisioned four years ago, when she signed the first members of what would become the most successful lineup the program has ever had.

With one more ride together, that group – and Bond – has another chance to make a little more history.

 “With golf, sometimes things look really good on paper and they don't come out in reality the same,” Bond said. “But this group has really done everything they possibly could to get to this point.

“It's really on them. This is their moment.”

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 17, 2017 - 8:00 am

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After three weeks at home, the Florida State baseball team is preparing for an extended stay on the road.

The Seminoles are headed to Louisville, Ky., where they'll close out the regular season with a three-game series against the second-ranked Cardinals beginning Thursday.

And given that Louisville is also the site of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the Seminoles plan to stay put in the Derby City.

The tournament starts on Tuesday, May 23, and if FSU reaches the conference championship game, it will have spent 11 days in Louisville.

That's just fine with coach Mike Martin, who believes a business trip without any of the potential distractions of a home series might do his team well.

“It's not going to hurt us to go on the road,” Martin said. “We have played pretty darn good on the road this year. It's nice for our guys to go to another part of the country, line up and see what happens.”

The only thing certain is that the Seminoles will meet perhaps their toughest opponent of the season.

Louisville ranks second nationally in team ERA (2.59), has shut out its opponents nine times and has tallied a nation's-best 46 victories.

Two-way star and potential No. 1 draft pick Brendan McKay (8-3, 1.80 ERA.; .372/.488/.703) paces Louisville, but Martin sees talent across the roster.

“I don't see any weaknesses,” he said. “They've got good starting pitching. They've got experience, they've got power. … They're a team that is probably enjoying the best year of any team in the last 20 (years). I just don't know of anybody that has done what they've done in one year. I mean, 46-and-(7) … they're a talented club.”

FSU dropped a pair of one-run games to No. 20 Wake Forest last weekend, but prior to that had been riding a five-game winning streak.

The Seminoles, who were ranked No. 1 earlier this season, are confident that they still have the pieces to challenge the Cardinals and, later, make some noise in the postseason.

That more than half of their losses have come by two or fewer runs suggests that they may be right.

No surprise then that they're treating this trip to Louisville as a test, but also as an opportunity.

“It's going to be a challenge, but we're definitely excited for it, and we're going to have to make something happen,” said sophomore Tyler Holton, who earlier this week became the first Seminole to earn four ACC pitcher of the week honors in the same season.

“We've just got to get over that hump. And hopefully this weekend is the one that we do it.”

If they can do that, then the entire complexion of the season could change at the perfect time.

Martin, in his 37th year at the helm, has seen it happen before. The calendar inches toward June and everything that led up to that point – whether good or bad – starts to feel further away.

“This is an exciting time of year for everybody,” Martin said. “You don't know what the future holds. You don't know what's going to happen. You just know that you need to continue to battle, stay tough, believe in the guy next to you and see what happens.”

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 12, 2017 - 9:00 am

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It's probably not as easy as Tyler Holton makes it look.

Thanks to a series of injuries in the Florida State outfield, Holton, a sophomore starting pitcher, last week expanded his responsibilities to include duties at the plate and in right field.

Although it's not an entirely new role for Holton – he split time between the mound and the field a year ago – it's still one he hasn't played in a while.

To say he's picked up where he left off might be selling Holton short: Through four games as an everyday player, Holton is hitting .364 with a home run, four RBIs and two walks.

And he had a pretty running catch that helped halt an offensive rally by Jacksonville on Tuesday.

Holton will be at it again this weekend, when the No. 25 Seminoles host No. 20 Wake Forest for three games at Dick Howser Stadium. He'll be in right field on Friday, and on the pitcher's mound on Saturday.

“Did I expect to be an outfielder at this time of the year? No, definitely not,” said Holton, a Tallahassee native and former Big Bend Player of the Year at Lincoln High.

“But it's fun, getting back to playing baseball every day. That's what I've been used to growing up.”

Holton's emergence isn't just a pleasant surprise for the Seminoles. It might turn out to be a crucial development for a team that, despite an uneven road to this point, still has lofty goals as it enters the final two weekends of the regular season.

Florida State has lost two left-handed hitters to season-ending injuries – Tyler Daughtry tore the ACL in his right knee last month, and then Rhett Aplin, the team's leading hitter and starting right-fielder, broke his foot while rounding first base in a game against Pacific on Saturday.

Those injuries, combined with a series of ailments and illnesses to starting left fielder Jackson Lueck, might have devastated another team.

The Seminoles, however, had the luxury of turning to Holton.

When Daughtry got hurt, FSU assistant Mike Martin Jr. told Holton to carve out a little bit of practice time in the field and at the plate – just in case.

Then when Aplin went down, Holton figured it was time to grab a bat.

“I wish I didn't have to, but you have to take what's happened and move forward,” Holton said. “It always stinks to see someone have a season-ending injury.”

Holton wasted almost no time making an impact.

In his first at-bat as a regular in the lineup (he had previously made two pinch-hit appearances), he launched a three-run homer that sparked the Seminoles to a win over Pacific.

That was the first of two hits on the day, and the start of a three-game hitting streak that Holton carries into this weekend.

“I'm very pleased with the fact that he's had very few at-bats and he acts like he's been up there for 100,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “His approach to hitting is outstanding.”

The next day, Holton took to the mound, struck out 10 hitters and allowed only three hits on the way to his team-best sixth win.

Through 12 starts this season, the lefthander owns a 6-2 record and a 3.03 earned-runs average while allowing the fewest hits and pitching the most innings among FSU's starters.

“It's kind of crazy,” junior shortstop Taylor Walls said, “(to have) somebody that can go out there and do both things as good as he could.”

Added senior designated hitter Quincy Nieporte: “The guy's been probably our best pitcher all year and then he's asked to play right field and now he's a feared offensive hitter in our lineup. And I think it's just a great example for the younger guys on this team to kind of learn from what he's doing and just be that competitive guy that goes out there, no questions asked.”

Despite his success, Holton won't carry the burden in right field by himself. Nick Derr is the most likely candidate to play the position when Holton is pitching or needs an off day.

To that point, Holton is taking extra care to ensure that he's not wearing himself out. He's even gone so far as to catch fly balls and toss them to assistants during practice, rather than tax his left arm by throwing it back in.

Because whether he's on the mound, at the plate or in the field, Holton will have a big part to play as the Seminoles approach the postseason.

And his teammates are happy to have him in those roles — all three of them.

“I have all the confidence in him,” Walls said. “He's kind of a one of a kind. Guys like that don't come around too often.”

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 11, 2017 - 12:31 pm

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Football news can be hard to come by at this time of year, but the Atlantic Coast Conference delivered a morsel of gridiron fare Thursday morning when it announced future ACC opponents for Notre Dame from 2026 through 2037.

So mark your calendars now, FSU fans: The Seminoles will meet the Fighting Irish five times during that span, in addition to three games already scheduled for 2018, 2021 and 2024.

The games announced Thursday include:

2026: Notre Dame at Florida State

2029: Notre Dame at Florida State

2030: Florida State at Notre Dame

2032: Florida State at Notre Dame

2036: Florida State at Notre Dame

The Seminoles will visit Notre Dame Stadium for the first time in 15 years on Nov. 10, 2018, then host the Fighting Irish on Labor Day in 2021. FSU is back at Notre Dame again in 2024.

Here's the full announcement from the ACC:

GREENSBORO, N.C. ( – As part of the ongoing agreement, Notre Dame and the Atlantic Coast Conference announced the five football games that will be played annually between the Fighting Irish and members of the league from 2026 through 2037.

The agreement continues a partnership that began in 2014, in which the ACC's 14 football member schools play the Fighting Irish an average of five times per year. By the end of the 2037 season, Notre Dame will have played 120 games against ACC opponents, beginning with the 2014 football season.

The ACC and Notre Dame had previously announced the schedule of games from 2017 through 2025 (

“The ACC's football partnership with Notre Dame has been extremely successful throughout our first four seasons,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “As we look to the future, these games will continue to enhance the experience for our players, schools and fans.”

Half of the 60 games scheduled from 2026 through 2037 will be home games for ACC teams, and Notre Dame will play host to 30 games. Highlights include Labor Day Monday night games at Clemson on August 30, 2031 and at Virginia Tech on September 1, 2036.

ACC schools were 6-9 against the Fighting Irish over the past three seasons (2014-2016). The 2017 slate finds ACC teams playing three home games against Notre Dame (Boston College on September 16, North Carolina on October 7 and Miami on November 11). The Fighting Irish will play host to NC State on October 28 and to Wake Forest on November 4.

ACC-Notre Dame Football Schedule 2026-2037


1.         Notre Dame at Florida State

2.         Louisville at Notre Dame

3.         Notre Dame at North Carolina

4.         Syracuse at Notre Dame

5.         Virginia at Notre Dame


1.         Notre Dame at Clemson

2.         Notre Dame at Duke 

3.         Georgia Tech at Notre Dame

4.         Virginia Tech at Notre Dame

5.         Notre Dame at Wake Forest


1.         Boston College at Notre Dame 

2.         Clemson at Notre Dame

3.         Miami at Notre Dame

4.         Notre Dame at Pitt

5.         Notre Dame at Virginia Tech


1.         Notre Dame at Florida State

2.         Georgia Tech at Notre Dame

3.         Notre Dame at NC State

4.         Notre Dame at Syracuse

5.         Wake Forest at Notre Dame


1.          Notre Dame at Boston College

2.          Duke at Notre Dame

3.          Florida State at Notre Dame

4.         Notre Dame at Louisville

5.          North Carolina at Notre Dame


1.          Aug. 30 Notre Dame at Clemson (Labor Day Monday night)

2.          Miami at Notre Dame

3.          Notre Dame at North Carolina

4.          NC State at Notre Dame

5.          Notre Dame at Virginia


1.          Florida State at Notre Dame

2.          Notre Dame at Georgia Tech

3.          Louisville at Notre Dame 

4.          Notre Dame at Miami

5.          Wake Forest at Notre Dame


1.         Notre Dame at Boston College

2.         Notre Dame at Duke

3.         Notre Dame at Louisville

4.         Pitt at Notre Dame

5.         Virginia Tech at Notre Dame


1.         Clemson at Notre Dame 

2.         Notre Dame at Miami

3.         Notre Dame at Pitt

4.         Syracuse at Notre Dame

5.         Virginia at Notre Dame


1.          Boston College at Notre Dame

2.          Duke at Notre Dame

3.          Notre Dame at Louisville 

4.          Notre Dame at NC State

5.          Notre Dame at Virginia


1.         Florida State at Notre Dame 

2.         Notre Dame at Georgia Tech

3.         North Carolina at Notre Dame

4.         Pitt at Notre Dame

5.         Sept. 1 Notre Dame at Virginia Tech (Labor Day Monday night)


1.         Notre Dame at Clemson

2.         Miami at Notre Dame

3.         NC State at Notre Dame

4.         Notre Dame at Syracuse

5.         Notre Dame at Wake Forest

Bold indicates ACC home games

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 10, 2017 - 11:12 am

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Drew Mendoza had heard about the time Marshall McDougall hit six home runs in a single game at Maryland in 1999.

But it wasn't until Tuesday – the 18-year anniversary of McDougall's still-hard-to-believe feat – the Mendoza actually saw video of it.

Consider the Florida State freshman appropriately impressed.

“I've heard (of) it many times. Until I saw the video today, I couldn't believe it,” Mendoza said. “They weren't just scraping the fence, either.”

A few hours later, Mendoza took the field for FSU's game against Jacksonville and put forth his best McDougall homage.

And although he fell well short of McDougall's mark, which is still a collegiate record, it's hard to complain about the results: two home runs, including a towering grand slam, and six RBIs in a 21-2 FSU victory that ended after 7 ½ innings.

“I got it good, I know that,” Mendoza said of his second homer.

That's a bit of an understatement.

After catching Mendoza off-balance with two changeups in the bottom of the seventh inning, Jacksonville pitcher Andrew Ciocia made a mistake by leaving a curveball up in the zone.

Mendoza responded by hitting the type of home run usually reserved for the likes of Drew, Posey or Ledbetter.

Meaning the type that goes up over the right-field fence and into the night sky, and then seems to disappear before it hits the ground.

“I'd like to know where it landed out there,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “It could very well be in somebody's car that rode by.”

It was Mendoza's fifth home run of the season and fourth in the span of less than two weeks.

Mendoza's other homer on Tuesday, a two-run shot in the fifth inning, was no slouch either. Hit to about the same location as the grand slam, the ball cleared the trees on the other side of the street beyond right field before coming down.

“J.D. (Drew) hit a few in that direction,” Martin said. “I would have to say it's right up there with Drew and (Jeff) Ledbetter.”

Mendoza's night paced an FSU offense that clicked perhaps as well as at any point this season.

The Seminoles (32-18) roughed up six Jacksonville pitchers to the tune of 17 hits and 11 walks while striking out just four times.

And, in a strange quirk, 15 of those 17 hits were singles.

Not that the Seminoles are about to get picky.

“As long as we're putting up 20 runs, it doesn't matter,” junior shortstop Taylor Walls said.

FSU may be finding its offensive stride at just the right time. The Seminoles have scored 49 runs during their current five-game winning streak, and they would do well to continue their hot-hitting this weekend when they meet a Wake Forest team that leads the nation with 79 home runs.

Wake (32-14) ranks 11th in the NCAA's latest Rating Percentage Index and, on the strength of its offense, is enjoying once of its best seasons in years.

"We know they're going to put up runs,” Walls said. “But so are we.”

That's hard to argue after Tuesday.

Mendoza smiled and said he thought about McDougall after hitting his second homer, and how, given the context of his own night at the plate, how impossible it is – or at least should be – to hit six home runs in one game.

After all, Mendoza had about as good of an offensive effort as possible and didn't even come close. He only even registered half the required at-bats.

Then again, there's no harm in trying.

"That's unreal,” he said. “I don't think that's going to happen for a really long time.”

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 05, 2017 - 11:37 am

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Nearly four years after he first carved out a special place for himself on the Florida State football team, Payton Poulin is still inspiring the Seminoles.

Poulin, the FSU student who, despite living with the neurological disorder schizencephaly, became a fixture on the Seminoles' sidelines in 2013 and 2014, will graduate on Saturday.

He will participate in commencement ceremonies and, as he did before the 2015 Rose Bowl, he intends to stand up from his motorized wheelchair and walk across the stage to receive his bachelor's degree from the FSU College of Business.

“The last four years I've been able to live out my dream,” Poulin said. “It's been incredible to be a part of, not only the team but the family. I'm just grateful to be a part of it.”

The feeling is mutual among Florida State's players and coaches.

“(Payton) just makes you appreciate the real things in life,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.

A native of St. Cloud, Fla., Poulin has loved all things football and Florida State for as long as he can remember.

And when he spotted FSU receiver Kenny Shaw in one of his classes in the fall of 2013, Poulin knew he had to introduce himself.

Poulin, though, didn't just want a picture or an autograph. He wanted to make an impact on the team.

“I saw a kid who wanted to be a part of something,” said Shaw, now with the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League. “I reached out to the coaches and said, ‘Hey, I've got a guest coming, a classmate, and he wants to be a part of the team. And Payton showed up on time. I gave him a time and he was there.  

“The security guard almost turned him around, and I was like, ‘He's good.' And he just rolled in with me. Ever since then, it's been such a bond.”

From there, Poulin was a regular on the Florida State practice fields, where he made himself at home by encouraging players after a tough day or joking with them when they needed a little levity.

After a while, Poulin even got comfortable enough to show off the football strategy chops he'd been honing since childhood.

“He was making the calls and stuff,” Shaw said. “I thought he was going to be a coach after a while.”

The next few years were loaded with memories that Poulin says will last a lifetime.

Asked for a favorite, Poulin laughed and said, “Oh man, I have to think about that.”

There are plenty from which to choose. 

When the Seminoles rallied to beat Auburn in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game, Poulin was there in Pasadena, Calif., along with his father, Patrick.

“It was the happiest moment of our lives,” Patrick Poulin said.

And Poulin became a national sensation a year later, when he surprised the Seminoles by standing up from his wheelchair and, with the help of Jameis Winston and DeMarcus Walker, walking several yards after a practice before the Rose Bowl.

Video of the scene went viral on social media and aired on ESPN's SportsCenter that night.

“It was truly tremendous,” Patrick Poulin said. “And I hope that same feeling that I had that day, I have on Saturday.”

Poulin's time as an FSU student may be over, but he still has goals to work toward.

With his degree in hand, Poulin intends to enter the professional world and start his own business.

More practically, he and his family are working to raise money for a stand-up wheelchair, as well as funds for stem-cell therapy and a van retrofitted with modifications that would allow Poulin to drive.

Fans and friends wishing to support that cause can donate to Poulin's GoFundMe page.

Finally, Poulin hasn't lost sight of his biggest goal: to one day walk on his own.

He's not there yet. But when he walks across the stage Saturday with the aid of his father and a family friend, Poulin will once again show the Florida State community the resolve and dedication that so endeared him to the Seminoles' football team. 

“I'm very proud of him,” Shaw said. “Graduating and walking across that stage is not something a lot of people can say they did. To see Payton push through all his adversity and get that degree, it's special.”

By Tim Linafelt
Posted May 04, 2017 - 11:45 am

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Alex Powers stepped to the plate and figured that she didn't really need to do much.

With a runner on third base and one out, Powers could simply lift the ball in the air for a sacrifice fly that would finally end No. 2 Florida State's extra-innings affair with No. 1 Florida.

Or she could put the ball on the ground and trust that speedy Korina Rosario could beat a throw home.

As long as Powers didn't strike out, the Seminoles would be in good shape.

“There were a lot of things to do to be successful in that position,” she said.

But why bother with any of those when you can just launch a no-doubt, walk-off home run instead?

Powers did just that on Wednesday night, crushing an 0-1 pitch from UF's Kelly Barnhill that sailed over the right-field wall and took with it a decade of frustration, close calls and disappointment at the hands of FSU's rival from Gainesville.

No. 2 Florida State 3, No. 1 Florida 1.

“It was a sweet one,” said Powers, who was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts prior to her home run. “Regardless of what happened, all the other at-bats, all the other innings, the tough plays, the tough calls, the tough swings, it's a great feeling.”

The latest great feeling in a season full of them.

FSU has climbed as high as No. 1 in the national rankings this season and recently polished off a perfect 24-0 campaign in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

But, for all the program's success, the Seminoles still had one more box to check as the regular season neared its conclusion: They had to beat Florida.

The Seminoles hadn't done that since 2014 – Powers' freshman year – and, somewhat unbelievably, had topped the Gators just once in their previous 18 tries. That includes an 0-9 mark at home.

"It's a milestone in the sense of we've never played that well here (against Florida)," coach Lonni Alameda said. "Florida is Florida, and this is a big rivalry." 

Only fitting then that it was Powers, now a fifth-year senior, who vanquished the Seminoles' nemesis.

“It was electric,” Powers said. “I don't know how else to describe it.”

And it was the perfect exclamation point on one of the most memorable nights in the program's recent history.

It began a little bit before 5 p.m. – more than two hours before first pitch – when a few hundred fans lined up at the Seminole Softball Complex to secure their seats in the general-admission stadium.

By the time the game began, more than 2,000 others had filed in, with hundreds more lining both the street and parking garage beyond left field. 

Official attendance was 2,509, the largest crowd in program history.

“We've worked really hard here to build everything, every facet,” Alameda said. “So it's really cool that people are starting to see the excitement.

"And what a great game they got to see tonight.”

No kidding.

The two teams traded runs in the first inning, suggesting that a higher-scoring affair might be on the way.

Instead, three pitchers – UF's Barnhill and FSU's Jessica Burroughs and Meghan King – took turns in the spotlight while putting up zero after zero on the scoreboard.

Save for a solo homer served up to FSU slugger Jessica Warren, Barnhill was simply dominant.

The sophomore set a UF record by striking out 21 of the 38 batters she faced, and she didn't allow so much as a runner in scoring position until the seventh inning.

But Burroughs and King weren't far behind. 

The two combined to allow just six hits across 11 innings, with King throwing 83 pitches across the final 6 2/3 innings.

A sophomore from Fort Lauderdale, King surrendered only one extra-base hit – a one-out double in the top of the ninth – but worked around it by forcing UF's next two batters to ground out.

It was a big step forward from King's last outing against the Gators, when she allowed two hits and the game-winning run in one-third of an inning in Gainesville last month.

“I've struggled against Florida and I've honestly struggled in so many big games,” King said. “And I think just sticking through and taking one pitch at a time and taking those big breaths before each pitch, I think that's my key.”

The Gators wouldn't argue.

“We just weren't able to do a good job of putting together quality swings,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “They were ahead (in the count) all day. I think they were probably ahead 75 percent of the time. And it's tough to hit All-American-type pitchers when you're down in the count.”

At one point late in the game, a Florida fan in the crowd said to a friend, “In the long run, this game doesn't mean all that much.”

And, in a way, he was right. Both teams are already among the best in the country, both have their postseason positions secured and both have much broader goals than just beating the other in the first week of May. 

But everything else at JoAnne Graf Field on Wednesday, from the energy in the crowd to the way Powers jumped her way around the bases before greeting her teammates at home plate, suggested otherwise.

There might not be a bigger stage - or a bigger victory - this side of the Women's College World Series.

“There's a different pressure when you play Florida. For us to be able to stand up and rise up and stay in the process against an amazing pitcher, it's good.”

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