Despite Painful End, Softball Carries Bright Future Into 2018
By Ariya Massoudi
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.”