Feb. 8, 2013
TALLAHASSE, Fla. -- Lonni Alameda knows pitching.
She was a pitcher in a college and later made a name for herself in the coaching ranks as an assistant at Stanford where she mentored the Cardinal's hurlers. Her achievements in Palo Alto later translated into a successful rebuilding effort as head coach at UNLV and eventually the top softball job at Florida State.
And while her softball expertise has consistently evolved to be more all-encompassing as a head coach, it's that pitching background that has provided the foundation for 324 combined wins as a head coach the past nine years.
The 2012 season reinforced that notion as the Seminoles finished 47-16 -- the most wins in a year since the 62-win 2004 campaign -- and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for a 13th consecutive time thanks in large part to a pitching staff led the Atlantic Coast Conference in eight different statistical categories.
Now entering her sixth season as FSU's coach and with each of the pitchers from last year's stellar squad all returning in 2013, Alameda is set to field a group -- from starters to the bullpen to the catchers -- that she considers to possess the best chemistry she's ever been around.
"We all work really well together," she said. "From [Jessica] Nori to Bailey [Schinella] to Lacey [Waldrop]. Jessica Burroughs is redshirting but she is learning so much from what's going on in the bullpen. Monica [Perry] is the workhorse but she is not above sitting down and chit-chatting about spins and other pieces of knowledge and tidbits with all of them.
"And then you add Celeste [Gomez], Macey [Cheatham] and [Erika] Leonard catching and that's a huge part of pitching is having a good influence from your catcher."
After transferring from Illinois and sitting out a season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules, Perry led the Seminoles as a redshirt junior last season with a 22-6 record and 1.54. She's back for one last season in the garnet and gold but is not alone as far as experienced and key returnees goes.
Florida State also brings back a core of Tiffani Brown, Courtney Senas and Briana Hamilton, who each played in all 63 of the 'Noles' game a season ago, as well as Waldrop, Gomez, Leonard, Morgan Bullock, Kirsten Austin, Kelly Hensley, and a host of other up-and-comers.
In total, Alameda and assistant coaches Travis Wilson and Craig Snider boast a roster that returns 14 total players from last year's team, including nine starters.
"I think what is going to be the difference and something that we are excited about is the senior leadership, the entire team leadership and the fact that we came back from break in great shape," Alameda said. "We seem to come back every year stronger than before and I can definitely see that entering this season. There's an 'eye of the tiger' so to speak there with this team."
Alameda is the first to admit that even though the 'Noles are without just four student-athletes from last year's team, they are significant losses because of the intangibles that both Shayla Jackson and Mallory Borden provided to the program the last several seasons. But while they'll miss the duos on-field and in-dugout contributions, they won't have to look far to find them. Jackson has joined the team as a graduate assistant and Borden is still in town training to be a police officer.
In their place on the roster, however, is an influx of exciting young talent that should help FSU not only sustain its success but build upon it.
Florida State welcomes a combined nine newcomers that are either freshmen or transfers and each is expected to provide something in their respective first season at FSU -- whether that be on the field, in the class room or to the overall team chemistry.
"What I have seen so far is a very hungry group of athletes that have all come from very competitive club-ball programs so they brought with them a winning mentality," Alameda said. "There's a lot of programs here at Florida State that help foster that mentality so they are going to keep growing and getting better and wanting to achieve more.
"They have just taken it by the horns and have done a great job of getting after it since they got here."