April 15, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) - The No. 21 Florida State University softball team split its Sunday doubleheader versus Georgia Tech at JoAnne Graf Field to maintain a one-game first-place lead in the conference standings. FSU lost game one, 5-4, and won game two, 7-6.
Both games created plenty of drama for the numerous fans who attended Sunday's "Paint it Pink" day aimed at promoting breast cancer awareness. In the first game, the Seminoles (37-10, 11-3) nearly completed their four-run rally but fell behind in the top of the seventh on a Kelsi Weseman single to left field that brought home Chelsie Thomas.
In the bottom half of the seventh, FSU's Kelly Hensley singled to third base with one out, followed by a walk from Erika Leonard and later another walk by Tiffani Brown with two outs to load the bases. Senior Shayla Jackson then stepped to the plate with an opportunity to win the game and hit a sharp liner to left field that was caught on the dive by Shannon Bear to end the contest.
In the second game, FSU pulled ahead when Jackson broke a 2-2 tie with an RBI single up the middle in the third frame. In the fifth inning, sophomore Courtney Senas swung at a first-pitch offering from Georgia Tech starter Kylie Kleinschmidt (6-5) for a two-run home run to give FSU a 5-2 lead.
The Yellow Jackets (32-16, 10-4) and their potent offense responded with a four-run sixth inning to take a 6-5 lead. Ashley Thomas' single to third base scored a run, and Alysha Rudnik's bases-loaded two-run single to left field tied the game at 5-5. Karly Fullem capped the inning by reaching first base on an errant throw at shortstop to bring in the go-ahead run.
FSU fought back in the bottom of the sixth, as Jackson walked with one out then scored with two outs when Senas' fly ball to right field was lost in the sun by right fielder Katie Johnsky, bringing home Jackson for the tying run as Senas was credited with a double. During Kirstin Austin's at-bat, Senas advanced home on a wild pitch to allow FSU to re-take the lead at 7-6.
Redshirt sophomore Jessica Nori replaced starter Monica Perry (17-5) to begin the seventh inning. The Weston, Fla., native induced consecutive groundouts, but two consecutive infield singles and a fielding error at third base loaded the bases for Rudnik. Nori kept her poise and fired two straight strikes before freezing Georgia Tech's No. 3 hitter on a pitch that painted the outside corner to end the game.
"Jessica Nori came in and battled hard throughout the day," FSU head coach Lonni Alameda said. "Her significance in today's games was huge and she consistently threw strikes and let her fielders field. Overall, there were positives and negatives that we can take away from today's games but we always know we're in for a tough game against Georgia Tech."
FSU's batting order had an up-and-down day at the plate, finishing its two games hitting 17-for-56 (.304) with five extra-base hits. Austin continued her streak of good play by finishing 4-for-7 on the day with a double, while Brown also went 4-for-7 with one double and three runs scored. Senas finished 4-for-8 with one home run and two doubles.
However, the Seminoles hurt themselves by leaving a multitude of runners on base. In game one, FSU had several chances to pull ahead of the Yellow Jackets and winded up leaving 13 runners on base, tying a season high. Eight more runners were stranded in game two, as FSU batted 4-for-23 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-4 with the bases loaded in the two games.
Nonetheless, the Seminoles picked up their 10th victory this season against an opponent ranked in the current Top 50 of the RPI. Georgia Tech is rated 32nd, and FSU now moves to 10-9 this season versus the current RPI Top 50.
Nori's effect on the game as a reliever was large, as she combined to throw four innings and allowed one run with four strikeouts. With Georgia Tech getting after FSU's starting pitching, she entered both games and did a fine job shutting down the opposition. Nori picked up the win in game one to improve to 4-0 and notched her second save of the season in game two.
Perry ended up with the win in game two, allowing five earned runs in six innings pitched with seven strikeouts. Despite her numbers being above her season stat line, the Whitesburg, Ga., native got out of several pressure situations as she helped the Yellow Jackets strand 12 runners of their own.
FSU has now been forced to play without starting shortstop and leading run-producer Maddie O'Brien for the past four games due to a concussion. Saves leader Bailey Schinella and designated player Mallory Borden have also missed time due to concussions.
The rubber game between the two conference rivals takes place on Monday night at JoAnne Graf Field with a 7 p.m. first pitch that will air live on ESPNU. The second set of FSU softball trading cards with be given away on Monday, and the first 200 fans will also be given a free ticket to the FSU baseball game versus Monday on May 5.