May 15, 2011
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ATLANTA, Ga. (seminoles.com) - No need to worry about tonight's NCAA Softball Selection Show - the Florida State University softball team is officially in the NCAA Tournament for a school-record 12th consecutive season after clinching an automatic bid this afternoon.
A motivated Seminole squad, playing as the conference tournament's No. 4 seed, defeated second-seeded North Carolina, 4-1, to earn its 11th ACC postseason championship. FSU once again got behind senior starter Sarah Hamilton (19-17) with two crucial home runs from Robin Ahrberg and Courtney Senas while letting their workhorse in the circle go to work.
"I'm so proud of our team," said head coach Lonni Alameda following her first ACC championship in three seasons at FSU. "We had gotten to this game the last couple of years but weren't able to close the door. This season, despite some of the ups and downs we've been through, we were able to persevere and find a way to hold up the ACC Championship Trophy. This is a special win for our ballclub and we're incredibly excited to get back to the NCAA postseason."
Hamilton, who was named the ACC All-Tournament Team MVP, threw another complete game and allowed just one run while striking out five and issuing just two walks. In her three games started in this year's ACC Championship, she went 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA in 19 innings pitched while fanning 14. The three-time All-ACC selection held the opposition to a .188 batting average.
Hamilton was in control of today's contest from start to finish, throwing with good accuracy while keeping the North Carolina hitters guessing with her blend of pitches. She never tried to overpower the Tar Heels (34-21), instead focusing on hitting her spots and making the right throws given the situation. Her five strikeouts now give her 989 for her career as she gets to continue her pursuit of the magic 1,000 K mark.
The Tallahassee native recorded the final out today when she got Kelsey Green to chase a high fastball, sending a euphoric FSU dugout onto the field to celebrate as UNC stranded two runners on base. She made plenty of big plays this afternoon, most notably striking out Haleigh Dickey with a runner on third base to end the sixth when FSU clinged to a 2-0 lead.
Just as vital to the victory was Senas, who not only extended FSU's lead to 4-0 in the sixth inning but also laced an RBI double in the gap to give the Seminoles their first insurance run at 2-0 in the second inning. The Wahiawa, Hawaii native finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs, and ended her three-game run with a team-best .600 batting average (6-for-10) with two home runs, five RBIs, four runs scored and 13 total bases.
Senas joined first baseman Jen Lapicki, catcher Celeste Gomez and Hamilton as members of the ACC All-Tournament Team. Lapicki went .500 (5-for-10) with one home run and four RBIs in the conference tournament, and Gomez batted .300 with one home run and two runs scored while adding some stellar performances behind the plate.
Ahrberg's leadoff home run in the second inning got the scoring started for FSU. UNC pitcher Lori Spingola (25-18) had Ahrberg behind the count at 1-2, but made the mistake of throwing another fastball as the Stillwater, Okla., native hammered it down the left field line for a home run. Later, Senas' big two-run shot went near the same spot as Ahrberg's round-tripper except it was tailing away from the foul pole before staying just inside to extend FSU's lead.
In their three tournament games, FSU used the long ball to its advantage - hitting seven home runs and recording 10 extra-base hits.
Tiffani Brown recorded her 18th multiple-hit performance by adding two singles. FSU recorded nine hits in 24 at-bats, while UNC managed just three hits in 22 at-bats.
For Seminole athletics, today's victory goes beyond its normal significance. For the second consecutive season, every FSU athletic program has reached the NCAA postseason, marking a rare feat for any school.
FSU will find out which NCAA regional it is headed to when the softball selection show airs at 10 p.m. on ESPNU. Fans who were unable to watch today's game live can watch it on delay tonight at 11 p.m. on Sun Sports.