FSU softball ready for tough WCWS championship series vs. 2-time defending champs Oklahoma

Coach Lonni Alameda keeps reminding her Florida State softball team:

"You’ve been here before."

Actually, the Seminoles have been here twice.

No. 3 FSU (58-9) is headed to the NCAA Softball Women’s College World Series best-of-three championship series starting Wednesday against No. 1 Oklahoma (59-1) at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

The Seminoles defeated No. 4 Tennessee 5-1 Monday in the WCWS semifinals to advance, while the Sooners eliminated No. 9 Stanford 4-2 in nine innings in Monday's first semifinal.

Both teams went undefeated in three WCWS games to advance to the title round.

The Sooners are two-time defending national champions and have won 51 consecutive games to extend their NCAA record. They are searching for their fifth title in the past eight years.

Oklahoma's lone defeat came on Feb. 18 at Baylor when the Bears put up four runs in the third inning and escaped with a 4-3 victory.

FSU won the program's first WCWS title in 2018.

The best-of-three-series is a rematch of the 2021 championship. The Seminoles beat the Sooners 8-4 in Game 1 but dropped the next two games, 6-2 and 5-1.

During spring break in March, FSU also made a four-game, seven-day road trip to Oklahoma to face No. 6 Oklahoma State and No. 1 Oklahoma. The Seminoles dropped three of four games – including a 5-4 defeat to Oklahoma – but embraced the experience.

“It was a great job making our schedule,” FSU ace Kathryn Sandercock said. “Kudos to (assistant head coach Travis Wilson) on that. They're tough games. We go out there and we wanted to play them, spring break.

“A long road trip, it was tiring for the team, it was tough on us. I think we went 1-3. We learned a lot about ourselves. I totally believe we wouldn't be where we are now if we hadn't had that experience. It's nice to have a little bit of information, having already played them, so…”

Live updates: Florida State vs. Oklahoma in Women's College World Series championship series

The Seminoles turned in a complete performance in their win over Tennessee.

Michaela Edenfield hit a solo home run in the top of the second inning after the Seminoles fell behind for the first time in three games. Bethaney Keen, a reserve player, hit the go-ahead home run in the third and Hallie Wacaser put the game away with a three-run shot in the sixth.

A trio of FSU pitchers held the Vols in check.

Mack Leonard started and worked two innings. Freshman Makenna Reid threw the middle innings for her 13th win of the season. And Sandercock, FSU’s all-time appearance leader, entered in the fifth inning. She finished with four strikeouts and no walks on 34 pitches, earning her 10th save of the season.

The Seminoles believe their trip to Oklahoma three months ago, despite the 1-3 record, has helped them prepare for the title series.

“I think that was like a real test for our team,” Keen said. “We learned a lot about us, what we're made of, and what we need to do. I think that allowed us to really prepare ourselves going into later in the season and being in these moments right now."

FSU pointed to an improved Atlantic Coast Conference, too, despite FSU dominating in-season play and then winning the ACC postseason tournament. FSU has gone 8-1 in the NCAA Tournament this season, with four wins coming against SEC teams (South Carolina, Georgia twice and Tennessee).

“We're so fortunate that our conference continues to get better and better,” Alameda said. “We had one of the highest home run-hitting teams in Virginia Tech. Facing Duke, a good adjusting team. Clemson has a great pitcher.

“We are week in, week out in conference being challenged on how we could keep momentum in our corner, how we could stop the momentum.

“Georgia was an outstanding offense, Tennessee is an outstanding offense, Oklahoma State. It's like we've been going back to we've been here before. How can we stop the momentum from happening.”

Oklahoma not unbeatable

The Seminoles fought to their final out in their game in Norman, Oklahoma, earlier his season and held a 4-2 lead entering the bottom of the fourth inning.

While it is seeking a three-peat, OU coach Patty Gasso said the team is trying to not take this opportunity for granted.

“I think sometimes – we win a lot, and that's fabulous,” Gasso said. “But sometimes I think we're so used to taking it for granted, and this means a lot. This means a lot. To get to the championship game means a lot.”

OU barely survived a tough test in a 4-2 nine-inning win over Stanford Monday, proving it can be beaten, if another team plays a perfect game.

“I think it's huge just knowing that we can take a deep breath, relax, reset in our minds,” OU’s Tiare Jennings said of the approach for OU.

“Us hitters play a huge role in that. When I'm not in that pitch, let me reset, take a breath, call time, go back to Coach, get some words.”

“I think we've been kind of doing that the past three years that I've been here, is just breathing, resetting, and knowing to stick to your game plan and trusting what you can do.”

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FSU played a tough schedule with 20 teams ranked in the top-25 from the beginning of the season. In the WCWS, the Seminoles defeated OSU 8-0 in a run-rule victory Thursday and beat No. 7 Washington 3-1 Saturday.

“Definitely I think our coaches pride themselves on making such a great schedule for us,” Edenfield said. “It's one of those things if you want to be the best, you have to play the best.

“Those are all great ball clubs. Just being able to start off our season against teams like that, it allows us to make great transitions and being able to learn more about ourselves.

“That way, when we get three quarters, close to the end of the season, we're really bonded and gelled. I think that's definitely showed up today and here while we've been at OKC.”

Why Oklahoma will be tough

Like FSU, the Sooners boast an impressive pitching staff. Their main pitchers Nicole May and Jordy Bahl and Alex Storako each have an ERA below 1.15.

Coming into play Monday, Oklahoma’s .372 batting average was the top in the nation and it led the way with 114 home runs (1.93 per game).

Alyssa Brito leads the way with her 17 bombs, which is tied for 18th in the nation. Jennings is tied for 23rd with 17. Jayda Coleman (16), Haley Lee (14) and Kinzie Hansen (12) also are in double figures.

“They are an outstanding offense. We have to be good in pitching defense, one pitch-minded,” Alameda said of facing OU. “We don't look too far ahead and dwell on the past. I'm proud of the defense in pitching. It's defense and pitching together that make things happen.”

No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 1 Oklahoma

  • What: NCAA Softball Women’s College World Series best of three championship series

  • When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.; Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Friday, 8 p.m. (if necessary)

  • Where: USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium

  • TV: Wednesday-Friday, ESPN

  • Records: FSU, 58-9; Oklahoma 59-1

Reach Ehsan Kassim at or follow him on Twitter at @Ehsan_Kassim. You can also follow our coverage on Facebook (NoleSports) and Instagram (tlhnolesports).

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State softball ready for No. 1 Oklahoma in WCWS final