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'We were fighting to compete': Florida State softball gets major props from Georgia

Florida State softball may have ended Georgia's season, but Bulldogs coach Tony Baldwin thinks highly of his team's NCAA Super Regional opponent.

The No. 3 Seminoles (55-9) swept No. 14 Georgia (42-15) with their 4-2 victory Friday in Game 2 of the best-of three series.

FSU's victory clinched the program's 12th Women's College World Series appearance before a sold-out crowd of 2,016 at JoAnne Graf Field.

The Seminoles won Thursday's opening game 8-1.

Georgia scored 32 runs during last week's NCAA Regionals, but were held to just three runs in two games against the Seminoles. FSU, meanwhile, had its hands full against South Carolina in the Tallahassee Regional, eliminating the Gamecocks but only scoring one run in Sunday's final two games.

"Congrats to Florida State," Baldwin said. "Last week, we were clicking on all cylinders and Florida State was fighting to survive as everybody watched. But this week, they were clicking and we were fighting to compete with that. I thought we did that. I am proud of our team, just disappointed in the outcome."

Florida State players and coaches celebrate their, 4-2, win over Georgia on May 26, 2023, to advance to the Women's College World Series.
Florida State players and coaches celebrate their, 4-2, win over Georgia on May 26, 2023, to advance to the Women's College World Series.

Georgia entered the NCAA Super Regional ranked second nationally in slugging percentage (.585) and 11th in hitting (.322 average). In its home regional last weekend, Georgia scored 32 runs in three games and hit 10 home runs.

The Bulldogs had one extra-base hit and batted .211 in two games against the Seminoles.

Baldwin credited FSU's pitching staff that is led by the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Pitcher of the Year Kat Sandercock, alongside relievers Ali Dubois, Mack Leonard, and Makenna Reid.

Leonard started Friday's game, tossing 4.1 innings, allowing one earned run on two hits and striking out four. Reid entered in the fifth before she ran into trouble in the sixth.

The Bulldogs' best scoring chance to regain the game's momentum came in that sixth inning. After they cut FSU's advantage to 4-2, Sandercock relieved Reid. After she issued a walk to load the bases with no outs, Sandercock got a pop-up, and two swinging strikeouts.

"They're really good at winning softball games," Baldwin said. "I think to be successful at the end of the year, you have to be really good on all the different parts of the game. They have a really complete team and that's why they've won as many games as they have and why they're moving on this weekend."

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The Seminoles' offense proved to be a difference as they waisted almost no time to put runs on the board in the two NCAA Super Regional contests.

FSU had 15 hits that led to 12 runs.

"It's a testament to their hitting style and philosophy," UGA pitcher Shelby Walters said. "Kudos to their coaches for growing and nurturing that hitting style. The biggest thing is mentally not letting it get to you because you can kind of get stuck in that cement mixer and have a really hard time finding your way out of it."

FSU will head to Oklahoma City's USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium for the eight-team WCWS that begins Thursday, June 1.

Baldwin has been a part World Series-contending teams. He was an assistant at Georgia in 2021, when the Bulldogs fell to eventual champions Oklahoma. Baldwin thinks FSU, which won the national title in 2018, is playing well enough to contend.

"Rarely, is it the team that's the best at any one thing that ends up winning the whole thing," Baldwin said. "It's the team that's really good at all the different things because at this stage of the game, you don't get to choose the matchups.

"You have to be versatile enough to win games by just outpitching the other teams, be able to win close games, and be able to score when the game dictates that.

"I think that's what [FSU] does really well."

Gerald Thomas, III covers Florida A&M University Athletics for the Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him via email at gdthomas@gannett.com or on Twitter @3peatgee.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Georgia impressed by FSU softball during NCAA Super Regional