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FSU builds big lead, knocks off Alabama to reach WCWS title round

Florida State had to battle through the loser’s bracket. And through a prolonged Saturday with very little sleep. But it was all worth it.

From Arizona on Saturday to Oklahoma State on (early) Sunday to Alabama on Sunday and Monday, the battle-tested Seminoles were calm and often tired. But they were methodical and now are playing for the Women’s College World Series title.

Elizabeth Mason started FSU off with a three-run homer and Kaley Mudge went 5 for 5 with a double and a pair of RBI as FSU chased Alabama ace Montana Fouts in the third inning as the Seminoles made their early lead hold up in an 8-5 win over on Monday night. Mudge’s 5 for 5 night tied a WCWS record but is the first to do so in a seven-inning game.

“There’s something special about FSU that allows us to block everything else out — block out the stats, block out the outcome, block out anyone who’s not in our corner,” Mason said. “We just look to our left and our right. I look to Danielle, I look to Mudge, I look to our coaches, and when you can fight for them, all you want to do is give one more pitch, one more opportunity, and one more game. That’s what we did in 2018, and we know we can do it again because we’ve been there before.”

The Seminoles scored the game’s first eight runs and held on as Alabama chipped away at the lead, forcing coach Lonni Alameda to use frequent pitching changes to keep the Crimson Tide hitters off balance.

FSU (48-11-1) will play Oklahoma (54-3), which knocked off James Madison 7-1 earlier in the day, in a best two-of-three championship round beginning Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN).

The Seminoles pounded out 10 hits, including Sydney Sherrill’s RBI double. Alameda had commented before the Women’s CWS that the team has gone through ups and downs, finding different ways to win. But in Oklahoma City, the bats found a resurgence following an opening-game 4-0 loss to UCLA and supported pitchers Kathryn Sandercock, Caylan Arnold and Danielle Watson. On Monday, Sandercock (three innings), Arnold (1.1 innings) and Watson (2.2 innings) each contributed to the win.

“We have such a good foundation of family and the competitive nature, and we keep bringing those values up,” Alameda said. “And we keep talking about them, and it kept the fabric of our team together to give us the opportunity to be able to shine towards the end of the season.”

FSU won the Women’s CWS in 2018, also dropping its first game before making a run to win it all by knocking off Washington in the championship round. Meghan King, Jessie Warren and a large group of FSU alumni were among the contingent in OKC cheering and celebrating this team.

“I wasn’t here when they won the 2018, but I remember watching on TV, and I just remember how much fight they had, and I think that’s what we have this year too,” Mudge said. “We just have to fight for every pitch to our left and our right.”

BOX SCORE

The Alabama-FSU box score can be viewed here.