Fueled by veterans and addition of a few transfers, FSU opens 2022 season

Bethany Keen remembers coming to Florida State softball camps in middle school, connecting with coach Lonni Alameda and the Seminoles players. The Bradenton native opted instead to stay close to home and go to South Florida, where she developed into one of the Bulls’ top players.

With a degree in hand, as well as a desire to push herself in a new setting, Keen remembered those days in Tallahassee about a decade ago.

“I had one year left to play,” Keen said of her decision-making and entering the transfer portal. “If anyone ever considers doing that, you have to consider what you want out of it going into it. I wanted a challenge, I wanted to compete, I wanted to grow. I felt like for myself that I needed that and that’s really what I wanted. And it’s giving me everything that I ever wanted being here. … Everything comes full circle, and I’m really glad to be here.”

FSU returns the core of its roster as the 2022 season begins on Friday afternoon with the JoAnne Graf Classic. The Seminoles will feature preseason All-American third baseman Sydney Sherrill, second baseman Devyn Flaherty, outfielder Kalei Harding two of the league’s (and the nation’s) top pitchers in Kathryn Sandercock and Danielle Watson.

Coach Lonni Alameda didn’t need to hit the portal too hard but there were definite spots where the Seminoles could use help. Keen felt like a good fit, a left-handed bat with a good glove at first base and 190 games of college experience. At USF in 2021, Keen was second on the team in hitting (.299), hits (41) and doubles (six) while leading the Bulls in RBI (24). She also had a desire to learn more about the sport and push herself to improve.

“Coach A (Alameda) always tells us or tells me that there is a cup, you fill your cup up with soda, you can pour in so much and the fizz is on top,” Keen said. “You have to stop pouring in until the fizz settles down. Because coming in here there was just so much more that I had to add on. I had a good foundation and I was smart about certain things, but then just keep adding layers and layers on that. Being a senior, having one year left, I thought I was smart. I thought I knew things. So it was, to me, a process of knowing that there’s still so much more that I didn’t know that it was different that I had to get comfortable with.”

Keen is happy she took a step out of her comfort zone, coming to FSU where she says Alameda didn’t promise a starting job and she didn’t want it to be handed to her either. Keen left USF with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and began her coursework toward a master’s, with classes transferring to FSU as she pursues an MBA. She’s fascinated by advertising and using it to inspire athletes.

“The way my brain works, I love being creative,” Keen said. “I love coming up with ad campaigns, branding campaigns, marketing campaigns. Ultimately, it would be so cool to work at Nike, coming up with their campaigns and what they do. Every year with their ad campaigns that they come out with and just being able to be behind the creative team, coming up with that and bringing them to life and to inspire athletes. That’s ultimately what I want to do but also any marketing agency where we could build brands and partnerships and how we can work in that way. I think coming up with campaigns is so much of a team-oriented atmosphere where it’s something that I’ve always been a part of. I think that would be something that I really would enjoy.”

Keen said she’s excited for the start of FSU’s season, facing Mercer and Kennesaw State as part of Friday’s schedule (all of the Seminoles’ games this weekend will stream live on ACC Network Extra). While appreciative of her time and teammates at USF, Keen has settled in at her new home — one that feels familiar after her visits to FSU’s camps years ago.

“Coach A, all the coaches and everyone prior at FSU, they really made a foundation with Florida State where people really want to be a part of it. From the family atmosphere and the culture that she really ingrained in Florida State was something that I really wanted to be a part of. I wanted to fall back in love with the game. I saw the way they played, I saw fans, I saw everything that Florida State was and what it is. It’s not just what you see on the media. We live it. And it was so cool to be a part of it.”

2022 FSU softball preview

Coach: Lonni Alameda (613-182-3 as she begins her 14th season at FSU).

Preseason recognition: 3B Sydney Sherrill (.304, 15 doubles, 15 stolen bases, 34 RBI, 47 runs) and RHP Kathryn Sandercock (27-4, 1.25 ERA, 127 strikeouts and 28 walks in 178.2 innings) have been named to the preseason All-ACC team. Softball America ranked the top 100 players in the nation and had Sandercock at No. 20, followed by Sherrill (30), RHP Danielle Watson (70) and Illinois State transfer Mack Leonard (74). FSU is ranked No. 6 by USA Softball and No. 4 by the NFCA.

Who to watch: Sherrill is FSU’s all-time leader with 66 doubles and she’s also in the top 10 in runs, RBI, home runs and walks. She was the ACC’s defensive player of the year in 2021, making the All-ACC first team along with second baseman Devyn Flaherty (.281, five home runs, eight doubles, 19 stolen bases, 39 runs). Outfielder Kalei Harding (.278, six home runs, 10 doubles, 42 RBI) was one of the league’s top freshman. Watson went 12-2 with a 2.62 ERA, striking out 98 in 93.1 innings.

Speed on base paths: FSU had 117 stolen bases in 2021, with players who grabbed 83 stolen bases returning.

Schedule: FSU’s 2022 schedule with updated TV and streaming information can be viewed here.