Devyn Flaherty has cut down on her errors and her comfort level at the plate has resulted in a consistent season.
Florida State’s starting second baseman has just three errors this spring (following 11 in 2021 as a redshirt freshman and full-time starter). Flaherty’s numbers at the plate are improved across the board and she leads FSU in batting average (.374) and stolen bases (24) while being third in doubles (12) and third in runs scored (44). She hits in the No. 5 spot in the lineup and, with Flaherty’s bat and speed, she is sometimes viewed as another leadoff-type hitter in the order.
“I love the fact I feel really comfortable,” Flaherty said. “I kind of just cemented my spot there a little bit I think. I think (Kaley) Mudge is an amazing leadoff, gives us so many different options at the top of the lineup and just follow that with Syd (Sherrill) and obviously our big hitters. It’s a cool spot to be. I don’t want to say I kind of get overlooked but I’m just very comfortable and I think I get a lot of pitches to hit, which is totally up my alley.”
Flaherty has made the most of those opportunities, hitting 5 for 11 with three RBIs and two runs scored in FSU’s three games in the ACC Tournament. And Flaherty is hitting nearly 100 points higher than the .281 from last spring. She credits much of her success to work in the batting cages in the offseason.
“I’ve always had this motto: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” Flaherty said. “I’m big on the preparation piece and putting in the work. I had a rough fall. I went in and (volunteer coach Kaleigh) Rafter and I were just going to change some things and see what could come out of it. And we just had some tough conversations, ‘You just don’t know. You don’t know how this is going to turn out. We’re going to make some adjustments, but you could still be a .300 hitter, or you could be a different hitter. We just don’t know.’
I think just coming to terms with being OK, with not knowing the outcome is kind of where the maturity piece came in for me. I put in the work to be successful in every situation. It doesn’t mean I’m going to be. Just being OK with that and feeling confident in my abilities.
“I think something that’s changed this year is just that I’ve gotten a lot better as the game goes on, I can adjust my swing. I can adjust pitch to pitch and that’s been huge for me and my confidence.”
Flaherty and the Seminoles (52-5) open NCAA Regional competition on Friday at 8:30 p.m. against Howard (live stream on ESPN+). A sport management major, Flaherty sat down with the Osceola earlier this week to discuss why she chose FSU, the fan support and her teammates.
You grew up in Sarasota. Did you always want to go to FSU and how did you make the decision to come here?
Flaherty: I was taking these visits in middle school and everything and I’d grown up a diehard Seminoles fan, both my parents went to law school here. And so, when everyone was saying, ‘You’ll know when you know. You’ll know when you step on campus,’ I was like, ‘Well, how am I supposed to know? I’ve always been on campus.’
I took a good number of other visits. My dad was big on getting the full experience and seeing what else is out there. Florida State was one of the last people to approach me, I gave it one more visit up to Tallahassee. I came on a visit where there were some older girls here and they sat down and they just talked about the coaching staff and the program caring more about you as a person than a player. I think that’s always been the biggest thing for me because to me softball is not forever, but the growth I’m going to get here is just immeasurable. I just wouldn’t get it somewhere else, I think. And I think that was the moment — I knew that I want to be here, somewhere where I’m gonna grow as a person, not just a player. And I’ve been lucky enough to do both so far, and I know I’m going to keep doing that just with the program we have, the culture we have, the coaches we have.
You have played very well on defense and FSU is tied for the national lead in Division I in fielding percentage. What do you attribute your success and the Seminoles’ in the field?
Flaherty: I think personally I learned a lot last year. T-Cam (assistant coach Troy Cameron) and I worked a lot on just some little things and really fine-tuning my game and it kind of showed last year a little bit. I got a lot of balls and was really comfortable over there. And so kind of just maintaining that, playing smart defense, playing together, playing with Mack (Leonard). Obviously she’s new over there (first base) this year. But I think that’s been pretty big for me. And then, I think, just overall defensively just no matter who’s out there, communicating with our pitchers, communicating together, eyes up no matter what. We have a pretty-good fielding percentage but errors are going to happen and mistakes are going to happen. And I think that’s where we’ve grown a lot this year is that we understand those things are going to happen. It’s not the end of the world, especially with the way we’re performing offensively. An error, a run, we’re fine, so what? Let our pitchers keep attacking them and we’re going to go get those runs back the next inning.
Coach Lonni Alameda has said the team’s identity is a mix of pitching, hitting, defense, base running and on any given night one facet will lead the team to a win. Do you agree?
Flaherty: We have our identity figured out and are really a confident team heading into the postseason. … We’re a team that we trust our stuff. We don’t press for things. We know we have good pitching. We know we have good defense. You can’t come in and circle one of our hitters in our lineup because 1 through 12, our pinch-hitters, our people off the bench, can do damage and have done damage. It’s just really calming and confident to look to your left and your right and know someone’s going to get it done. It’s really awesome and it’s a really cool feeling. And we definitely don’t take it for granted because we don’t always know our identity this time of year. But kind of just embracing it this year has been really, really cool and fun to watch.
From the preseason to the St. Pete-Clearwater tournament, facing all the top-25 teams at home and away, now an ACC Championship. Have you and the team been able to appreciate the run?
Flaherty: Oh, yeah. 100%. I think going into the season we didn’t know what to expect. We knew we were talented. We knew we had some good returners. We just didn’t know. Clearwater was a crazy experience and then just going through the ACC, losing some games that we didn’t really want to lose and then being able to get back to the ACC tournament. Those games were tough, even from Virginia on Thursday night, that was a tough game. Duke always plays hard. They’re great this year. They’re great every year and the same with Clemson. So it was really cool. And I think we’ve gone through some ups and downs as a team and we had a good team talk at UNC after we lost that one game at UNC. And I think we’ve been on a little bit of a solid roll since then (14 straight wins) and we’re really excited to see how it turns out.
The crowds have really come out to support the team, ever since the capacity opened up last May for the regional. How much has the meant to the players and coaches?
Flaherty: Yeah, it means everything to us. I think when we got the opportunity to open it up last year was huge for us. We just didn’t know what to expect. We had had COVID all year and then getting the opportunity to see all of our fans and for them to come support us and see what we’re about was super special, especially to go on the run we had. And then this year, I think we’ve had incredible crowds. Our fans are absolutely awesome. And they almost sell it out all the time. And we’ve gone a lot of places and they’ve been sold out, which is super cool to see. Momentum is huge with us. Keeping it in our dugout, keeping it on our side, that’s always a goal of ours and it doesn’t always work out that way. But having the crowd behind us to keep momentum on our side is a huge piece. I think we’re really excited to see them and see what they come out like and just have some really exciting games to play.