Return of seniors a spark for FSU softball in 2021

The Florida State softball roster features 25 players. It’s easy to take a quick look and see the youth — 15 players who are freshmen or redshirt freshmen. But mixed in with that youth are four seniors who opted to come back for a second senior year after the 2020 season was cut short.

Catcher Anna Shelnutt, pitcher Caylan Arnold and outfielders Dani Morgan and Cassidy Davis weren’t ready to see their FSU careers end, not after just a month of softball last spring. The quartet of “super seniors,” as well as another senior, Elizabeth Mason, will provide experience, leadership and production in the 2021 season.

“The passion that the senior class had, playing the game, we were excited that they wanted to come back. And when you hear people like Cass Davis, who was in physical therapy, she was in PT school, she got admitted, she’s going where she wants to go, her next level of life was ready to happen. And she really loves being a part of the team. And she put it on hold to come back and be part of this team. Not guaranteed starting position, not guaranteed anything.”

In any normal year, the super seniors would be pursuing their professional aspirations or perhaps playing softball professionally. This has made for a larger roster and more competition. But even the new arrivals and younger players realized the desire to be a part of the program based on the decisions of the veterans.

“That selflessness and desire to be a part of a team just took the whole mindset a level higher,” Alameda said. “They kind of have life right after that graduating year, thinking about moving forward, and now it gets put on hold. So when they’re making those decisions, your freshmen, sophomores and your incoming rookies are like, ‘Wow, this place is pretty special.’ And this opportunity is pretty awesome. So I think it’s just rejuvenated us. We have a bigger roster, but we all know how important and how much fun it is to give our all every day.”

Arnold will be a big part of a pitching staff that could go four-five arms deep. A senior who had transferred in from Tennessee before the 2020 season, Arnold led FSU with a 5-3 record and 1.40 ERA. She had 60 strikeouts in 60 innings and opposing batters hit just .177.

“Caylan actually stayed here over the summer break, she committed to getting in that weight room and getting stronger and doing everything she could here in Tallahassee and so it means a ton to her to be able to come back and pitch for the season,” Alameda said. “She’s a dominating pitcher in the circle. She wants to really make sure that she leads this battery to the highest level she can achieve for them.”

Danielle Watson, Kathyrn Sandercock, Emma Wilson and Brianna Enter also offer FSU aa wealth of pitching options. 

“Emma Wilson is going to be the dark horse that people don’t know much about,” Alameda said. “We redshirted her last year as a senior. She’s got great movement, up-down pitcher, very athletic, fields her position well.”

Among those in the field, FSU of course returns an All-American, Sydney Sherrill, and a talented group of seniors. Davis posted a .313 batting average and led the team at the plate with six doubles, five home runs and 22 RBI. Morgan went 17 for 65 (.262) from the plate this season with three home runs, 17 RBI, four walks, four stolen bases and 14 runs scored. Shelnutt only played in eight games of the 2020 season before suffering an injury. She recorded a double, two home runs, eight RBI and three runs scored.

Alameda and FSU administrators are working on plans to allow fans at games in the 2021 season, beginning with the opener on Feb. 11 against Florida A&M. Tentative plans call for about 20 percent capacity with more details to come.

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