A close, back-and-forth battle between two Top-5 teams was everything as advertised on Sunday night, as No. 5 Florida State (7-4) was narrowly defeated by No. 2 UCLA (11-0) by a score of 3-2 in front of nearly 1,500 fans at the final game of the 2020 St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational.
The Noles led 2-1 in the top of the seventh inning before the Bruins took the lead on a two-out, two-run double by Aaliyah Jordan which went off the glove of Kaley Mudge as she ran into the wall in left field. The Seminoles had the game-tying run on base in the bottom of the inning, but couldn’t bring them in.
“It was a hard-fought battle tonight and I am really proud of the team,” said FSU head coach Lonni Alameda. “This was a very tough tournament and we are getting a lot out of it and growing as a team. Dani had a great day with some gritty at bats, Flaherty coming through as well. It was great to see the pitchers get out there and execute, and Kat shut them down through the middle innings. It was a good game and now we need to get on the road, get some rest and make some adjustments for our next opportunity.”
The Bruins took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second on a pair of doubles by Jenavee Peres and Alyssa Garcia. FSU starting pitcher Brianna Enter struck out the next batter and got out of the inning with a groundout to second base.
Dani Morgan helped spark the FSU offense in the second inning as the Noles tied the game at 1-1. The senior battled a 12-pitch at-bat and capped it off with a single to left, and the throw in by the UCLA left fielder was off target, allowing Morgan to take second on the play. Devyn Flaherty followed with an RBI single up the middle to tie things up after two full innings.
UCLA led off the top of the third inning with a single, ending Enter’s time in the circle as Kathryn Sandercock took over as the FSU pitcher. After another single, a ball back up the middle tipped off the edge of Sandercock’s glove and went to Morgan Noah at second base, who fired home as the UCLA runner tried to score from second on the play for the first out of the inning. Sandercock got out of the inning with a pair of groundouts to third base.
Sydney Sherrill put the Noles in front in the bottom of the third inning, as her solo home run to right field gave FSU a 2-1 lead. It marked the first time that UCLA has trailed during the 2020 season. Cassidy Davis followed with a double to right center, but was left stranded.
Sandercock was in control through the middle of the game, retiring 12 of 13 batters from the third to the sixth inning.
The Bruins led off the top of the seventh with double to right field by Seneca Curo, and she was bunted over to third with a sacrifice bunt. A groundout to shortstop gave UCLA its last chance, before Jordan’s two-run double.
Josie Muffley led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a single up the middle, but would not advance beyond first base as the next three batters were all retired to end the game.
Sandercock (3-1) took the loss, giving up two runs on five hits with one walk and one strikeout. Brianna Enter tossed 2.0 innings in her second career start, scattering five hits and one run with zero walks and a strikeout.
The Seminoles will have an extended break and will be back in action at home on Feb. 26 as FSU hosts UCF at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.