The Huskies led 3-0 after their first time up, but Florida State roared back for an 8-3 victory and best-of-three series sweep and first softball national championship.
OKLAHOMA CITY — No team was more impressive the first four days of the Women’s College World Series than Washington. In three games the Huskies didn’t allow a run, and their defense was playing at an elite level.
Then came the championship final and everything started to slip away. It culminated Tuesday night as the fifth-ranked Huskies looked nothing like their former selves and No. 6 Florida State beat them 8-3 to win the national championship at USA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“They obviously got better and better as their postseason run went,” UW coach Heather Tarr said of FSU. “I’m sure they probably flipped the switch when they almost lost the ACC Championship to Pitt. You could kind of see that coming.”
UW (52-10) needed to win Game 2 of the championship to force a winner-take-all Game 3 Wednesday. But the Seminoles (58-12) were having none of that. In the first trip to a WCWS final for an ACC team, FSU used the long ball and dominant pitching to sweep the Huskies in two games by a combined score of 9-3. It’s the sixth time since 2010 that the series was won in a sweep.
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“It feels amazing,” FSU’s Sydney Sherrill said. “This is a dream come true for me and my team. We knew we could do it. But we really fought this whole entire tournament, really. It’s been so incredible. I really can’t describe it. I’m just so happy to be here. I really am.”
However, with the way the night started, it looked like Washington was going to extend the series to three games.
On Meghan King’s first pitch of the game Washington’s Taylor Van Zee lifted a single into center field. King then threw a wild pitch that sent Van Zee to second.
The Huskies’ Sis Bates laid down a bunt and FSU catcher Dani Morgan tried to throw her out at first, but the ball got past Carsyn Gordon and rolled into right field to allow Van Zee to score.
Julia DePonte then popped up a fly ball that the Seminoles were unable to handle. UW had two runners on base and no outs. A sacrifice fly from Noelle Hee plated another run.
By the time the Huskies were done batting they had a 3-0 lead against a stunned FSU squad.
But the Seminoles stormed back in the bottom of the inning when sophomore Anna Shelnutt hit a two-run homer. It was her second homer in two days.
The home run came one play after UW pitcher Taran Alvelo thought she had struck out Shelnutt and was walking toward the dugout before she saw it was called a ball.
Alvelo was back in a jam in the second inning when she put two runners on base. Freshman Elizabeth Mason hit a shot into right field that Trysten Melhart misplayed. Two runs scored, giving the Seminoles their first lead.
Gordon drove in another run to push the advantage to 5-3 after two innings.
In the fourth inning, Washington had two runners on base and two outs. Melhart hit a comebacker to King, who was unable to field it. That loaded the bases and was UW’s best chance to get something started.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, Kelly Burdick grounded out to second baseman Sherrill to end the inning.
Mason cranked out a two-run homer in the fourth inning, which knocked Alvelo out of the game.
“I feel like as softball players there are days you’re on and days you’re not,” Alvelo said. “It’s not like I felt like anything was off. I got emotional. It’s the championship series. I felt like I didn’t give my seniors the best chance to win that game.”
UW freshman Gabbie Plain entered the contest and promptly gave up a solo homer to Jessie Warren to put the contest away.
“Unfortunately I think we just kind of ran out of gas,” Tarr said. “Things happened this day because of things you get to do and you accomplish way beforehand. Whether that’s in your offseason or your fall time and that kind of stuff. So you wish you could have held the lead in those kind of things … It was lost before we could win it.”
Alvelo took the loss as she went 31/3 innings and allowed six earned runs on seven hits and struck out four.
King ended the night with a complete game and allowed five hits and one earned run.
According to the NCAA, King’s 0.21 ERA is lowest by any pitcher in the history of the WCWS.
While they didn’t end like they planned, the Huskies were still grateful for the experience of making it as far as they did.
“It’s been the most incredible journey,” Van Zee said. “Obviously we got to play in the national-championship series, something a lot of players can’t say. I feel blessed and lucky and I know Washington softball has so much more ahead of them.”