OKLAHOMA CITY — KATHRYN Sandercock regarded up into the night time sky and dabbed tears from her eyes moments after main Florida State to a decisive win over Tennessee within the semifinal of the Ladies’s Faculty World Sequence on Monday. Then she stood there, in a kind of euphoric daze, grinning, as she waited for an on-field interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe.
Lawyer Milloy, the recognizable former All-Professional NFL security and father of Tennessee star middle fielder Kiki Milloy, helped snap her out of it, shouting from the stands to congratulate her on a job effectively completed. Greatness acknowledges greatness, even when it hurts. And the senior from Virginia had really been nice, throwing three dazzling innings by which she allowed no runs and just one hit.
Sandercock was overwhelmed, she mentioned, with gratitude for her school, for her coach, for her staff. There was additionally a way of aid that her profession, which is in its fifth yr, wasn’t over. It was a dream come true to know that the subsequent and last step could be the championship sequence in opposition to Oklahoma on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
When Florida State coach Lonnie Alameda completed her on-field interview, she turned to see Sandercock close by. She determined Rowe might wait as she pulled Sandercock in for an extended hug, whispering one thing in her ear.
Alameda was requested by a reporter later what she mentioned, in addition to what Sandercock has meant to this system. That is when her eyes began watering, too. “Yeah,” she mentioned, “tears will begin flowing right here.”
Alameda smiled as she thought again to a dialog she had with Sandercock earlier than the season. That is when she laid out her plan that ideally would produce the most effective model of Kathryn Sandercock and the most effective model of Florida State.
But it surely was borderline counterintuitive. As a result of to get the place Alameda wished the staff to be — to make a deep run within the WCWS and have an opportunity at successful this system’s first title since 2018 — she’d need to function her All-American and the undisputed ace of the workers much less.
“Once I offered that to her,” Alameda recalled, “it meant so much much less begins, so much much less innings, so much much less comfy conditions.”
To her credit score, Sandercock mentioned she’d do it. However Alameda noticed how she struggled this season, adjusting to a brand new position as half starter, half lengthy reliever, half nearer and full-time chief.
It took time for all of these items to come back collectively, which is why what occurred in opposition to Tennessee mattered a lot. What Sandercock did, popping out of the bullpen to shut out the sport, wasn’t simple, Alameda mentioned, not to mention with a spot within the championship sequence on the road.
“The whole lot we thought could be,” Alameda mentioned, “is exhibiting up.”
TO UNDERSTAND HOW Florida State bought right here, return to 2021 and the final time the Seminoles have been in Oklahoma Metropolis. That is when Sandercock threw all eight video games of the World Sequence, 31⅓ innings in all.
In Recreation 1 of the championship sequence, she notched a save in a win over Oklahoma.
In Recreation 2, she regarded gassed and was touched up for 5 runs in a loss.
And in Recreation 3, by the point she got here on within the third inning, it was already too late because the Sooners had constructed up a 5-1 lead and cruised to the primary of its back-to-back nationwide championships.
That season, solely 4 pitchers began video games for FSU.
This season, that quantity is six.
Seven complete pitchers have made appearances getting into Recreation 1 of the best-of-three sequence, which is three greater than the Sooners.
Whereas Alameda does not fancy herself a stat geek, she understands how analytics work and developments for the previous decade favor hitters. They’ve a lot extra data and video at their disposal now, she mentioned. And remember the advances in know-how. Alameda introduced up the Hack Assault pitching machine which may replicate principally any pitch.
“The extra you get the chance to see pitchers and their tendencies, the extra changes you can also make with the nice hitting coaches we now have in our recreation,” she mentioned. “We on the pitching aspect and the defensive aspect have to determine methods to reduce the momentum of groups, and it’s important to actually work out the totally different appears to be like … and attempt to discover other ways to beat sure hitters.”
Alameda cited Oklahoma’s Jayda Coleman and Haley Lee, who’ve mixed for 31 dwelling runs this season.
“So it’s important to work out, how will we get these hitters out?” she mentioned. “Do we now have that arsenal in our bullpen to have the ability to do this? I feel technique turns into a play. You have seen it an increasing number of in our recreation and never overexposing individuals like Kat in sure conditions so then we will usher in an increase ball, drop ball and changeup.”
Following the Tampa Bay Rays for instance, Alameda fostered a deep bullpen. With an array of pitchers, she’s then in a position to hunt matchups primarily based on what the analytics say a couple of hitters’ weaknesses.
And, extra broadly talking, fewer innings pitched by an ace like Sandercock over the course of the season go away her feeling recent when the video games matter most.
A yr in the past, Sandercock pitched 194⅓ innings when the Seminoles have been eradicated in regional play. Getting into postseason play, she totaled simply 150 innings.
Through the NCAA event, Sandercock is 5-0 with two saves. In 35 complete innings pitched, she’s given up simply three earned runs.
“She’s such a aggressive pitcher,” Oklahoma shortstop Grace Lyons mentioned. “I feel we have seen lots of aggressive pitchers this yr, however she has a very cool manner she pitches. She does lots of various things and retains hitters on edge.”
FLORIDA STATE CATCHER Michaela Edenfield could not consider the identify for it.
“Pitching the roster?” she mentioned.
No, that is not it.
“Pitching by committee,” she mentioned. “there we go.”
No matter you name it — whether or not it rolls off the tongue or not — it is working for the Seminoles.
Mack Leonard began Monday’s semifinal and allowed one run in two innings. She handed off to Makenna Reid, a standout freshman who has an 0.89 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 78⅓ innings. And she or he gave up one hit in two scoreless frames.
Boston College switch Ali DuBois and Arizona State switch Allison Royalty have mixed for a 2.35 ERA in 116⅓ innings pitched.
However there isn’t any mistaking who the top of the Seminoles’ roster is.
When Alameda offered her plan to Sandercock earlier than the season, she mentioned, “Kat wished to be the chief of the pitching workers.”
It was a far cry from the standoffish freshman Alameda remembered from 5 years in the past. That lady saved her nostril in books and will go days with out speaking to anybody.
However now, not solely has she grown right into a extra numerous position as a pitcher, however she’s additionally grown into an instance that youthful gamers can observe.
“Now, she’s taking management of a staff,” Alameda mentioned. “She has that sass strolling off the sphere, tremendous assured in who she is. You get happy with her as an individual, too. She’s in a position to lead these youthful pitchers in these moments.”
Like within the regionals, when Florida State turned to her in an elimination recreation in opposition to South Carolina. All Sandercock did was throw her first good recreation since highschool in a 1-0 win — on solely 59 pitches.
There is not any questioning Sandercock’s worth. She’s appeared in 47 video games, with 24 begins, a report of 28-3 and a program-record 10 saves. She was named ACC Pitcher of the 12 months and was lately named staff MVP, Alameda mentioned.
Alameda mentioned Sandercock was given the staff MVP award lately.
“You’ll be able to see why,” she mentioned. “She brings everyone collectively.”
Put extra pointedly, Alameda mentioned, “We might not be right here with out her.”
Sandercock mentioned there have been lots of robust conversations and “rising moments” between her and Alameda by way of the years. However she’s grateful for all of it.
“She’s remodeled me into the pitcher I’m at present,” she mentioned.
Which is why that hug on Monday night time mattered a lot. It wasn’t nearly Alameda recognizing Sandercock’s development this season, however relatively her evolution over the course of a complete profession.
Alameda mentioned her message to Sandercock at that second was easy.
“I am so happy with you,” she mentioned.