Florida St. tops Alabama; rematch to determine WCWS finalist

Florida State pitcher Kathryn Sandercock delivers against Alabama in the seventh inning of an NCAA Women’s College World Series softball game, Sunday, June 6, 2021, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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Posted June 7, 2021 | By Cliff Brunt, AP Sports Writer

Florida State pitcher Kathryn Sandercock delivers against Alabama in the seventh inning of an NCAA Women’s College World Series softball game, Sunday in Oklahoma City. [AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki]

OKLAHOMA CITY — Caylan Arnold and Kathryn Sandercock combined for a shutout and Florida State beat Alabama 2-0 on Sunday in a Women’s College World Series semifinal.

Alabama was unbeaten in the double-elimination format and Florida State had a loss, so Florida State’s victory forced a winner-take-all rematch to determine who will play in the best-of-three championship series.

Because of a weather delay that pushed Sunday’s game back 2 1/2 hours shortly after it started, the NCAA pushed the deciding game from Sunday to Monday.

Top-seeded Oklahoma will play unseeded James Madison in the other semifinal Monday. The Sooners beat the Dukes 6-3 earlier Sunday, avenging a loss Thursday. Their winner-take-all game also was moved back to Monday. The championship series was moved back a day and will begin Tuesday.

Third-seeded Alabama (52-8) reached the semifinals on the strength of two dynamic performances by pitcher Montana Fouts. Lexi Kilfoyl stepped in on Sunday and pitched admirably, but it wasn’t enough as Alabama’s 20-game win streak was snapped.

Alabama coach Patrick Murphy simply said Kilfoyl gave his team a chance to win. She did — she gave up two runs and struck out nine.

Florida State coach Lonni Alameda wasn’t sure which way Murphy would go.

“I don’t know what they were thinking on that, but I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference with the two of them,” Alameda said. “I know Montana has been lights out for them. But I know Kilfoyl is good, too. And she kept them right in that ball game.”

The 10th-seeded Seminoles (47-11-1) beat Arizona on Saturday afternoon, then played until after 2 a.m. on Sunday to eliminate Oklahoma State because a weather delay pushed an earlier game back. The Seminoles were back on the field 13 hours later, then faced the delay on Sunday.

“It was definitely different, but we came here to play softball and we wanted to play last night,” Florida State infielder Sydney Sherrill said. “We fought and we won the game (against Oklahoma State), and we were just excited to have another day of games. And then this game obviously getting delayed was another hiccup, but we work through that stuff all year.”

Even with the craziness, the Seminoles found enough to win.

“It’s been a grind,” Florida State coach Lonni Alameda said. “A lot of us don’t know what day or time it is and we’re just rolling. And with that rain delay … we bend but we don’t break. It’s been a mantra all season.”

Alabama’s best chance to score came in the fifth inning. Maddie Morgan singled with one out, then advanced to second on a passed ball. Alabama’s Taylor Clark was hit in the helmet so hard by Arnold’s pitch that it knocked her helmet off and left the bill cracked. Florida State escaped without allowing a run.

Florida State loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth for Sherrill. On a full count, Sherrill walked to score Dani Morgan for the game’s first run. The Seminoles left the bases loaded and scored just once in the inning.

Dani Morgan tripled with two outs in the sixth, then Josie Muffley singled to score Morgan and make it 2-0.

Sandercock, who entered the game in the fifth in relief, got the win. Arnold gave up two hits in 4 2/3 innings and Sandercock threw 2 1/3 innings of perfect relief.

“Pitchers were lights out today and held them off,” Sherrill said. “We’ve had that duo all year, pitchers holding them off, figuring out ways to score. We did that this game. And it’s awesome to have that stability on the pitching mound knowing that they can hold us off and we’ll figure out ways to score.”

Alabama would have been fine with playing again Sunday night.

“Honestly, we could go right now,” Kilfoyl said after the game. “And I think that we would have — that kind of lit a spark. We’d have enough to fight back. But I guess tomorrow, it does help because we’re getting a day of rest and we get to regroup and come out tomorrow fresh and come at them.”

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