The Daily Nole

FSU Softball: Should Starting Pitchers Have Shorter Leashes in Supers?

Larry Novey/FSU athletics

Florida State advanced to a fifth straight Super Regional on Sunday by sweeping through the Tallahassee Regional, which was capped with consecutive wins over Georgia.

The Seminoles are in the midst of one of the best seasons in program history and are believed by many to be legitimate national championship contenders. FSU now turns its attention to LSU after going a perfect 3-0 in both the ACC Tournament and NCAA Regional in Tallahassee.

While FSU has been fueled of late by the home run ball and excellent starting pitching, there has been one noticeable spur that could catch up to the Seminoles sooner or later. That has been their trouble closing out games.

The combination of Meghan King and Jessica Burroughs is without a doubt the best in the ACC when it comes to pitching and probably one of the top 1-2 punches throughout the country. As the season wears on however, head coach Lonni Alameda may want to consider having a shorter leash with whichever one starts during the sixth and seventh innings.

Going back to the final of the ACC Championship against North Carolina, FSU has made contests far more interesting than they should have been. The Seminoles took a 4-0 lead into the final frame, but Burroughs allowed the Tar Heels to cut the lead to one on a 3-run home run by Katelyn Shifflett. King came in to get the final out of the contest, but had she come in sooner, the drama could have potentially been avoided.

FSU beat Georgia comfortably on Saturday, 7-1, but the Bulldogs scored their only run in the final frame. The following day, FSU took an 8-3 lead into the final inning against Georgia. The Bulldogs were able to plate a pair of runs and bring the tying run to the plate before Burroughs replaced King and induced a line out to start a double play.

The only contest of the last four where FSU did not allow a run in the final inning was the NCAA Tournament opener against Princeton. After Burroughs threw six shutout innings of 1-hit ball, King came in to pitch the seventh with FSU leading 3-0 and promptly retired the side.

That may be the approach that Florida State may want to take for the remainder of the NCAA Tournament. If a pitcher is rolling and they are left in the game, that’s one thing, but that was not the case against North Carolina in the ACC title game or in the regional finale against Georgia.

In the case with King against the Tar Heels or Burroughs against the Bulldogs, one mistake pitch could have resulted in a tie game. Going back to the final two games of the regular season at Oregon, FSU let late leads slip away in both and elected not to change pitchers as things started to crumble.

For a coach like Alameda, the fact that she has been to five straight Super Regionals and hopes for a third Women’s College World Series appearance in four years shows she knows what she’s doing. Given the recent trend of allowing games to get interesting late however, shortening the leash for the starter might be a worthwhile consideration.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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