The Daily Nole

FSU Softball: Freshmen Playing Key Role in Tournament Success

Colin Abbey/FSU athletics

Finding standouts for Florida State on the softball diamond hasn’t been difficult these last couple years. Earlier this month, FSU had an ACC-high six players named to the conference’s first team and another named to the second.

The Seminoles also took home four of the five major awards for the conference as FSU’s all-time home runs leader Jessie Warren was named ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Jessica Burroughs, a senior, was ACC Pitcher of the Year for a second year in a row while Lonni Alameda, the head coach, was ACC Coach of the Year.

The one honor that FSU did not win was ACC Freshman of the Year, which went to North Carolina’s Brittany Pickett. Of late however, a couple of freshmen have made big impacts for an FSU team that starts four seniors and two juniors.

Dani Morgan, a freshman outfielder, was named to the All-ACC freshman team, but during the ACC Tournament, Morgan outshined even the Seminoles’ brightest stars. Morgan was 6-for-8 during the tournament in Chapel Hill with two home runs and five RBIs in three games en route to being named the ACC Tournament MVP.

Morgan continued to swing a hot bat at the Tallahassee Regional, going 4-for-10 with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs. Since the end of the regular season, Morgan has raised her batting average by more than 29 points. She’s also hit three home runs after leaving the yard just twice during the regular season.

The biggest surprise during FSU’s recent run has been the play of Anna Shelnutt. During the regular season, the freshman was just 6-for-25 with a home run and six RBIs.

In the first game of the ACC Tournament alone, Shelnutt surpassed that production, hitting two home runs and driving in seven in one inning. Shelnutt notched a second multi-home run on Saturday in a 7-1 win over Georgia. Since the end of the regular season, Shelnutt is 7-for-17 with four home runs and 11 RBIs.

Shelnutt is a catcher and isn’t going to play over an All-ACC performer like Sydney Broderick. With the designated player rule however, Broderick has been used mostly in that role while Shelnutt has been used behind the plate. For much of the season, the Seminoles have started Zoe Casas and Cassidy Davis over Shelnutt. Regardless of how she’s used, her recent tear has proven that Shelnutt needs to be in the lineup.

After a run that ended in the semifinal round of the Women’s College World Series last year, another strong season for FSU was expected with virtually everyone coming back. While the Seminoles turn their focus to LSU and the Super Regional, all 2017 goals remain intact. Having stars like Warren, Alex Powers and Burroughs was cause for optimism from the get-go, but a couple of surging freshmen could be huge difference-makers down the stretch.

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

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