Meghan King tossed a complete game shutout, backed by a solo homer from batterymate Anna Shelnutt, and #6 Florida State took Game 1 of the WCWS Championship Series over #5 Washington.
Game 2 of the series is Tuesday at 5 p.m. Pacific on ESPN. FSU would clinch the national championship with a win, while a Washington win would force Game 3 on Wednesday at 5:30 (also on ESPN).
King (25-6) scattered 5 hits over 7 scoreless innings, walking 2 and striking out 6. That handed a tough-luck loss to Gabbie Plain (22-5), who nearly matched King’s line except for the single run: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R (1 ER), 3 BB, 6 K. Neither King or Plain were at their absolute best and had to work out of multiple jams. A few scoring chances for each team, but neither could do anything with runners on.
Morgan Klaevemann led off T3 with a single, then went to third on a stolen base and a bad throw from Emma Helm. Normally a groundball pitcher, Plain used her rise ball to induce popups from both Elizabeth Mason and Jessie Warren, then went up again to get Carsyn Gordon swinging.
UW's first threat came in B3. Trysten Melhart reached on an infield single, then moved to second on a sac bunt by Kelly Burdick. Taylor Van Zee chopped a ball past King that seemed destined for center field, but a quick reaction and stab by Cali Harrod at shortstop kept it on the infield. Melhart moved to third, but would have scored easily if that ball had reached the outfield.
Instead, after Sis Bates was hit by a pitch to load the bases, King followed in Plain's footsteps, using her rise ball to strike out both DePonte and Thomas.
The only run of the game came off the bat of Shelnutt leading off the 6th. Plain fell behind her 3-0, then left a 3-1 pitch medium-away. Shelnutt hit one to deep left-center that just eluded Burdick, who leaped over the short wall but still came up a couple feet short of bringing the ball back.
Washington had a threat in the bottom of the 7th turned away, mostly due to an amazing play by Warren at third. After Taryn Atlee led off with a single, Melhart tried to put down a sac bunt, but popped it up. Warren charged in all the way from shallow third to make a diving catch at full extension in front of the pitching circle. With Atlee trying to move on the pitch, Warren had plenty of time to get off the ground and double Atlee up by throwing to first.
Burdick would then reach on an infield single, although she nearly ran herself into the third when she thought the ball had been thrown away. She rounded first, but Gordon threw the ball too quickly to Sherrill at second, and the return throw to first wasn’t quite in time to get her out. After a lengthy at-bat, Van Zee hit a grounder back to the mound, and King tossed it to Gordon at first to seal a 1-0 series lead for the Seminoles.
Look at Game 2
With Plain pitching a complete game, but also not being at her best, it seems pretty clear that the Huskies will go to Taran Alvelo for game 2. Plain definitely could still pitch in relief, but it would be shocking to see Alvelo not get the first chance to win this game.
The bigger question is for FSU. King has now thrown more than 30 straight innings without allowing an earned run after blanking the Huskies on Monday. Co-ace Kylee Hanson should be more rested after not pitching at all yesterday, but has not been pitching nearly as well as King in Oklahoma City. Would FSU Head Coach Lonnie Alameda dare ride the hot hand of King for the fourth straight day, in an attempt to end the series and avoid the potential randomness of a winner-take-all game Wednesday? Or will she go with her co-ace Hanson, knowing that she can go back to King with a day’s rest for the finale if needed?