Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Florida State Profile: Quietly Loaded, 'Noles Could Surprise

General Overview/2016 Recap: Lonni Alameda's Seminoles began the 2016 in unspectacular fashion, taking a loss to Illinois in the season-opening tournament and ending their chances at a perfect season. They won five of their first six, including a victory over defending Big East champs St. John's.

Slugging first baseman Alex Powers enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2016,
and looks to build on that success in her senior year. (Photo: FSU
Athletic Communications)
In the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, back-to-back losses to Michigan were lightened a bit by competitive play by both teams, as well as a duo of victories over the Big Ten's perennial "second banana" Minnesota in another matchup of top-25 teams.

After the losses to Michigan, the 'Noles went on a twenty-two game winning streak, including into the start of conference play.

A victory over future Women's College World Series foe UCLA began a successful West Coast trip for the Seminoles, as did four consecutive run-rule victories on that same road trip, including a shutout over the defending Big West conference champs CSU-Northridge.

Three-game sweeps over Syracuse and North Carolina successfully began conference play for the Noles, followed by a one-and-one split at Notre Dame in another battle of ranked opponents.

The Noles lost just two conference games all season, and did not lose a single conference series through the course of the year, including a loss to Louisville in the season-ending conference series.

An in-state rivalry home-and-home series against the Gators from Gainesville did not turn out well for the Noles, as they dropped both games, including a rain-rescheduled eventual 1-0 loss in twelve registered innings in the first of the games. A double-header split against another SEC foe in the Auburn Tigers provided some style points for the Noles in a mid-season matchup.

The Noles made quick work of the opposition in the ACC tournament, disposing of Pittsburgh in a run-rule, shutout victory and besting North Carolina and Notre Dame thereafter en route to yet another conference title.

Hosting a regional as the #7 seed nationally, the Noles once again made quick work of the opposition, dispatching Florida A&M and South Carolina in consecutive shutout victories before disposing of the Gamecocks in a close 2-1 matchup to clinch the regional victory crown.

Once again hosting a Super Regional, Alameda's club kept their hot streak going, besting the PAC-12's Utah in two games in another matchup of ranked opponents; yet another shutout win clinched the Noles' appearance in Oklahoma City.

A close loss to Georgia opened the Noles' WCWS stand in disappointing fashion, putting the squad's backs against the wall quickly. A dominant victory over UCLA and a somewhat-surprising victory in a pitching duel over Michigan put the Noles in the World Series semifinals. Their season came to an end there, however, in an extra-innings tilt against Auburn.

Around the Horn in 2016: (reflects departed players)
P – Jessica Burroughs; Meghan King
C – Sydney Broderick
1B – Alex Powers
2B – Ellie Cooper
3B – Jessica Warren
SS – Cali Harrod
LF – (Alex Kossoff)
CF – Morgan Klaevemann
RF – Carsyn Gordon
DP – Zoe Casas
Jessica  Burroughs will lead the FSU pitching
staff in 2017, her senior season.
Carrying the Clipboards: Lonni Alameda, an Oklahoma grad, has more than made her mark in less than a decade leading the charge in Tallahassee. Going into her ninth season at the program's helm, Alameda is the conference's Coach of the Year four years running and has to be the perennial favorite for the award going into the 2017 season. She has led her squad to two Women's College World Series appearances in the past three seasons and has led her program to the NCAA tournament every season since she took the reins. A pitching coach prior to joining the head ranks, and still in charge of the pitching staff as the head honcho, Alameda has seen no shortage of talent come through her program in the circle, including Burroughs and King, who will spin the ball for the 'Noles in 2017.

Travis Wilson and Craig Snider (not to be confused with former Major League Baseball players Travis Snider and Craig Wilson) are the offensive brains behind the 'Noles' powerhouse batting order. It is to Wilson and Snider that a lot of the credit belongs for FSU's breakout offense over the last several seasons. Players like Courtney Senas blossomed under the duo's tutelage and Senas herself went on to play in the professional league. Powers put up solid, if unspectacular, numbers in the first couple of seasons of her career, as she recovered from multiple knee injuries and surgeries, but broke out in a mighty way a season ago with her all-American campaign that saw her hit .396 and sixteen home runs.The 2016 freshman class immediately thrived under Wilson and Snider's guidance, including Gordon; Casas; and Harrod, who hit an average of .286 between them with fourteen home runs and 106 RBI.

Additions: The Noles' freshman class includes a sextet of players, including native Floridian Cassidy Davis who chose FSU over Alabama and Stanford; Georgia's Dani Morgan, who also rejected offers from Alabama and Michigan. The remainder of the newcomers are: Anna Shelnutt; Sydney Bates; Elizabeth Mason; and Leslie Farris.
Subtractions: Outfielder Alex Kossoff was the only senior starter to say good-bye following last season, though the Noles also said sayonara to former ace first baseman and outfielder Victoria East and catcher Macey Cheatham also graduated. 2015 ACC All-Tournament Team member Victoria Daddis is also conspicuously absent from the 2017 roster, apparently telling the program good-bye with a season of eligibility remaining.

Scheduling: *This article will be updated when the team's regular-season schedule is released.

As part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Tallahassee will play host to the B1G's Nebraska and Northwestern, as well as conference compatriot Pittsburgh, foir a group of games in mid-February.

The Seminoles will participate in the Mary Nutter Classic's second weekend of games and will face off against fellow 2016 World Series participants UCLA and Michigan, as well as Arizona; Texas A&M; Stanford; and San Diego State.

The conference slate will include visits to Virginia Tech; Louisville; and Virginia, as well as hosting series' versus Notre Dame; North Carolina; and Pittsburgh, the latter a full three-game set outside of the afore-mentioned early-season conference Challenge. 

The classic home-and-home series with the Gators from Gainesville will continue, with one game between the two teams hosted in Gainesville and the second in Tallahassee.

Potential Strengths/Weaknesses ---
Strengths – With the vast majority of their offensive playmakers from a year ago returning in '17, Alameda doesn't have to do much tinkering with her lineup and can rely on the same big playmakers to help keep her offense on a consistently-high plateau. In the circle, Alameda returns her top two pitchers from a season ago and can again rely on veteran experience to shut down opposing hitters.

Weaknesses – The Seminoles play in possibly the weakest Power Five conference, which will help the Noles' win-loss record, but may hurt them when it comes time to face the "big boys" in the postseason. Meghan King showed some serious bouts of being in-over-her-head in Oklahoma City, so she will need to buckle down and show she can compete against even the biggest competition on the biggest stage. The biggest issue facing the Noles is not to get too complacent; returning virtually the same lineup and the same primary pitching staff, it is easy to fall into the trap of just keeping on keeping on. Instead, the Noles need to make sure they are consistently getting even better if they are to, in fact, contend for the national title.

Outlook for 2017: The Noles return the bevy of their offensive stars from a season ago, including all-American Alex Powers. Quietly packed nearly from top to bottom in their bottom order, and with two quality hurlers in the circle in the fellow all-American Burroughs and King, Alameda's club has an opportunity to rocket to the top and challenge for a national title.

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