Softball: No. 8 Florida State poses tough test


Pitt’s softball team might give validity to the saying “things get worse before they get better.” 

After losing five straight games, the Panthers will face one of their toughest opponents of the season when the No. 8 Florida State Seminoles roll into Vartabedian Field for a conference doubleheader today. The first game is scheduled for 2 p.m., with the following contest slated for a 4 p.m. start.

The Panthers, though, are not afraid.

“We are going to come out firing on all cylinders like we have been trying to do with every one of our opponents,” redshirt sophomore second baseman Maggie Sevilla said. “At the end of the day, the ranking doesn’t matter because the team who decides to perform the best will win.”

Pitt needs a win not only to fix their current slump, but to gain some points in the fight to make the ACC tournament. 

Going into today’s games, the Panthers (13-22, 4-12 ACC) will have played eight conference games in a row. During this eight game stretch, though, Pitt has picked up only one win, a 2-0 victory against Boston College on April 6. Pitt lost that three-game weekend series and was swept by Virginia Tech later in a midweek doubleheader. The Panthers also fell this past weekend when Syracuse swept them in a three-game series at home.

Junior outfielder Carly Thea has a simple explanation to remedy the struggles. “We need to come together as a team, which we will, to get ourselves in a position to win,” she said.

Though Florida State is one of the country’s premier teams, the Seminoles are also looking to bounce back after a rough week. 

Florida State (39-6, 16-3 ACC) had its 17-game win streak snapped this past Wednesday when it faced in-state rival No. 2 Florida at home in Tallahassee, Fla. Over the weekend, the Seminoles started a series against No. 25 Notre Dame in which the Fighting Irish rallied from behind in the bottom of the sixth to win game one 8-5. The Seminoles stole game two by plating four runs in the final three innings to beat Notre Dame 9-7.

Overall, Florida State has been a strong team. The Seminoles were voted as preseason favorite, and currently are at the top of the ACC leaderboard for points and in individual categories. 

Redshirt junior shortstop Maddie O’Brien, a two-time ACC All-Tournament team member, has been a star by leading the conference with a .448 batting average. Of her 60 hits, O’Brien has mashed 18 home runs and collected 67 RBI.

Junior pitcher Savannah King said she doesn’t allow herself to become overwhelmed with the opponent, partly because of her approach and partly because of her performance on Feb. 9 against then No. 2 Oklahoma.

“I approach each hitter pitch by pitch. I cannot allow myself to get overwhelmed [because we] faced the reigning NCAA champions and lost a one-hit game,” King said of Pitt’s 2-1 loss, which Oklahoma won with its only hit being a two-run home run.

Preseason first-team ACC pitcher Lacey Waldrop is also having a stellar season. The right-handed junior has 26 wins — more than the Panthers have as a team — and an ERA of 0.87. Waldrop also has struck out 210 batters.

Sevilla, who has nine home runs and leads the Panthers in extra base hits, will face Waldrop with a focused mentality at the plate. 

“The keys are to control what we can control individually and as a team,” Sevilla said. “Keeping our focus on the pitch and play at hand will be essential to our success.”

Pitt will look to Sevilla and a scorching veteran hitter in Thea, who is batting a team-high .383 — more than 100 points higher than her closest teammate — to lead the team.  Thea said she has high hopes that Pitt will come away victorious tomorrow. 

“The key points for our success is playing together, keeping our bats and defense going and backing-up our pitchers by being aggressive at the plate and fielding clean for easy outs, while coming up with the big plays and big hits when we need a change of pace,” she said. 

Even if it seems like the Panthers are in for a real challenge today, Thea rests assured that she can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the team. 

“We just need to continue to move forward, learning from our mistakes and continuing with the good we have been doing,” she said. “Keeping our heads high even when things aren’t going the way we want because if we can do that, we will succeed.”