For the 28th time in program history, the Bruins have made it to the Women’s College World Series.
The first opponent for No. 3 seed UCLA softball (56-5) will be No. 6 seed Florida State (52-11) in the tournament opener Thursday.
Florida State finished the regular season with the best record in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 21-3 and competed in its sixth consecutive conference championship game. In the ACC tournament, the Seminoles were the last team standing and were crowned conference champions for the fifth year in a row.
To get to the world series, Florida State outlasted No. 11 seed LSU in a full three-game series.
Offensively, the Seminoles were led by Sydney Sherrill, Carsyn Gordon and Jessie Warren. All three were named to the 2018 National Fastpitch Coaches Association all-Southeast region teams. Florida State posted the second-best batting average in the ACC at .293 and led the conference with 361 runs scored, 62 home runs and 133 stolen bases.
“They are a team that likes to be aggressive early, but we are prepared for that,” said coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. “They’re fast and like to run and we know that, so our job is to be able to just play catch.”
The Seminoles also had two pitchers make the all-Southeast region teams: Meghan King and Kylee Hanson. Their batting average against is .173, the team ERA stands at 1.43 and it has 20 shutouts – all the best in the ACC. Hanson led the conference with 28 wins and an ERA of 1.05.
This marks the second time in three years when the Bruins and Seminoles have faced off in the opening game of the tournament. In 2016, the Seminoles beat the Bruins in an elimination game 8-4.
“We’re really excited to play against them,” said junior third baseman Brianna Tautalafua. “We still have a lot of players on the team from (the 2016 season) and hopefully we’ll give them the loss this time.”
The Bruins landed in Oklahoma City on Monday. Redshirt sophomore and USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Rachel Garcia said the team is keeping the mood light while keeping the same focus all season.
“This team has a lot of experience being (in the world series) and we’re trying to stay loose as a team and showing the freshmen around,” Garcia said. “But at the same time, we all have the same mindset and know that we are playing for something bigger than ourselves.”
Inouye-Perez said the team will continue to become acquainted with the weather and time difference during practices leading up to Thursday. The weather at game time is supposed to be in the 90s with a humidity of 62 percent.
“That’s why we got out here early, because it’s a lot different than what we’re use to playing in, but I’d always rather play in hot than in cold,” Inouye-Perez said. “The girls will continue to get stronger and more acclimated with it. We’re drinking a lot of water. We’ll be fine.”
UCLA and Florida State are in the second bracket of the world series along with No. 2 seed Florida and No. 7 seed Georgia.
The WCWS is divided into two brackets. UCLA, Florida State, Georgia and Florida populate bracket two. Bracket play is double elimination, and the teams that make it out of each bracket will face off in a three-game series to determine the champion.
If UCLA wins Thursday, it will play the winner of Florida and Georgia. If UCLA loses, it will play the loser of the that game.
Thursday’s game will be at 6:30 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ESPN2.