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(Photo by Tony Quinn, theACC.com)
Waldrop, Gomez star as Seminoles defeat Fighting Irish in final
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (theACC.com) – After a two-year absence, the Atlantic Coast Conference Softball Championship trophy returned to Tallahassee.
ACC Pitcher of the Year Lacey Waldrop pitched a three-hitter, and tournament MVP Celeste Gomez delivered a tie-breaking single in the bottom of the fourth as top-seeded Florida State edged No. 2 seed Notre Dame, 3-1, in Saturday afternoon’s title game.
The Seminoles (50-6) earned the ACC’s automatic qualifying spot in the upcoming NCAA Championship while claiming their 12 overall conference title and first since 2011. Notre Dame (39-11) remains in good position for an NCAA at-large bid following a solid season in its first year as an ACC member.
“We won (the ACC championship) my first year here, and we’ve been trying to get it back ever since,” said Gomez, a catcher from Lake City, Fla. “To do it in my senior year is pretty awesome.”
FSU will take a 12-game winning streak into NCAA Championship play.
“You always want everything to peak at the right time – hitting, pitching, defense – but that is tough to do over the course of a 60-game season,” sixth-year head coach Lonni Alameda said. “This team really is a family. I know that gets thrown out there a lot. But we have great leadership from our seniors and our juniors, and we don’t let the little things bother us. They do a great job of keeping this team focused on the big picture.”
The nationally fourth-ranked Seminoles grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom the first when ACC Player of the Year Maddie O’Brien sent a two-out, 0-1 pitch from Laura Winter (27-5) over the wall in dead center for her third home run of the tournament and her 23rd of the season.
Waldrop (33-4) retired the first 11 Notre Dame batters before Emilee Koerner lined a two-out double down the right field line in the top of the fourth. Katey Haus followed with a single up the middle that plated Koerner and tied the score at 1-1.
But the Seminoles regained their edge in the bottom of the fourth. Following a leadoff walk to O’Brien, back-to-back two-out singles by Bailey Schinella and Gomez put Florida State back in front. Courtney Senas followed with a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the fifth – her second of the tournament and 13th of the season – for the final 3-1 margin.
After yielding the two hits and Notre Dame’s lone run in the fourth, Waldrop sat down the next seven Irish hitters in succession until Koerner led off the seventh inning with a base hit to center. But Waldrop then retired the next three batters to seal the decision.
In earning the win, Waldrop struck out seven and did not walk a batter. She outdueled fellow All-ACC first-teamer Winter, who also turned in a strong outing on Saturday. The San Diego senior allowed just five hits while walking two and striking out four.
Korener, who finished 2-for-3 at the plate, was the only player on either team with more than one hit on Saturday.
The 2014 ACC Softball Championship All-Tournament Team:
Celeste Gomez Florida State (MVP)
Maddie O'Brien Florida State
Laura Winter Notre Dame
Lacey Waldrop Florida State
Aquilla Mateen North Carolina
Tiffani Brown Florida State
Katey Smith Virginia Tech
Kendra Lynch North Carolina
Kelly Hensley Florida State
Karley Wester Notre Dame
Danielle Chitkowski Syracuse