Jahni Kerr moved up in the batter’s box and showed better patience, watching two balls before swinging on the belt-high pitch that she wanted.
The adjustments that the Florida State outfielder made in her third at-bat against Florida pitcher Elizabeth Hightower paid off. Kerr launched a solo home run to right-center field in walk-off fashion, the first of her collegiate career and seventh overall.
The seventh-inning homer lifted the No. 3 Seminoles (46-5, 16-5 ACC) to a thrilling 2-1 win over the No. 10 Gators (38-14, 13-11 SEC) on Wednesday in front of 1,764 fans, the fifth-largest crowd in Seminole Softball Complex history.
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“It was very exciting and electric,” Kerr said. “Looking at the dugout, rounding the bases and looking at the coach on third, it was a great feeling.”
With the win, FSU completed a season sweep of Florida for the first time under head coach Lonni Alameda and since 2006. Last month, the Seminoles defeated the Gators on the road in a 5-4 effort that lasted 10 innings.
FSU also completed its perfect run in non-conference play this season, boasting a 30-0 record in such games. The Seminoles extended their winning streak to eight, which includes six consecutive victories over ranked teams.
“There’s something special with this team,” Alameda said. “I honestly can’t put my finger on it right now. Every time people ask, I’m like, ‘I don’t know what we are.’ And that’s really cool.
“We’ve won games base running. We’ve done it defensively. We’ve done it with pitching. We’ve done it late. We stay in it. We stay in the fight. So there are some really special things going on with this team right now.
“What a great position to be in going into the postseason and the last series of our ACC (play).”
The bigger the stage, the better FSU seems to be. The Seminoles improved to 14-2 against ranked opponents and 14-0 in nationally televised games. And they keep winning games in a variety of ways.
In its last three games alone, FSU has defeated Oklahoma State twice and Florida by the same score, 2-1, and in a thrilling way. The Seminoles won their first game against the Cowboys last Thursday after third baseman Sydney Sherrill scored a walk-off run on a throwing error to home in the ninth inning. Last Friday, pinch hitter Chloe Culp offered the go-ahead homer in the sixth.
Against the Gators, Kerr was the hero. Her walk-off homer added to a long list of memorable moments that FSU has experienced this season.
“We know it’s going to be somebody,” Kerr said. “It doesn’t have to be the same person every time. So that trust, that environment that we create, the culture, the family and all of that kind of stuff, we are easily relying on each other.”
Kathryn Sandercock adds 25th win
FSU starting pitcher Kathryn Sandercock (25-1) added another win to her nearly unblemished resume this season.
Sandercock lasted all seven innings while only surrendering one run on two hits, a pair of walks and a hit by pitch. First baseman Avery Goelz produced Florida’s lone run on a groundout to second base in the second.
With runners in scoring position, the Gators went 0 of 3.
“I thought Kat was outstanding,” Alameda said. “I think the strike zone was changing. I was commentating, and (ESPNU analyst) Amanda Scarborough was like, ‘What’s going on with Kat?’ And I’m like, ‘She has a really good strike zone.’ And then the next inning, it was not. And I’m like, ‘Dang it. Why did I say that?’
“But she handled it well and walked out there, ‘Who cares?’ She kept going after some really good hitters, threw some really good pitches and executed a really good game today.”
Sydney Sherrill tallies 200th career RBI
It’s fitting that Sherrill’s 200th career RBI came on a double.
FSU’s career leader in doubles added her 77th in the third inning, which scored outfielder Kaley Mudge from first base. Sherrill marks just the third Seminole to ever reach 200 RBIs, joining Jessie Warren (273) and Maddie O’Brien (216).
To begin Wednesday, Sherrill saw the professional multi-sport league Athletes Unlimited draft her in its softball draft. She will have the option to participate in the league after her five-year FSU career concludes next m.
“We are going to miss that girl,” Alameda said. “She’s pretty incredible.”
FSU will close out the regular season with a three-game series at NC State (33-19, 7-14 ACC) this weekend. The first (5 p.m. Friday) and third (noon Sunday) games between the Seminoles and Wolfpack can be seen on ACC Network. ACC Network Extra will broadcast the second game, which begins at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Seminoles will then travel to Pittsburgh for the ACC Tournament, which begins next Wednesday.
Reach Carter Karels at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @CarterKarels.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: FSU softball defeats Florida on walk-off homer from Jahni Kerr