Florida State redshirt freshman infielder Devyn Flaherty left no regrets on the diamond.
"It was the most fun I've ever had in my life," Flaherty said.
She's talking about the Seminoles run to the Women's College World Series. Flaherty, a former Riverview High softball player, helped FSU recover from an early ACC Tournament elimination at the hands of Duke University to make a run all the way to the sport's championship series June 8-10 against the University of Oklahoma. The Seminoles would lose the three-game series 2-1, but Flaherty said the experience of being in Oklahoma City for the event was unlike anything she had experienced — not just because of the wins themselves, though those were plenty fun, but because of the context of the sport's landscape heading into the season's final weeks.
Florida State was not supposed to get as far as it did. The Seminoles had ups and downs in their schedule, and while their pitching was strong, their offense occasionally struggled. Of the Seminoles' ingrained starters, Flaherty was the team's second-leading hitter with a .281 average. She also had two home runs, a triple, 15 doubles and 22 RBIs on her way to being named to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team. She also had a .946 fielding percentage.
Flaherty's numbers look strong to me, but when asked what she thought of her season, Flaherty's thoughts were mixed. The Seminoles hit just 47 home runs in 63 games. Flaherty said it was not what the Seminoles or their fans are used to seeing; FSU typically overwhelms opponents with power at the plate. A mid-season meeting helped reset the team's thinking, she said. If FSU wasn't going to hit home runs, it would have to score in other ways. Flaherty said the Seminoles all agreed to hit for the benefit of the team, scrapping together singles and other hits to push across as many runs as possible. It worked during the regular season, though the sport's pundits were skeptical about how it would work in the NCAA Tournament.
Well, it worked pretty darn well. The Seminoles went 9-1 in the NCAA Tournament before the Oklahoma series, beating their opponents by an average score of 3.4-1.9. They scrapped and clawed their way to victories, just like they said they would.
"We look at social media, you know?" Flaherty said. "We see the softball gurus and their predictions but we don't let it affect us. It just adds more fuel to our fire. In the end, it wasn't just one of us [who got clutch hits when needed]. Every game had a different hero. It was us against everyone."
As a result, Flaherty is conflicted about her personal season. Sure, she would have liked to hit a few more extra-base hits, but would she trade a trip to the WCWS for them? Absolutely not. Flaherty said proving people wrong was satisfying. Plus, having a goal to hit for more power gives her something to strive to achieve in the build-up to next season.
She's not wasting any time in that effort. I talked to Flaherty on Tuesday afternoon as she was driving to Sarasota from Tallahassee. She'll be playing for the Bradenton Lynx in the Florida Gulf Coast League, like she did in 2020, and her team's first game was Wednesday at the Miss Sarasota Softball Complex.
"It's a quick turnaround, but I'm ready," Flaherty said.
She's playing in the league again for a few reasons. She felt like it helped to get reps off live pitching last summer instead of hitting the batting cages by herself. Plus, she had a time with that group of players, she said.
Of course, playing at Miss Sarasota is nothing compared to playing in front of thousands in the WCWS. But her chance to do that again will come soon enough. I wouldn't bet against the Seminoles winning the whole thing next time, either.
A full FGCL softball schedule can be found at fgclsoftball.com.