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College Softball

Local trio reflect on prolonged senior seasons in college softball

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The NCAA Women’s College World Series was supposed to start today. Three former area standouts — Aliyah Andrews (East Lake/LSU), Cassidy Davis (Newsome/FSU) and Shannon Saile (Land O’ Lakes/Oklahoma) — all played for contending teams.

Instead of possibly finishing their college careers on softball’s biggest stage, the trio are at home watching replays of past World Series games after their senior seasons were cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The NCAA is allowing athletes in spring sports another year of eligibility. Rosters will be expanded to accommodate the addition — and retention — of so many players, particularly incoming freshmen and seniors who were supposed to be departing. 

All three local stars said they planned on returning, though none had any idea what kind of scholarship money they would be receiving. For the past three months, they have been at home, ready for a redux of their senior season. 

Last week, Andrews, Davis and Saile talked about their reactions once the season was canceled and what they have been doing to stay focused on softball — mentally and physically — once they return. 

Aliyah Andrews
Photo credit (including feature above: LSU Athletics

OF Aliyah Andrews

High school: East Lake

College: LSU

Andrews was in class when LSU coach Beth Torina sent a text to the team informing them they were not going to travel to South Carolina for the opening SEC series. 

The season was initially going to be interrupted for two weeks to deal with the virus. So the Tigers practiced that day in March instead of traveling. That was when Andrews and her teammates found out the season was canceled.

“I was very hurt,” Andrews said of the NCAA’s decision. “A lot of times we say that softball is what we do not who we are. But at that moment it felt like it was me, and I was softball. I couldn’t imagine what I was about to do without it, and not knowing what the future had in store for us was even harder.”

Andrews had plenty of family support. Her older sister A.J. starred at Countryside and LSU and became the first female to win a Rawlings Gold Glove. Her younger sister Athena also played at East Lake and will continue her sophomore season at Florida A&M.

Still, the ones Andrews relied on heavily to cope with the abbreviated season were the LSU seniors she played with all those years.

“(My sisters) were helpful and compassionate knowing it was my senior season that ended prematurely,” Andrews said. “I really leaned on my fellow senior teammates, though, the most. Just having those people who are going through it and who know the feeling helped with putting my emotions altogether because we were all feeling the same way.”

Andrews makes due by hitting off a tee into a net or having her sister or mother toss a heavy ball or wiffle ball in the front yard. As for glovework, Andrews usually fields ground balls and fly balls in the street because the grass is too thick. In the past weeks, the Clearwater Bullets travel organization has given the Andrews sisters access to its facility so they can hit in the cages.   

Cassidy Davis
Photo credit: Perrone Ford

P/UTIL Cassidy Davis

High school: Newsome

College: FSU

Davis was in a meeting. The Seminoles’ trip to Duke had already been called off. Word soon spread about the possibility of the World Series being canceled, too. Moments later, Davis saw an announcement from the NCAA. She read it to her teammates. 

No more games. No more season. 

“I was devastated,” Davis said. “I cried for hours.”

Davis still watches replays of games at home but it is not the same. 

“I watch because I miss the game as a whole overall, but it definitely has a bittersweetness to it,” she said. “I know where we would be right now and l would give anything to be in the postseason with my teammates right now.”

Before the season ended, Davis was FSU’s leader in home runs (five) and RBIs (22). The powerful slugger takes her swings by hitting into a net at her family’s home. She also has kept in touch with teammates regarding workouts. 

“I’m really excited to get back, just to see my teammates, friends, and coaches,” Davis said. 

Photo credit: OU Athletics

P Shannon Saile

High school: Land O’ Lakes

College: Oklahoma

Saile was at practice, working on her riseball, when Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso delivered the news about the season abruptly ending. 

“I think we were all confused at first,” Saile said. “We thought we might be out for two weeks, then it became the whole season. I couldn’t believe it. We were shocked. I think it took a few for it to even settle in.”

There were some positives. Saile planned to still be on campus this school year to finish her degree. Now, she will be able to do it while continuing to play. 

To prepare, Saile works out with former Land O’ Lakes pitcher Callie Turner, now at Tennessee. They throw off a makeshift mound in an area neighborhood designed by Gators assistant coach Vinny Guarracino. The rubber is made from pieces of an old tire. Home plate is assembled from wood. 

There are other workout items Saile has at her disposal, all courtesy of the Sooners. She has body bands, medicine balls and jump ropes. Oklahoma even sent her a diamond kinetic ball that can track the velocity, as well as the spin rate and direction, on each pitch. 

“It’s been a difficult year, but I think this is going to be a blessing in disguise,” Saile said. “We were going to be pretty good. We have a shot at winning it all.” 

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College Softball

Softball: Four locals playing in Women’s College World Series

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The championship series of the Women’s College World Series features a quartet of local softball players (three from FSU and one from Oklahoma). Here are the four to follow.  

FSU

OF Cassidy Davis, Sr.

High School: Newsome

The redshirt senior, who has already won a state high school title and national title, decided to return after her senior season was cut short last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. A utility player who spent time as a pitcher throughout her college career, Davis became an outfielder this year. She had two homers in the Tallahassee Region finale against UCF, and had game-winning sacrifice fly outs against LSU in the Super Regional and Arizona in a College World Series elimination game. 

C Kaia LoPreste, Fr.

High School: Riverview

The redshirt freshman had an immediate impact with the Seminoles, appearing in 20 games during last year’s abbreviated season and hitting .304. This year she has a .227 average and two doubles. 

UTIL Elizabeth Mason, Sr.

High school: Gaither

One of the Seminoles’ most versatile players, Mason can play just about anywhere in the field. She played a critical role in FSU’s run to the national title in 2018. She has been a consistent producer on offense throughout her college career. In the playoffs, Mason has come up big, hitting a game-tying homer against LSU in the Super Regionals and blasting a three-run shot against Alabama in the deciding game to reach the World Series. 

Oklahoma

P Shannon Saile, Sr.

High school: Land O’ Lakes

Saile already made headlines by starting in game two of the Sooners’ Super Regional series with Washington that aired on ABC, the first nationally broadcast game in the sport. Saile helped Oklahoma advance and will likely pitch in at least one game in the College World Series. Saile helped Land O’ Lakes reach the state semifinals during her high school career and is trying to cap her college career with a national title.  

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College Softball

Shannon Saile has spotlight in history-making softball game

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Former Land O’ Lakes standout Shannon Saile had the spotlight when she took the mound in Saturday’s history-making moment in college softball. 

Saile, a redshirt senior, was named the starting pitcher for Oklahoma in game two of its Super Regional series against Washington. The game is being aired on ABC, the first time a college softball game has appeared on national television. 

A star initially at Florida International, Saile transferred to Oklahoma, where she compiled a combined 18-4 record and 215 strikeouts the past two seasons.

She decided to return to the Sooners once last season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

To prepare, Saile works out with former Land O’ Lakes pitcher Callie Turner, now at Tennessee. They throw off a makeshift mound in an area neighborhood designed by Gators assistant coach Vinny Guarracino. The rubber is made from pieces of an old tire. Home plate is assembled from wood. 

There are other workout items Saile has at her disposal, all courtesy of the Sooners. She has body bands, medicine balls and jump ropes. Oklahoma even sent her a diamond kinetic ball that can track the velocity, as well as the spin rate and direction, on each pitch. 

Saile (featured photo above courtesy of OU Athletics) spent the summer playing for the Bradenton Slice in the seven-team FGCL, the first league of its kind for college softball players. She was dominant, finishing first in strikeouts and third in ERA. 

This season, Saile is 16-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 116 strikeouts entering the second game of the Washington series. 

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College Softball

Softball: FSU-LSU Super Regional has plenty of local angles

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The Super Regional between FSU and LSU, which starts tonight, will feature plenty of familiar faces. Four former bay area softball standouts (three with the Seminoles and one with the Tigers) are expected to be in the starting lineup. Here are the four to keep an eye on. 

LSU

Photos courtesy of LSU Athletics

OF Aliyah Andrews, Sr.

High school: East Lake

The fifth-year senior, one of the country’s top players, will be playing professionally after being selected ninth overall in the Athletes Unlimited college draft two weeks ago. Her older sister, AJ, was a standout at Countryside and with the Tigers. In fact, there has been at least one Andrews sister in the outfield for LSU the past nine seasons. Aliyah currently is hitting a team-leading .370 with 19 RBIs and 27 stolen bases. But she known more for her acrobatic catches that often end up on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays.

FSU

Photo courtesy of FSU Athletics

OF Cassidy Davis, Sr.

High School: Newsome

The redshirt senior, who has already won a state high school title and national title, decided to return after her senior season was cut short last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. A utility player who spent time as a pitcher throughout her college career, Davis became an outfielder this year. She has nine home runs this season, including two in last week’s Tallahassee Region finale against UCF. 

Photo courtesy of FSU Athletics

C Kaia LoPreste, Fr.

High School: Riverview

The redshirt freshman had an immediate impact with the Seminoles, appearing in 20 games during last year’s abbreviated season and hitting .304. This year she has a .227 average and two doubles. 

Photo courtesy of FSU Athletics

UTIL Elizabeth Mason, Sr.

High school: Gaither

One of the Seminoles’ most versatile players, Mason can play just about anywhere in the field. She played a critical role in FSU’s run to the national title in 2018. She has been a consistent producer on offense throughout her college career and has nine doubles and seven home runs this season. 

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