OKLAHOMA CITY -- For a team facing a Monday morning checkout call at the Women's College World Series, it was not an optimal 15 hours for the Florida State Seminoles. They defeated Oklahoma State at 2:18 a.m. Sunday, arrived at the hotel at 2:45, and then a portion of the team had to be rustled out of bed early for 9:45 a.m. COVID-19 testing.
The forecast called for a minimal chance of rain and lightning -- the elements that forced their Saturday game to Sunday morning -- and then in the first inning of their game against Alabama on Sunday afternoon, lightning crackled in the distance again and the skies started to pour. The way the schedule was laid out, the Seminoles, if they won, would have to play Alabama again Sunday night, probably near midnight.
Then their luck changed. During the rain delay, the NCAA informed coach Lonni Alameda that if they beat Alabama, forcing a second "if necessary" semifinal Sunday, that game would be moved to Monday, along with the James Madison-Oklahoma semifinal.
Caylan Arnold and Kathryn Sandercock combined for a two-hitter, and Florida State snapped the Crimson Tide's 20-game winning streak in a 2-0 victory.
The schedule change moves the WCWS championship series to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
"If you're going to play the championship series, you don't want one team to come in with another day of rest over the other team," Matt Holmes, NCAA assistant director of championships and alliances, told ESPN. "You want both of those teams to play on the same day."
Earlier in the day, top-seeded Oklahoma stayed alive by beating James Madison 6-3. After that game, OU coach Patty Gasso took aim at the NCAA's decision to start the Florida State-Oklahoma State game Saturday night at 11:50, 30 minutes after her team beat UCLA. Gasso called the late contest "ridiculous."
"If we're about the welfare of the student-athlete -- that is what is being preached to all of us -- then do something," she said in a Zoom call with the media. "It wasn't fair for either team to sit around and wait that long."
When the NCAA's decision was announced over the P.A. after the Seminoles' victory Sunday night, it was met with a couple of boos. The crowd, for the most part, was expecting to see Oklahoma play James Madison again. But Patrick Dunn, assistant director of athletic communications for Oklahoma, said the team was "pretty excited" to get the extra rest.
It will mean, however, that James Madison ace Odicci Alexander will have more time to rest her arm.
James Madison and Oklahoma will meet for a third time this tournament on Monday at 4 p.m. ET (ESPN/ESPN App), while the Florida State-Alabama rematch will begin at 7 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN App).
Earlier Sunday, Gasso said that softball players generally don't complain about whatever schedule is thrown at them. But going to bed at 3 a.m. "completely throws off" rhythms of sleep, hydration and eating.
"I just would like to see what other championship does the same thing," she said. "And now you're starting to hear coaches talk about this. It's very uncomfortable when we are talking to our players about standing up for what is right. Yet what is happening around us is not right."
Holmes told ESPN he was aware of Gasso's comments, but that bracket integrity -- not Saturday night's events -- was the reason behind the schedule changes.
For Florida State, the weekend was a lesson in resiliency. Alameda laughed at the fact that her team was the subject of the hashtag #WCWSAfterDark. But she said she didn't want to do it again.
Six of the Seminoles took a power nap during the rain delay, which lasted more than two hours. Third baseman Sydney Sherrill, whose bases-loaded walk in the fifth inning broke a scoreless tie, said she was tired but wired, still riding adrenaline at 4 a.m. on Sunday.
Alameda said the team stayed true to its mantra Sunday night: Bend but don't break. She was ready to go to sleep. But like Gasso, she isn't done fighting.
"We've got a really good game," she said. "It's really exciting. I think from the viewership you see, people love fast pitch softball. And sometimes when you're playing until 3:00, 4:00 in the morning and getting back up, maybe we're not going to get the best game to put on TV.
"Having lived it now, I really want to be a part of bringing that discussion up, because I know in our sport, we'll play until all hours, we'll do what's ever needed because we're a blue-collar sport. But on the other side, when we've got something so great we've got to protect it and take care of it."