Jessica Warren had an impressive softball resume at Alonso High: first-team, all-conference selection all four years (2011-14); All-America honoree; .605 average with 10 home runs as a senior.
But that did little to get the attention of most major Division I colleges. Michigan showed some interest. Florida State, though, was the only one that offered a scholarship.
"Thank God they did," Warren said. "It was my dream school."
Few players have done more with an opportunity than Warren has in her first two seasons with the Seminoles.
Last year, the third baseman led FSU in eight statistical categories and was named ACC freshman of the year. This year, she has hit a team-leading 18 home runs, her latest a two-run blast this past weekend that helped the Seminoles beat Utah 3-0 and advance to the College World Series for the second time in three seasons.
"Jessica's success is pretty remarkable for what she's been able to do in just two years in college," Alonso coach Robin Kopp said. "But really, it's not that surprising. She is such a tremendously gifted softball player. I know she's the best that I've ever coached."
For Warren, there was no pressure adapting to big-time college softball, especially after being confronted with other challenging obstacles during her athletic career.
She started off as a pitcher and infielder in Little League baseball. One of her teammates growing up was Alex Faedo, now a starting pitcher at the University of Florida.
After playing baseball for 10 years, Warren decided to switch to softball when she turned 13.
"I knew I wasn't going pro in baseball," Warren said. "There were so many more opportunities in softball to play in college and beyond."
Warren shrugged off the initial rejections from college. Once FSU came through with a scholarship, she accepted. Warren had her signing day ceremony with Faedo, who still is a close friend.
To play in college — and have it fully paid for — was important to Warren. She grew up living with 11 family members at one point.
"There were some tough times, but we were able to get through it," Warren said. "Getting a scholarship wasn't my sole focus or the reason I kept playing sport. I just love the sport. It's just truly a blessing to be able to keep playing and have my education paid for at the same time."
About the only thing Warren was unable to do at Alonso was lead the program to a deep playoff run. In her four years, the Ravens made the playoffs three times but never got past the region semifinals.
This year, Alonso finally broke through with a charmed playoff run that culminated with the school's first state championship game appearance.
"I kept track of the team's whole run through the playoffs," Warren said. "I sent texts to the coaches and the girls wishing them luck."
Warren has done her part to help the Seminoles make it this far, hitting a combined 37 home runs and 131 RBIs her first two seasons. After falling short last year, FSU finally is back on college softball's biggest stage.
"It's such a tremendous feeling to get to this point in the season," Warren said. "There was a lot of hard work to get to this point, not just for myself but for all the girls on the team."
Contact Bob Putnam at [email protected] Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.