FSU softball's Kaley Mudge dons name, number of friend, late USF infielder Alexis Buchman (2024)

Thirty-three is not Kaley Mudge's jersey number, but it'll be a part of her forever.

Florida State softball's lead-off hitter usually dons No. 6.

But against Notre Dame on Friday, for the first night of Players Weekend, she wore former USF infielder Alexis Buchman's number, along with her name across her shoulders.

Buchman, a childhood friend of Mudge's, died in February after a two-year battle with brain cancer, stunning the college softball world.

Mudge and Buchman played together for the Hatters Gold 16U, a travel softball team out of the Tampa Bay area.

"She was just an amazing human and an amazing teammate," Mudge said. "She's just one of those teammates that you really enjoyed being around and made you enjoy going to the field. She was just such a friendly face."

Honoring Buchman, Mudge had a dominant performance on Friday night going 2-for-3 and tripling in the first inning.

Her single in the fourth inning brought in the game-tying run, eventually leading to a three-run homer from Kalei Harding, which opened the floodgates to a 6-2 win over Notre Dame in front of 1,812 fans at JoAnn Graf Stadium.

'She always had a smile on her face'

In 2021 Buchman was diagnosed with brain cancer, something that Mudge said she can't remember when she first heard about it because she was so numb in the moment.

She was in shock that something like this could happen to someone who was just 19 years old. But Mudge wanted to do whatever she could to support her.

That same feeling echoed throughout the FSU roster as former Seminole infielder Bethany Keen was also close to Buchman.

Keen played just one season in Tallahassee, in 2023, transferring from USF and playing with Buchman.

"When she [Buchman] was diagnosed, I think we were all a part of it in the softball community," FSU head coach Lonni Alameda said. "But then the people that really, truly knew her stayed through the course with her of fundraising, battling and wishes."

Mudge constantly FaceTimed with Buchman and mentioned how strong she was throughout her treatments. She said Buchman had a resilient attitude and you couldn't tell she was struggling.

"She always had a smile on her face whether she was feeling pain or not," Mudge said. "I'll always remember that about her and post-diagnosis how strong she was and in her battle."

However, Mudge began to notice that things were digressing.

She was in constant contact with Keen, who said things weren't looking good. Mudge said when she'd text Buchman she felt that things were off.

Despite seeing things worsen, Mudge said that line of communication between her and Buchman during those final months "meant the world to her."

"Just having that open communication throughout the last couple of years has always meant the world to me," Mudge said. "Just being connected on that side."

Honoring Buchman in 'the greatest way'

FSU softball's Kaley Mudge dons name, number of friend, late USF infielder Alexis Buchman (2)

On February 15th, after FSU defeated No. 9 Stanford in the Clearwater Invitational, Mudge got back on the team bus and opened her phone to see a text from Keen.

"Hey, can you call me right after the game?"

Keen told Mudge that Buchman had passed away.

While it was a hard moment, being in the same where they grew up playing softball together when she heard the news, Mudge said she was grateful that Keen had reached out to her to tell her.

"If I would have found out opening my Instagram or Twitter that would have been a lot harder for me to process than, BK [Keen] telling me face to face or over the phone," Mudge said.

"I got to see BK [Keen] the next day at the UCLA game. It was just a good moment for us to comfort each other."

With Buchman passing away in the middle of the softball season, it's been hard for Mudge to process everything.

Buchman's memorial service was held the same weekend FSU hosted NC State, and while Mudge's friends and family told her of the outpouring of support there was, Mudge still wanted to honor her friend.

When players' weekend came around, Mudge asked FSU softball equipment manager Frankie Grizzle-Malgrat and her coaches if she could change her number to 33 for the weekend to honor Buchman.

It was an easy "ok" by the FSU staff.

Honoring Buchman is something Mudge is excited about and something that will allow her to "get a little bit of closure."

"Having this weekend getting to honor her wearing her number will just definitely be the greatest way to remember her," Mudge said. "I know that she is always with me but especially this weekend.

"I think it'll give me a good amount of closure."

Buchman has been gone for nearly two months now, but the memories of who she was will stay with Mudge forever. Most significantly, her smile.

"I know that's so vague but I can just picture her smile," Musge said. "I don't ever really remember seeing her pout or being sad while playing with her. I just remember her smile and how much she enjoyed being around people."

Jack Williams covers Florida State athletics for Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him via email at jwilliams@tallahassee.com oron X@jackgwilliams.

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Kaley Mudge honors friend, USF softball player Alexis Buchman for Players Weekend

FSU softball's Kaley Mudge dons name, number of friend, late USF infielder Alexis Buchman (2024)


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