January 28, 2003 - by
2003 Seminole Softball Season Outlook

Jan. 28, 2003

Complete 2003 Outlook in PDF Format
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2003 General Outlook


NOTES
Florida State returns seven starters and 12 letterwinners
from the most successful team in the history of the
program.

The Seminoles have advanced to at least the NCAA
Regional finals in the last three seasons.



Graf’s take:


I think anytime you have a very successful season like we
had last year, it puts a lot of pressure on you the following
season. I think opponents really get up to play you but I
think our players really learned a lot last year on how to
handle that and I think they will be able to handle that this
year. I think it will make our team more ‘tournament tough’
and better in the postseason.


We’ll give everyone an opportunity to play and compete for
spots and see how it works out. I think our balance will be
a big asset. We have a strong bench and if anyone gets
injured they will be able to step in immediately. I think we
are deep with talent, probably more so than we have been
in the past. I feel really good and believe we will keep
improving throughout the season.


Returning to the World Series


NOTES
Only three schools have been to the Women’s College
World Series more times than Florida State and only five
have made more NCAA Regional appearances.


Dr. JoAnne Graf is one of only three coaches to lead a
team to the WCWS in three different decades.



Graf’s take:


I think these players now know how much fun it is getting
to the College World Series as well as what it takes to make it there. I think our run to Oklahoma City last year will turn
out to be a positive rather than seeing a letdown this year.
I really think it will make them hungrier. The kids are
working very hard and it is going to be a fun season.


I think we got a big confidence boost from what we
accomplished last year but it also points out the parity in
our sport. More than ever, on any given day any team can
beat anyone in the country. With as many one-run games as
we’ve played over the years, I believe there are a lot of
teams out there that could have done what we were able
to do had they been in the right place at the right time and
played well at the end. The gap is closing and it is going to
get tougher each and every year to get back to the World
Series, especially with the expansion of the NCAA
Tournament to 64 teams but it is a viable goal for us.


The ACC


NOTES
Florida State has won eight ACC Championships while
no other school in the conference has won the title
more than once.


After last year’s 6-0 conference record, FSU has now
won the ACC regular season title eight times in 11
years.



Graf’s take:


I think the kids really want to regain that ACC title. After
winning it eight times it has been a couple of years since
we won the title. Sometimes I think because the ACC
Title doesn’t carry an automatic NCAA bid, getting to
NCAA Regionals sometimes meant more to the team than
the conference crown. I think they are refocused on trying
to regain the ACC Championship. It is kind of exciting this
year because the ACC is so balanced and every team has
now won the championship. I think any team can win it
this year and they all have strong returning players. The
conference will be very tough this season.


At The Plate


NOTES
FSU returns its top three leaders for batting average, top
four run scorers, three of the top leaders for hits, its top
three doubles hitters, two of the top three triples hitters
and two of its top three home run hitters.


The Seminoles return a leader in every major statistical
hitting category from last season including average, runs
scored, hits, doubles, triples, and home runs.


Florida State returners scored 76% of the total runs
scored from last season.



Graf’s take:


Even though we lose players who accounted for 40% of
our RBIs in 2002, I think we have players who are going to
step up. We also have new players coming in that I am
confident will be able to step in and contribute. We expect
big things from our newcomers. We did lose some very
good players and some great players but I feel we have
done a good job of replacing them. It is just a matter of
getting the young kids some experience. Overall we were
fairly young last year and those players have been through
Division I ball now and they are going to be better this
year. I am excited about that.


We are going to utilize the talent we have. If we have kids
who can hit home runs obviously we are going to let them
do that. If we have to manufacture runs, we have the
speed and skill to do that. We have a lot of options
offensively to get runs on the board and support our
pitching staff. I think our young players from last season
are going to explode this year.

In The Circle


NOTES
Last season Jessica van der Linden and Casey Hunter
combined for a 20-6 record with three saves and an ERA
of 1.55. In 2002 van der Linden and Hunter appeared in
43 games, while pitching a combined 212.1 innings for
the Seminoles.


In her first two seasons with the Seminoles, van der
Linden has held opposing batters below a .200 batting
average. She has led the team the past two seasons
holding opponents to a .111 batting average in 2001 and
a .193 average her sophomore year. More than half of
van der Linden’s starts in 2002 were complete games.


Heading into 2003, van der Linden replaces Leslie
Malerich as the No. 1 starter in the Seminole rotation.
Malerich left Florida State as the all-time winningest
pitcher with 107 victories. But when comparing the two
in their first two seasons, van der Linden has the edge in
ERA with an impressive .123, .065 points lower then
Malerich’s combined .188 ERA in 1999 and 2000.



Graf’s take:


Leslie Malerich had an outstanding career and replacing her
is going to be very tough. She was so tough mentally and
we will miss that. Jessica van der Linden and Casey Hunter
have both had good falls and freshman Julie Hauck is still
learning. On top of that, junior college transfer Lesley
Palmer comes in and we need to see what she can do
because she has never pitched at this level. There is a little
bit of an element of the unknown with the two newcomers
but Jess and Casey will be ready to pick up the slack. That
said, there is no getting around the fact that we are going
to miss Leslie and we are going to have to be better as a
team to make up for that.


Jess is one of the most competitive people that we have on
the team. She has to stay tough though she plays ever game
and has done that for the last two years. That is one
concern considering she will be pitching more this year but
she is the type of athlete that will welcome that challenge.
We are also expecting Casey to make a tremendous leap
this spring. She has looked so much better this fall. It has
just been unbelievable. She is a type of pitcher that is
dominating and she will surprise a lot of people this year.







Behind The Plate


NOTES
Junior Elisa Vasquez enters 2003 as the projected starter
behind the plate. She started 25 games last season and
was the primary catcher for pitcher Jessica van der
Linden.


Last season, catcher Julie Jordan accumulated a perfect
1.000 fielding percentage, failing to make an error in 106
chances from behind the plate.



Graf’s take:


The catching position will be different losing someone as
dynamic and enthusiastic as Kimmy Carter. All three of our
catchers (BillieAnne Gay, Julie Jordan and Elisa Vasquez)
are quieter than Kimmy was and are going to have to lead
from a different perspective. They won’t be as vocal so
they will have to exude confidence and they have to give
their pitchers confidence. They will be different types of
catchers but I think they will have the same type of
authority.


Senior Leadership


NOTES
Brandi Stuart is the only four-year senior on the 2003
squad. Shandra Colzie, Shundra Colzie and Robyn Larson
all transferred to FSU as juniors. In 2001, FSU graduated
six seniors of which only one was a four-year Seminole.


This group of seniors combined to play in 29 games and
make 14 starts in the 2002 NCAA Regional and Women’s
College World Series.



Graf’s take:


It is going to be important for this group to lead since most
of them will be starting. Robyn Larson played a key role in
2002 as a back-up player who came in and helped get us to
the World Series. Both Shandra and Shundra Colzie got a
lot of playing time in their first season and then Brandi
Stuart has been a four-year starter. Those four seniors will
have a big impact. Even though only Brandi has been here
for four years, this group has experience and they are going
to be a great senior class. Brandi obviously had an
exceptional year last year, which resulted in 1st team All-American
honors and we hope she has the same type of
season in 2003 or better. I know that is going to be tough
for her because everyone knows her name now and we
saw that teams intentionally walked her more frequently
towards the end of the season. She is one of our co-captains
again this year and will be our senior leader in so
many ways. Brandi will be an important part of our success.


The Newcomers


NOTES
This year’s newcomers feature a Gatorade Player of the
Year, an NFCA/Louisville Slugger 1st team All-American,
several 1st team All-County, All-Conference, and All-State
members and a NJCAA 1st team All-American.


Five of FSU’s seven newcommers have been to the final
four in their state high school tournament and four have
gone on to win state championships.



Graf’s take:


They (the freshmen) are going to be very important to us
as a group. Natasha Jacob is going to step in right away and
play for us. She is going to be the biggest impact player of
the newcomers this season. Julie Hauck will probably need
this year to get herself up to the Division I level of play,
which is normal for a high school pitcher. BillieAnne Gay
will be our third-string catcher so we aren’t going to be
asking too much from her. Lesley Palmer is another
newcomer who could make an immediate impact. She is a
big, strong player who is intimidating in the infield. She has
matured a lot and will be ready to contribute and has the
potential to be the type of hitter Monique Marier was. She
can give us a long ball threat. The players we need to contribute this year will do a good job and the other
members of our freshman class will have time to adjust to
the college game.



The Coaching Staff


NOTES
The Seminole coaching staff has been named the best in
the southeast region for two straight years by Speedline
and the NFCA.



Graf’s take:


We have a new pitching coach this year and I think Eve
(Gaw) has done a wonderful job since arriving here in the
fall. We are excited she is at Florida State. She has national
team caliber and World Series experience. The pitchers
have responded very well to her enthusiasm. She is very
energetic. She knows the game and more importantly she
loves the game. She has been a good addition to our staff.
I feel we have a very strong staff going into this season and
a very strong team. This is going to be a fun year.

Schedule Strength


NOTES
The Seminoles will play 14 teams that qualified for the
NCAA Regionals in 2002 with six of those games being
played at the Seminole Softball Complex. They will face
College World Series runner-up Arizona at the
prestigious KIA Klassic in a rematch of last year’s WCWS
semi-final game.


Florida State will participate in seven tournaments that
feature 30 teams that played in the 2002 NCAA
Regionals and six teams that went to the 2002 College
World Series.


The 2003 Seminoles will play in what are widely
considered the two best collegiate tournaments in
softball. After finishing in a tie for third at the 2002 Kia
Klassic, the Seminoles will make a return visit to one of
the nation’s premiere tournaments. The team will also
return to the NFCA Leadoff Classic after a two-year
absence.



Graf’s take:


I think we have an even tougher schedule this year with the
addition of the NFCA Leadoff Classic, which is one of the
top tournaments in the country. That’s what I like. I like to
play tough teams. Maybe our win/loss record won’t be as
good as if we padded our schedule but I think it pays of at
crunch time because our kids have seen that caliber of
team before.


We play some of our toughest games of the year early in
the season but that tells us what we have to work with and
gets us ready for the conference battles and the
postseason. If we do well against those tough out-of-conference
teams, it will strengthen our case to make
NCAA Regionals for the fourth straight year.

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