June 18, 2003
A RICH TRADITION
When Florida State was invited as an at-large team to participate in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, it marked the 16th time in 22 years the Seminoles advanced to tournament play. It was the fourth straight year the Tribe has played in the NCAA Tournament and the 11th time in the last 13 years. Florida State is sixth all-time in NCAA Regional appearances. Florida State’s all-time record in NCAA Regionals in 29-22 for a .569 winning percentage.
BACK ON TOP
After a two-year hiatus, the 2003 Florida State softball team returned to its rightful place atop the ACC after capturing the regular season and tournament titles. The Seminoles have now won the conference title nine times in 12 years on top of capturing the regular season title 10 times. Florida State swept through the 2003 tournament in impresive fashion. The Tribe went 3-0 and outscored the opposition 25-6 on the way to the title. FSU hit .357 for the weekend, homered six times and registered nine extra base hits. The Tribe set four ACC Championhip records and tied three others. Lesley Palmer set a new ACC Tournament record with three HR’s as she homered in each game. Florida State doubled the home run record for the tournament with six, Palmer herself tied the record. The Tribe also tied marks for runs in an inning (7), RBIs in the tourney (21) and consecutive wins (3).
TOP DOG IN THE SOUTH
With it’s No. 2 seed, 27-game winning streak and ACC Title in hand, FSU finished off the 2003 regular season firmly entrenched as the No. 1 team in the south region. The Seminoles posted a 26-1 record against south region opponents and the only loss came in the second game of the season as the Tribe finished with a 25 game winning streak in the region. Not only did the Seminoles rack-up when it came to wins but they also dominated statistically. In 27 regional games, FSU outscored its opponents 160-21. The team batted .312 and finished with a team ERA of 0.65. Five everyday starters batted over .300 and two batted over .400. The team hit .312 and the staff held opposing hitters to a miniscule .130 average. The Tribe also allowed only 12 stolen bases in 28 attempts.
The 2003 Seminoles may have fallen a little short of their goal of reaching the College World Series for a second straight year but FSU was well represented at the WCWS banquet. When Louisville Slugger and the NFCA released it’s All-America selections for 2003, three Seminoles were included on the list. Jessica van der Linden was a first team selection as a utility player, Brandi Stuart was a second teamer at second base and Elisa Vasquez was named the third team catcher. The three kids from California made Seminole history becoming the first FSU trio to ever garner Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-American honors in the same year. Van der Linden is just the fourth first team All-American in FSU history and she is the second consecutive first team selection following Brandi Stuart, who was named to the second team in 2002. Stuart is the fifth Seminole to garner All-America honors in back-to-back seasons. Vasquez was named an All-American for the first time in her career and is the first-ever Seminole to be named All-America at the catcher position.
STREAKIN’ TO NO. 1
With FSU’s sweep of the ACC Softball Championship, the Tribe extended the longest win streak in Division I softball in 2003 to 27 consecutive victories. The longest win streak did belong to National Champion UCLA who won 24 straight games from February 1 to March 8 and ended with a 1-0 loss to DePaul. During FSU’s streak, the second longest in school history, the Tribe has won four extra inning games, run-ruled six opponents, pitched a shutout in 15 of the 27 games, out homered its opponents 16 to 1 and outscored its opponents 156-22.
FARING WELL AGAINST THE FIELD
Despite having games rained out versus Arizona State and potential meetings against ranked teams at the NFCA Leadoff Classic, the Tribe ended up playing a pretty difficult regular season schedule when it comes to NCAA Tournament teams. Florida State played 19 games versus 15 NCAA Regional teams and posted an 11-8 record in those games. On top of that, they outscored those opponents 61-33. Eight of FSU’s nine regular season losses in 2003 came against teams in the 2003 NCAA Tournament including No. 1 national seed Arizona and FSU finished the regular season winning its last eight games versus teams that made the tournament. The worst loss FSU experienced against a tournament team was 3-0 at the hands of College World Series participant Louisiana-Lafayette. The only two other times FSU was shutout by a tourney team during the regular seasom were 2-0 losses to Arizona and Region 4 opponent Oregon State.
Just as one would expect, National Player of the Year finalist Jessica van der Linden led the team with a .311 average, 16 hits, 21 walks, a .529 on base percentage and a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage against that group during the regular season. Her 21 walks were nearly double the 11 walks Tatiana George had accumulated, which is second on the team. Van der Linden was also 5-3 in the circle with 80 strikeouts and a 6 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio. Although sophomore Casey Hunter wss just 5-6 in these games, her record doesn’t even come close to doing her justice. The Millstadt, IL native’s 0.81 ERA and .153 opponent’s batting average were closer to telling the tale of how she has pitched against FSU’s best competition. Elisa Vasquez had also been huge in big games against the Tribe’s opponents who qualified for regionals. She led the squad with 11 RBIs, a triple and nine runs scored and she was second with 15 hits, two home runs, 25 total bases and a .490 slugging percentage.
WE RATE WITH THE NCAA
Florida State once again stacked up favorably against the nation’s top programs statistically speaking. In the final NCAA stats, only National Champion UCLA and No. 8 DePaul finished the year ranked higher than FSU in winning percentage, batting average, ERA, and scoring in Division I softball. The Tribe’s ptching staff was also dominant in 2003. The Seminole staff ranked fourth in the NCAA with a 0.86 ERA. This marks the second time in three yeas the FSU staff has finished a season amongst the top four staffs in the nation and only FSU and UCLA have placed in the top four for ERA twice in the last three years. Florida State didn’t just get the job done in the circle. The Tribe is among the nation’s best at the plate also. FSU ended up 15th in DI softball in batting average and and 17th in scoring. The only teams in America with a lower ERA and better offense (runs scored and batting average) than FSU were UCLA and DePaul. The Tribe not only had an amazing statistical season as a team but individually also. Most impressively, sophomore Casey Hunter finished fifth in the nation with a 0.67 ERA and she was joined by Jessica van der Linden who ranked 16th. FSU was the only team in the nation to have two pitchers in the Top 16 in ERA. That isn’t the only place the Seminole hurlers show up either. Hunter finished 14th in DI softball with her .833 winning percentage and van der Linden ranked sixth with 9.8 strikeouts per seven innings. Van der Linden was also amongst the nation’s best hitters as she was 29th with a .412 batting average. No player in DI softball had a higher batting average and lower ERA than van der Linden did in 2003. All-American Brandi Stuart ended up among the best base stealers in America as she ranked eighth in DI softball. Florida State is one of only two schools (UGA) to boast three different players (van der Linden, Hunter and Stuart) placing in the top 10 in at least three different statistical categories.
DOMINATING THE COAST
For the third time in 12 years, Florida State left the annual ACC Awards Banquet with Player of the Year and Coach of the Year trophies in hand. Junior Jessica van der Linden was named the 2003 ACC Player of the Year becoming the first ACC player ever to win rookie of the year honors and then win player of the year honors as a junior. She is the fifth player in conference history to win both awards. Head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf was named ACC Coach of the Year for the fifth time in her career as she led the Seminoles to the conference’s first-ever 8-0 record. Five other Seminoles were named to the All-ACC team marking the third year in a row FSU led the conference in All-ACC selections and the seventh time in 12 years.
Sophomores Casey Hunter and Tatiana George, juniors Elisa Vasquez and van der Linden and senior Brandi Stuart were all named All-ACC selections. Stuart’s selection was the fourth of her career and she is the first Seminole to ever garner conference honors all four years of her career. This is the third straight honor for van der Linden and the first ever All-ACC award for George, Hunter and Vasquez. Florida State now leads the conference with 51 all-time All-ACC selections.
WALK THE WALK
One of themost amazing stats concerning the 2003 team was its stats concerning walks and strike outs. The 2003 squad tied the walk record set by the 2002 team with 327 free passes. While that is a staggering number whats more amazing is the fact that last year’s team played 18 fewer games. The 2003 Seminoles easily set the record for the most walks per game with over 4.1. That is a walk a game ahead of the 2002 team’s record setting pace. If last year’s team had played as many games they would have shattered the record and ended up with approximately 312 walks. While the 2003 team drew as many walks as the 2002 squad, they were much better when it came to strike outs. The 2003 team K’ed 142 fewer times and averaged one less strike out per game. No Seminole team ever hit for a higher average, drew more walks and struck out fewer times than the 2003 team did. If you add in the third-most home runs in program history with 22, it is easy to see why the 2003 team re-captured the ACC title and advanced to the program’s 16th NCAA Regional.
CERRITOS, AN ALL-AMERICAN CITY
Senior Brandi Stuart and junior Jessica van der Linden, former Cerritos High teammates, both had monster careers for FSU, whih resulted in the teammates becoming the first-ever back-to-back 1st team All-Americans in FSU history. In 2002, the two combined to hit .363 and slug .553. Together they accounted for 153 hits, 23 doubles, 12 triples, 11 home runs, 80 RBIs, 233 total bases and 86 walks. No tandem in FSU history has ever combined for more total bases, walks and slugged for a higher percentage than Stuart and van der Linden did in 2002, that was until 2003 rolled around. The pair were even more impressive in 2003 as they combined to hit .370 and slugged .560. They lead the team in 13 offensive categories and were first and second in five statistical categories. They scored 81 runs, had 24 doubles, 177 total bases, six triples and 70 RBIs. Together they also drew 85 walks and struck out just 36 times in 316 at bats.
FOUR ON THE FLOOR
Jessica van der Linden spent half of the 2003 season hitting above .500 and three quarters of the year in the .450 neighborhood. While she didn’t end up setting the FSU single season record for batting average, she did accomplish something pretty special. The first team All-American became just the fourth Seminole in almost 20 years to finish the season with an average above .400 and she finished second all-time by hitting .412. Coming into 2003, the ACC Player of the Year had a career average of .324, 88 points below her 2003 numbers.