Feb. 23, 2005
The No. 21 Florida State softball squad hits the road this week for the NFCA 10th Annual Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Georgia. The tournament is one of collegiate softballs most prestigious showdowns and it welcomes 24 of the top programs in the country. Seminoles.com sat down with Head Coach Dr. JoAnne Graf before practice and asked the 27-year head coach some questions about the team and the tournament.
Q: You went 3-0 through the first round of the Sunshine State Tournament and then fell to Syracuse 2-1 in bracket play. However, a lot of people would still say that last weekend was a maybe a turnaround for your team. How important was that turnaround knowing that you are gearing up for one of the top tournaments (10th Annual NFCA Leadoff Classic) this weekend?
A: I think it was very important. I feel like we played better as a team last week. I think you saw more enthusiasm. The players weren’t as worried about themselves, they focused more on the final score outcome. That’s always important. This time of year you want to see improvement every week, and I believe that’s what happened. So, now my main thing is that we need to keep improving. I don’t want us to take a step back…I want us to keep moving forward.
Q: This seems like a week that you can finally catch your breath and prepare for this weekend. How important is that to your team?
A: In softball you go game after game after game. You don’t get to really dwell on your losses and rarely do you have time to stop and take a breath. You don’t have as much time to fix things. So, I think this week will give us time to work on various parts of the game and work on live hitting and so forth. This will help us.
Q: People that have not attended the games, simply look at stats and wonder why NFCA All-American Casey Hunter already has four losses this year when she went 33-4 last season. Explain your take on Casey.
“…The pitching right now is not the problem, it’s our hitting and our defense.”
–Dr. JoAnne Graf
A: Casey is throwing fine, she threw as well this weekend as she’s ever thrown. The defense behind her is making the mistakes. We’re giving up some unearned runs that we shouldn’t be. You can’t be making mistakes like we have out in the field. We’ve made a couple key ones that have cost us some runs, and then our offense is not hitting well enough to make up for those runs. So, Casey is fine. I’m not worried about her at all and Tiffany (McDonald) is coming along. She’s still got some freshman in her and she’s learning. We don’t expect her to throw as well as Casey or a junior. The pitching right now is not the problem, it’s our hitting and our defense.
Q: How important is it to be invited to a tournament like the 10th Annual Leadoff Classic? I believe there are 24 of the top teams invited.
A: It’s a very big tournament because anytime you’re considered one of the elite teams in the country, it really sets your program apart. It helps you in recruiting and it helps you competition wise to get ready for the post-season. We’ll face really good teams so we’ll have to be ready.
Oklahoma was in the Women’s College World Series last year and they’ve won the national championship. They are a solid program year in and year out. They are going to be great competition for us.
Next in our pool is Michigan State that is in the Big 10 Conference. They are always strong and I haven’t looked at their wins and losses yet, but they always play a competitive schedule.
Lehigh is a team we know least about. We have never played them, but obviously, if they have been invited to this tournament then they are one of the top teams in their conference. I think they’ll be very, very competitive.
Q: Veronica Wootson suffered early in the season at the plate and then she came out strong at the Sunshine State Tournament and earned all-tournament honors. How do you think she’ll do at the Leadoff Classic?
A: I think she’ll do well. She had an early slump, and I’ll think she’ll be fine. It definitely solidifies our lineup and gets some spark in our lineup when she doing well…you could see that last week. I think with Veronica playing well, it will pick everyone else up and raise them a level, too.