Jan. 26, 2005
Around The Horn-
Following is the first in a series of weekly notes and quotes on Seminoles.com examining each Florida State softball player, position-by-position. Twice a week until the season opens on Feb. 9, we’ll preview a different position. Today: General Outlook and Pitchers
As head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf enters her 27th season at Florida State, it will mark the beginning of a new era–the post Jessica van der Linden show. After losing the USA Softball National Player of the Year and the Honda Award winner for softball, along with two other outstanding seniors, Graf will feature a much different look in 2005.
The senior class of van der Linden, Beth Wade and Elisa Vasquez led the school to 221 victories (.800 winning percentage), two Women’s College World Series (WCWS) appearances, two ACC Championships, two NCAA Regional championships, and four straight NCAA tournament berths.
The Tribe is coming off arguably the best season in the program’s history that saw FSU ending 2004 with a 62-12 record, a Top 5 national ranking, and its seventh trip to the Women’s College World Series (WCWS).
Florida State returns seven of nine starters, including four NFCA All-Southeast Region selections, from a team that won the 2004 ERA Title and set team records for homeruns, RBIs, runs scored and walks. In the circle, they set a new strikeout record as well.
ACCORDING TO COACH GRAF:
“I think this is going to be a good year for us even though we still have a lot of questions. The girls came back from the holidays in great shape, and they really worked hard during the fall. Obviously we lost a good senior class of not only Jessica van der Linden, but Beth Wade and Elisa Vasquez as well. All three were starters throughout their careers. Pitching is going to be the big question. Not to put too much pressure on Casey Hunter, but our team will perform how she performs. I think we have a lot of quickness and speed on defense…that was our biggest positive from the fall. If our batting and pitching comes around, I foresee us having a successful year. It should be exciting.”
The Seminole’s top pitching ace, senior Casey Hunter, finished with a 33-4 record and the nation’s third-lowest ERA in 2004. She is among the best in the country and is continuing to establish herself as one of the all-time Seminole greats in the circle.
Last year’s pitching staff won the 2004 ERA Title.
In three seasons, Hunter has yet to allow anyone to hit a triple against her.
Hunter hurled four no hitters in 2004 and has five in her career.
Hunter was named a second team NFCA All-American last year. With her win over Eastern Michigan to end the regular season, she notched her 30th victory of the season and became just the sixth pitcher ever at FSU to record 30 or more wins in a season.
Hunter finished eighth in the NCAA for wins with 33 and third in the nation with a 0.63 ERA. She is the first FSU pitcher since Toni Gutierrez in 1992 to put together back-to-back sub 1.00 ERA seasons.
ACCORDING TO COACH GRAF:
“Casey Hunter is one of the best pitchers in the country and she will be our main go-to player and our pitching will focus on her. Our season will rely on her arm and how she performs in the circle. Our freshman Tiffany McDonald also joins the rotation. She had a preseason injury and seems to be recovering well, but we’ll have to see how she progresses as we get closer to the season. Sophomore Amy Harrison is back and she has been pitching well. We’ll use her in relief situations. The three of them give us different options and will combine to be a positive aspect of our defense.”
ASSISTANT COACH/PITCHING Megan Matthews Buning ON FSU’S STAFF:
“I think that all three of my pitchers look very good. Casey Hunter is definitely going to be our workhorse this year. She has picked up a changeup which is going to be very beneficial to her arsenal. She throws a good curve and is improving on her rise ball. She picked up speed on her screw ball, as well. She has the mental toughness to be a dominant pitcher in this game. I expect a huge year out of her.
“Our freshman Tiffany McDonald will likely be our No. 2 pitcher and she has come a long way already. She basically had to learn to re-pitch because of an arm injury she sustained this summer. Tiffany looks awesome. She got her fastball back up to speed and she has a changeup. Tiffany has improved the trainers did a really good job getting her back from her injury. I’m excited to see what she can do in the circle for us this year.
“Amy has improved a lot from what I’ve heard from last year and she feels better about herself. She played behind two All-Americans and learned from the best, so if she can keep that mental edge and competitive spirit for us whether it’s a start or relief duties, she’ll be a good team player. She knows her role and always puts forth effort daily in practice.”