May 7, 2006
COLLEGE PARK, Md. –
With the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament four days away, the Florida State University softball team has found the perfect time to get its offense going. The Seminoles pounded out double-digit hits for the third time in four games and used a five-run fifth inning to beat Maryland 8-4 in their series finale on Sunday (May 7).
Florida State upped its league record to .500 as it improved to 10-10 with an overall record of 38-25. Maryland dropped to 32-25, 7-13 in the ACC.
“We’re hitting the ball really well right now and that will complement our pitching and our defense,” FSU head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf said. “The kids are getting some confidence and we’re making things happen. When you get base runners on you can execute plays so it’s a lot of fun.”
Collecting the victory was FSU starter Tiffany McDonald (Belfair, Wash.) as she improved 24-15 by throwing her ACC-best 31st complete game. The sophomore righty gave up four runs on four hits with nine strikeouts and three walks. Maryland starter Crystal Crews took the loss, dropping her to 17-11.
“The offense really stepped it up and we played solid defense today to,” McDonald said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in my teammates so if the other team is hitting me; it’s good to know that my teammates are there for me. When you make a mistake you have to forget about it and anytime I do I try even harder the next inning.”
For the fifth game in a row, and the third against Maryland, the Seminoles opened the game with a run in the top of the first inning. Left fielder Natasha Jacob (Coppell, Texas) led off with an infield single before beating out a thrown to second on a sacrifice bunt by designated hitter Whitney Buckmon (Stone Mountain, Ga.).
Jacob wasn’t as fortunate at third as she was cut down on a bunt by shortstop Yuruby Alicart (Maracay, Venezuela), but FSU got runners on second and third when Buckmon and Alicart pulled off the double steal. The first run came across as second baseman Veronica Wootson (Fontana, Calif.) lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to score Buckmon.
Back-to-back singles by right fielder LaShaun Davis (Marietta, Ga.) and Jacob started the fourth then Buckmon followed with another sacrifice to put runners on second and third. Alicart came through with a line drive just deep enough to center field to score Davis.
“When the speed gets on we can do so many things,” Graf added. “Our speed beat out a lot of plays and we were really running well. Our speed gave us a lot of opportunities this weekend and was the reason we scored a lot of runs.”
Florida State may have dodged a bullet in the fourth that kept the momentum from swinging to the Terrapins. After Keri Ubrun doubled to the gap in left field, Nikki Smith lifted a ball to the wall in center field. The ball hit the top of the fence and caromed back into the field instead of going over the wall for a home to tie the game as Smith was held to a double. McDonald rebounded with a strikeout to end the threat.
The Seminoles used that good fortune in the fourth to produce five in runs in the fifth to break the game open. Center fielder Carly Brieske (Safety Harbor, Fla.), Davis and Jacob put together three-straight singles to load the bases. Alicart poked single just past the UM shortstop to score Brieske.
The Terrapins almost got out of the inning with only one run given up after Buckmon struck out and Davis was thrown out at home on Wootson’s grounder, but catcher Melissa Wood (Lilburn, Ga.) delivered a two-out double that cleared the bases as Jacob, Alicart and Wootson came around to score. First baseman Brittany Osmon (San Diego, Calif.) delivered a double to plate pinch runner Robyn Petrovich (Plantation, Fla.) to make it a 7-1 game.
Maryland pulled to within 7-4 when Keri Lounge hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth. The Seminoles got a break in the sixth when they tacked on an insurance run. Davis ripped a two-out triple and Jacob appeared to be out on a grounder to the first basemen, but when Lindsay Klein went to apply the tag, the ball popped out of her glove, allowing Davis to score the final run.
“When your leadoff hitter gets on everyone relaxes so when Natasha is playing well it affects the whole team,” Grad added. “When she gets on it gives us so many different opportunities to score. Whitney can sacrifice her over, she can steal, we can slap, it’s just a great option to have.”
For the third game of the series, Jacob led the way with a 3-for-4 performance as she upped her batting average to .389, the second-best rate in the ACC, while increasing her season total to a career-best 82 hits to rank her eighth on the FSU annuals. The All-America candidate moved past Virginia’s Kristen Dennis for seventh in ACC history at 259 hits and she added a stolen base to move into ninth on the league chart at 67 swipes to also move her past Leslie Barton on the Seminole list. Jacob also moved up two spots on the FSU career at-bat charts into seventh at 754.
“I feel a little bit more relaxed at the plate,” Jacob noted. “I’m one of those players that when I get into a groove it has a snowball effect so I’m just trying to stay focused and hope this carries over into the tournament next week.”
Also moving up on the FSU single-season charts was McDonald. The right-hander tied Julie Larsen’s sophomore record at 271 strikeouts. She now has 47 appearances on the year, tying her with Casey Hunter for fourth while she moved ahead of the former All-American with 268.2 innings to rate her sixth.
Seven of the nine batters in the starting line-up picked up a hit with eight of the nine reaching base. Besides Jacob, Alicart added a multi-hit game, going 2-for-2 with two RBIs while Wood was tops at three RBIs and Davis led the way with two runs scored.
Florida State starts its march towards its 11 ACC title this weekend at the conference tournament. The fifth-seeded Seminoles will take on No. 4 Georgia Tech at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday (March 11).