May 25, 2002
Oklahoma City, OK –
For the first time since 1990, the Florida State softball team has advanced into the final four at the Women’s College World Series as they downed Nebraska (50-14) 4-3 in an elimination game Saturday night. The win sends the Seminoles (55-19) into the semifinals where they will face defending national champion Arizona at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 26. The Tribe’s 55th win of the year marks the fifth most in a single season in school history.
The Seminoles utilized a big fifth inning as they scored all four of their runs on four hits and three Nebraska errors. Kimmy Carter’s two RBI single and Jessica van der Linden’s RBI double were the key hits which drove in three of the four runs. Leslie Malerich was a warrior once again as she equaled a career best with her 35th win and became just the second FSU pitcher to ever win two games in a Women’s College World Series. She is now 6-1 in the NCAA Regional and World Series.
Nebraska ace Peaches James (22-9) opened up the first by snaring a Shundra Colzie liner up the middle that looked like it was headed for the outfield. The leaping grab brought co-captain Kimmy Carter to the plate who James retired on her first strikeout of the night. Van der Linden next sent a deep drive to right that looked like it might make it over the 190-foot fence in right but just didn’t have enough to get out of the park as FSU went down 1-2-3 to open the game.
The Huskers got off to a good start after FSU starter and ace Malerich (35-13) opened up the game going 0-2 on Nebraska lead-off hitter Kim Ogee. After Lisa Wangler sacrificed Ogee to second, regional No. 7 MVP Amanda Bucholz came up with a runner in scoring position and just one out. Bucholz drew a walk on a 3-2 count giving Nebraska runners on first and second. The senior fought back to get the next batter on a pop up and then recorded her first strikeout of the game to end the Husker threat.
First team All-American Brandi Stuart got the Seminoles going in the top of the second as she laced a double off the wall in left field. After Stuart was sacrificed to third by Tatiana George, the Seminoles tried to manufacture a run on a squeeze bunt but Monique Marier’s attempt didn’t get far enough away from the plate and Husker catcher Amber Burgess picked it up and tagged out Stuart as she was coming home with the potential lead run.
Nebraska once again got off to a good start in the second as pitcher James led things off by singling through the right side of the infield. Florida State and Malerich bounced back by cutting down the lead runner on an attempted sacrifice and then got the runner on first out when she left early. Malerich then recorded her second strikeout of the game to end the inning and keep the game tied at 0-0.
With two down in the top of the third, Colzie drew the first walk of the game off of James as she watched a 3-1 pitch sail high sending her to first. That brought up FSU’s leading RBI producer in senior catcher Carter. The co-captain came into the game with 50 RBIs on the year. Before Carter got a chance to drive in Colzie, the junior college transfer took of and stole her 13th base of the season. With the count 3-2, Carter smashed a hard hit liner to deep left field that Wangler was in perfect position to make the catch and end the Seminole uprising.
For the third straight inning, the Cornhuskers got their lead-off hitter on base as Malerich issued her second free pass of the game bringing up Ogee who singled in her first at bat. The senior lost Ogee on a 3-2 pitch to issue her second walk of the game and put Nebraska in great position with two on and nobody out. Wangler advanced the runners on a ground out to second putting both Nebraska base runners in scoring position with just one out. Bucholz next sent a deep drive to left the Monique Marier hauled in but the shot was deep enough to score the first run of the game on the sac fly.
The game moved to the top of the fourth with the Huskers up 1-0 and the heart of the Seminole order coming up to the plate. Van der Linden got things started with her first hit of the World Series as she drove a ball just to the left of James who got a glove on it but could not handle the smash putting the sophomore at first. James then got Stuart to foul out to the catcher for the first out of the inning and George then reached via a fielder’s choice with van der Linden getting cut down on her way to second. James then retired the side as she corralled Marier’s pop out.
Malerich cruised through the fourth picking up her third strikeout while setting the Huskers down in order for the second time in the game. Malerich’s third K matched her total for the entire World Series.
After James retired Elisa Velasco to start the fifth, Beth Wade recorded her first hit of the 2002 WCWS bringing up pinch hitter Jackie Hirschfeld. The senior sent a grounder through the left side for her first hit of the Series also. That brought in Seminole killer Leigh Ann Walker who has defeated the Seminoles three times in her career with two runners on board and one out in the inning. Colzie next loaded the bases on an error at third as the junior smashed a shot right at the Nebraska third baseman. The Seminoles, who are 2 for 5 in the postseason with the bases loaded, sent Carter and her single season record 50 RBIs to the plate. The co-captain sent a drive through the left side of the infield scoring two runs but two Nebraska fielding errors on the play allowed all three runners to score giving FSU the 3-1 lead. Van der Linden, after going hitless in seven at bats coming in to the game, got her second of the game as she sent a double to left center plating Carter and putting FSU in front 4-1. The Seminoles two hits off Walker in the fifth equaled the total they recorded in seven innings against the hurler last season in Tallahassee when the two teams faced off.
Malerich seemed to feed of the big inning as she came in and recorded her third K in a row by setting down the first two batters she faced swinging. Her five K’s through five innings against the Huskers were more than the three strikeouts she had amassed in two games against UCLA and Cal at the World Series. The Huskers answered back though as they drew a walk and put together back-to-back hits to load the bases with two outs. Nicole Trimboli then singled to left scoring two runs but FSU got her at second as Becky Brock threw down to Stuart as the Husker over ran the base when she thought an FSU overthrow would allow her to advance.
With the Huskers back within a run at 4-3, Walker came out and set the Seminoles down in order as two Seminoles watched strike three and Brock popped out to second. Nebraska looked to even the game or take the lead in the bottom of the sixth after touching Malerich for more earned runs in the fifth than she had given up all World Series in 16 innings of work. Nebraska led off by walking on Malerich’s 99th pitch of the night. The hurler induced a ground out for the second out of the inning before getting another ground out to the mound to end the ixth.
Carter, the FSU hero in the fifth, tried to help the Seminoles add to their advantage as she drew a one-out walk in the seventh. After a fielder’s choice cut down Carter on her way to second, Stuart came up with two outs and a runner sitting on first but Walker got the All-American on a ground out to third to move the game to the bottom of the inning.
As the game entered the bottom of the frame, the Garnet and Gold moved within three outs of their first semi-final berth since 1990 as the Huskers sent their No. 9, No. 1 and No. 2 hitters to the plate in an attempt to stave off elimination. Malerich started things off with her sixth K of the night as Cindy Roethemeyer watched strike three. That brought up Ogee who was 1-for-1 with two walks and a run scored. The centerfielder grounded out to George with Wangler the only thing separating the Seminoles from the semifinals of the College World Series.
Florida State will make a run at the NCAA Championship game Sunday, May 26 at 3:30 p.m. EST in a nationally televised game on ESPN2 versus six-time National Champion Arizona. The Tribe will need to take two games from a Wildcat team that is 54-11 on the season if they want to advance to their first ever WCWS Championship game. For more information on the Seminole softball team and the 2002 College World Series, please log on to seminoles.com. Feel like you are with FSU in Oklahoma City by logging on to the university’s official athletic website, which has a 2002 College World Series webpage that contains a live stats link, World Series photo galleries and diaries, press conference transcripts and so much more.