June 29, 2006 - by

Florida State Softball Year In Review

June 29, 2006


Seminoles Advance to Super Regional
Florida State found itself two wins away from advancing to its eighth Women’s College World Series as the Seminoles advanced to the Super Regional of the NCAA Tournament. After winning the Athens Regional, FSU faced No. 7 Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz. Unfortunately, Florida State’s season would end in the desert as Arizona State used timely hitting to take the first game 6-1 and six errors cost the Seminoles the second game, 5-1. Second baseman Veronica Wootson belted a home run for FSU’s only run in the opener. Florida State was one of two unranked teams – along with UMass – to advance to the Super Regional


May’s Outstanding Performance Propels FSU To Athens Regional Title
Not even Hollywood could have scripted a better outcome for the Seminoles in the Athens Regional of the NCAA Tournament. After losing game one on Saturday 3-1 to the No. 8 Bulldogs, FSU’s season came down to one game. In the circle for the championship game was freshman Melissa May, who hadn’t pitched since April 1 because of an illness. All the rookie left-hander did was throw a three-hit shutout to beat Georgia 2-0 and send the Seminoles to the Super Regional. Shortstop Yuruby Alicart lofted an opposite field home run in the third inning and reserve Carey Galuppi scored an insurance run in the seventh to seal the victory.


Florida State came into the regional on a roll having won eight of its last 11 games. The Seminoles opened the regional with a convincing 7-2 victory over Coastal Carolina. FSU scored three unearned runs in the second inning then held on for the 3-2 triumph over the host Bulldogs. Georgia forced a second game on Sunday after winning 3-1, but the Seminoles bounced back to take the finale 2-0.


Florida State Back In the Top 25
After flirting with the Top 25 several times throughout the year, Florida State got back in the polls when it mattered the most. The Seminoles’ impressive run to the Super Regional vaulted them into the final Top 25 of both polls. Florida State ended the year tied with Louisville for 19th in the ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings and No. 25 in the USA Today/NFCA poll. The Seminoles have finished the season ranked in the top 25 in nine of the last 12 years.


19 NCAA Regionals And Counting
Florida State continued its strong tradition in the NCAA Tournament with its 19th regional appearance this season. Only five teams – Fresno State (25), UCLA (23), Cal State Fullerton (22), Cal (22) and Arizona (19) have been to more regionals than the Seminoles. In addition to its 19th overall appearance, this year’s trip to Athens was the seventh in a row for Florida State, the second-longest streak in school history.


Wootson Returns To All-American Form
Few players in the country can match the combination of speed, power and athleticism of second baseman Veronica Wootson. The junior had a better all-around campaign than her outstanding freshman season and was rewarded with her first NFCA/Louisville Slugger First-Team All-America selection. After second team honors in 2004, Wootson is the sixth Seminole to earn multiple All-America honors. She is just the fifth First-Team selection and another All-America award as a senior would make her just the second Seminole behind Shamalene Wilson to earn three honors.


Pair of Seminoles Honored By Easton-Bell Sports
In addition to her All-America honor from the NFCA, Veronica Wootson picked up a second All-America nod. The junior second baseman was honored by Easton-Bell Sports with a First-Team All-America award. She was joined by senior outfielder Natasha Jacob, who was a Third-Team selection. In addition, the school’s softball media guide was tabbed as one of five “Cover Teams of the Year.”


Jacob Defines Student-Athlete
Whether it’s on the field or in the classroom, Natasha Jacob is tops on the softball team. The senior outfielder picked up her second national accolade with First-Team Academic All-America honors from CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine, the first for a Florida State softball player. Last year she garnered a Second-Team All-America selection. On her way to the First-Team honor, Jacob picked up her third Academic All-District III award.


Florida State Place Three On All-Southeast Region
Shutout of the NFCA All-Region awards in 2005, Florida State roared back to put three players on the First-Team All-Southeast Region team. Headlining this group was shortstop Yuruby Alicart, outfielder Natasha Jacob and second baseman Veronica Wootson. Florida State was behind only Georgia for the most First-Team selections. The Seminoles had as many First-Team picks as the rest of the ACC teams combined and exceeded all state schools, including Florida. Since the NFCA broke the selections down into first and second teams, the three First-Team selections is the second-highest total in school history, trailing only the 1985, 1993 and 2004 squads. The Seminoles have had three First-Team honorees 10 times, including this season.


Seminoles Lead The Way On All-ACC Selections
For the past 14 years, the Florida State has been the premier program in the ACC and it does not appear that things will be changing anytime soon. The Seminoles led all schools with three players on the First-Team All-ACC squad and Virginia Tech equaled FSU with four selections overall. Topping the list for the Seminoles on the First-Team was shortstop Yuruby Alicart, left fielder Natasha Jacob and second baseman Veronica Wootson. Making her way onto the Second Team was right fielder LaShaun Davis. For Jacob it was the third All-ACC award of her career, making her just the sixth player in school history to earn three league accolades. Wootson made her second appearance on the team, while Alicart and Davis each collected their first award.


FSU Advances To 13th ACC Tournament Title Game
Seeded fifth, Florida State knew it had a tough road to the ACC Tournament game, but the Seminoles came in as one of the hottest teams in the conference and advanced to their 13th championship game. FSU started the league summit, hosted by North Carolina, with a 10-1 run rule victory over fourth-seeded Georgia Tech. Pitcher Tiffany McDonald limited top seeded, and 22nd-ranked NC State to three hits in a 6-0 shutout on the second day. Georgia Tech forced an elimination game with FSU after a 4-3 victory, but the Seminoles won the second game on Saturday, 7-4, to get a spot in the championship game. Florida State great run in the tournament was stopped by the Wolfpack as they prevailed 4-1 in the title game. After posting a tourney-best three wins, McDonald was named to the All-Tournament team, as was outfielder Carly Brieske, who had the second-highest average at the league summit.


Alicart and Jacob Grab ACC POW Awards
Strong performances throughout the year grabbed two Seminoles some weekly hardware from the conference office. Shortstop Yuruby Alicart and left fielder Natasha Jacob each picked up ACC Player of the Week awards, with Alicart earning a pair of accolades (March 13 & March 27) in the span of three weeks. Alicart joined former Seminoles Leslie Malerich (10 awards all time), Jessica van der Linden (eight), Jennifer White-Stokes (eight) and Brandi Stuart (five) as the only FSU players to win the award twice in one season. Jacob’s May 8 award – the final one of the season — was the second honor of her career. Florida State is the all-time leader with 77 ACC POW awards.


Seminoles Take Down Ranked Opponents
Every year head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf puts together one of the toughest schedules in the country and 2006 was no exception as Florida State’s schedule was rated 17th-toughest in the country. This year, the Seminoles came away with nine ranked victories, tripling the number of triumphs over ranked foes from 2005. Included in those wins was a victory over No. 10 Arizona State at the Judi Garman Classic as well as two wins over No. 8 Georgia in the NCAA Tournament. Florida State dropped a tough 1-0 decision to then No. 2 Tennessee. FSU had more games against ranked teams (23) and victories (nine) than any league school.


Offensive Improvement
A big reason for Florida State’s improvement in 2006 was an upgraded offense. The Seminoles exceeded nearly ever offensive statistic from 2005, including the most important one: wins. FSU was nine triumphs better in 2006 for the program’s 25th season of 40 wins or more. As a team, the Seminoles hit 47 points higher with their .294 average while scoring 106 more runs. The 79 doubles are second in school history, as are the 34 home runs, while the 571 hits rates third. FSU was faster on the base paths in ’06, stealing 28 more bases than a year ago. Slugging percentage was up 45 points to .417 and the on-base percentage jumped by more than 30 points to .352. Four players hit .300 or better, compared to one a year ago, with six hitting a .275 clip or higher.


Coach Graf Reaches 1,100 NCAA Fastpitch Victories
Every year Florida State head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf seems to pass another career milestone. An 8-1 victory over Jacksonville on February 22 gave her another one as she became just the second coach in NCAA history – trailing Fresno State’s Margie Wright – to reach 1,100 fastpitch victories. The all-time NFCA leader in career victories (slowpitch & fastpitch), she needs 45 wins to be the first softball coach to amass 1,400 victories.


Alicart Takes Down Home Run And Doubles Records
It took 15 seasons for Brandi Stuart to tie Tiffany Daniels’ home run record of 10 dingers but only four years later Yuruby Alicart surpassed both of them. Her game-winning home run against NC State in the ACC Tournament was her 11th of the season, breaking the single-season record. Then at the Athens Regional she solidified the record with an opposite-field shot that ended up being the game winner. The 12 home runs also put Alicart tenth on the FSU career charts.


McDonald Sets New FSU And ACC Innings Mark
From the outset of the season, sophomore Tiffany McDonald was going to be the workhorse of the pitching staff, but few would have guessed she would go on to set a school and conference record. When the season was finally complete, McDonald had logged 329.1 innings, breaking the mark set by former FSU All-American Leslie Malerich. She finished second on the FSU charts with 57 appearances, one behind the record, while coming in third for strikeouts (312) and tied for sixth at 30 victories.


She’s Loving It – McDonald Among National Leaders
Besides setting new Florida State and ACC standards in 2006, pitcher Tiffany McDonald was one of the top pitchers in the country. Her 329.1 innings and 57 appearances ranked second in Division I, trailing only USA Softball Player of the Year finalist Monica Abbott of Tennessee. Her 30 victories placed her in the top 10 while the 312 strikeouts she amassed were in the top 20. McDonald was the ACC leader in appearances, innings pitched, games started (42), complete games (39) and victories.


Jacob Ends Career Among ACC’s Best
When it is all said and done, Natasha Jacob will go down as one of the best leadoff hitters in the history of the ACC. The left fielder wrapped up her career ranked sixth in league history with 271 hits, while her 69 stolen bases are eighth. On the FSU charts, she ranks fourth for hits (271) and at-bats (795), 6th in steals (69), 7th for walks (74), 8th in runs (147) and games (264), 9th for average (.341) and 10th in triples (15).


Career Ends With A Bang For Jacob
Getting in on the record-setting performances in 2006 was outfielder Natasha Jacob. The senior ended her career by setting an FSU and ACC record with 252 at-bats. She led the ACC with 94 hits, the third-highest single-season total in school history, and was third in the league with a career-best .373. Overall she ranked among the league leaders in six offensive categories.


Jacob’s Hitting Streak Tops Out At 28 Games
All good things must come to an end, and for senior Natasha Jacob her hitting streak ended on February 14. Valentine’s Day wasn’t so sweet for the outfielder as Georgia Southern was the first team in 29 games to keep her off the base path. After picking up a hit in her first at-bat during game one of the doubleheader, Jacob went 0-for-2 in the nightcap, ending the streak at 28 games. The streak is an FSU and ACC record, while ranking as the 11th longest in NCAA history and the longest since 1999.


See You At Third: FSU and Wootson Among Nation’s Triples Leaders
Some say hitting a triple is harder than hitting a home run, but getting to third wasn’t such a difficult task for Florida State last year. The Seminoles ranked second in the country with 29 triples. Second baseman Veronica Wootson was second on the individual charts as she totaled nine triples.


Wootson On Track For Record Setting Senior Campaign
Next year could see a shake up in the Florida State and ACC record books after the strong junior campaign by second baseman Veronica Wootson. With one year remaining, Wootson is already tied for eighth in ACC history – fourth in Seminole lore – with 18 triples. She is twelve triples shy of the ACC and FSU record held by FSU Hall of Famer Shamalene Wilson. Fourth with 18 home runs, Wootson needs eight home runs to set the Seminole career home record and is on track to break the all-time at-bats mark. Sixth with 27 doubles and slugging percentage (.494), ninth at 104 RBIs and 138 runs scored she is on pace to rank in the FSU top five of virtually every career offensive category.


1981 National Championship: 25 Years Later
The 2006 season marked the 25th anniversary of FSU’s 1981 AIAW Slowpitch National Championship. Third year’ head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf’s squad beat North Carolina 4-1 for the school’s first national champion in women’s athletics. Florida State ended the year with a 54-7 record. Darby Cottle and Jan Sikes both hit over .400 that year on their way to All-America honors. Cottle – the first softball player inducted in the FSU Athletics Hall of Fame – repeated as an All-American during FSU’s second national championship run in 1982 and was named the winner of the Broderick Award as the AIAW National Player of the Year.


Florida State Capture Seminole Classic Title
An early indication of how good the 2006 FSU softball team could be appeared during the second week of the season. The Seminoles got a pair of victories from Tiffany McDonald and another from Melissa May as they claimed the championship at the Seminole Classic. Florida State also won the Silver Bracket of the 16-team FSU Invitational and finished runner-up in its other two home tournaments behind defending national champion Michigan (Sunshine State) and Top-25 staple Louisville (Early Bird).


Seminoles Gain International Experience Over The Summer
While most student-athletes take the summer off, several members of the softball team were gaining valuable experience on the diamond. Pitcher Tiffany McDonald was selected as a guest player for the British National Team for the summer, including a trip to the World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma City, Okla. Shortstop Yuruby Alicart returned home to play with the Venezuelan national team. Catcher BillieAnne Gay, pitcher Kayla Collins and third baseman Michelle Snyder traveled with the Wilson Select team to the Puerto Rican Olympic Festival.

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