May 15, 2004
Tallahassee, FL –
The fourth-ranked Seminole softball team made quick work of North Carolina (43-19) Saturday afternoon winning 8-0 in five innings and advancing into the ACC Championship final. The shutout win was the fifth straight shutout for FSU versus the Heels and this is the second consecutive year FSU has advanced through the winner’s bracket to reach the championship game. The Seminoles will meet one of three teams (Maryland, Georgia Tech or North Carolina) in the ACC Championship game tomorrow at 12:00 p.m.
2004 ACC Player of the Year Jessica van der Linden (25-6) pitched all five innings in the run-rule victory as she struck out eight batters, allowed just two hits and did not give up a single walk. She also helped break the game open in a six-run third inning as her two-RBI, bases loaded single ended up plating three runs and putting FSU up 4-0. Junior Lesley Palmer hit her second homer since returning to the line-up after tearing her ACL and senior Beth Wade went 2-for-3 with a walk-off double and two RBIs.
“It’s been a while since I pitched a game like that,” said van der Linden. “It is nice to go out there and have all your pitches working again. North Carolina is a good opponent and I knew I had to go out there and throw a good game. My defense played great behind me and Elisa (Vasquez) did a great job catching me behind the plate. I had all the confidence in the world in the team behind me.”
van der Linden entered the game just three strikeouts away from setting a new career K record at FSU and it didn’t take her long to get it either. The back-to-back ACC Player of the Year set down the first three hitters she faced to move her career total to 835 and snap Julie Larsen’s record, which was set in 1988. After no-hitting Carolina the last time the teams met, van der Linden didn’t allow a hit Saturday until the fourth inning. In her last three outings against the Heels, van der Linden has allowed one hit, no hits and two hits.
“She (van der Linden) started off good. She was pretty fired up, you could see the adrenaline,” said head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “It looked like the old fire was back. Right away they (UNC) started guessing. It was hard to tell where the ball was going because it was moving so well. I think she shut them down early.”
In the home half of the first, FSU looked to get off to a good start versus UNC ace Crystal Cox (23-12). Natasha Jacob drew a one-out walk but the Seminoles couldn’t take advantage as Cox set down the next two hitters to end the first.
FSU recorded its first hit of the game when Kim Hoffer led off the third with a bunt single down the first base line. Cox then walked LaShaun Davis bringing up the 2004 ACC Rookie of the Year Veronica Wootson who reached on an error as she laid down a sacrifice bunt that Cox couldn’t handle. That brought up pinch hitter Katie Fricke who tried to improve on FSU’s .244 team average with the bases loaded. The junior watched four straight balls as she drove in the first run of the game on a walk. All-America van der Linden then singled through the right side plating two more runs and raising her RBI total to 49 on the year, which is the second-most in a single season in FSU history. The senior got caught in a rundown and reached second safely as Natasha Jacob, who re-entered the game for Fricke, came home on the play putting FSU up 4-0. Lesley Palmer then rekindled memories of 2003 when she was the ACC Tournament MVP with three homers as she took new UNC pitcher Alison Yin yard with a two-run shot over the fence in left. It was the junior’s seventh home run of the season and extended the lead to 6-0.
“We really exploded in one inning and I think it was unusual for North Carolina to give up that many runs in an inning,” said Graf. “We put pressure on them, put some people on base and got some big hits and scored some runs.”
“The home run was very exciting,” said Palmer. “I have been working extra hard on my hitting. I was waiting on a certain pitch and I happened to get it. It was the perfect pitch for me to hit and it will help my confidence.”
The Tribe put the game away in the bottom of the fifth as they increased their lead to 8-0. The inning started with Yin hitting van der Linden and pinch runner Carey Galuppi then advanced to second on a ground out. Elisa Vasquez reached on a fielder’s choice where the defense failed to make an out on Galuppi on second. Tatiana George’s single loaded the bases for Wade who sent a deep shot to the warning track that fell in for a double and scored two runs.
Florida State is next in action at 12:00 p.m. Sunday, May 16 when the Tribe goes after its second straight ACC Championship and 10th overall title. The championship game will be broadcast at 4:00 p.m. on Fox Sports Net South, the Sunshine Network and Comcast Sports Net. For more information on the 2004 FSU softball team or the 2004 ACC Championship in Tallahassee please log on to the official athletic website of Florida State University at www.seminoles.com.