Dec. 1, 2006
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
Fresh off an appearance in the 2006 NCAA Tournament Super Regional, Florida State University softball coach Dr. JoAnne Graf has helped her teams’ chances of staying at that level with the signing of four student-athletes to national letters of intent. Making up the Seminoles’ class of 2008 is Allison Collins, Sarah Hamilton, Kristie McConn and Ashley Stager.
Collins (Niceville, Fla.) can play a number of positions, including catcher, and is the younger sister of current Seminole Kayla Collins (Niceville, Fla.). Hamilton (Tallahassee, Fla.), a product of Chiles High School, will toe the rubber in the circle, while McConn (Broken Arrow, Okla.) and Stager (Trinity, Fla.) will vie for the starting infield spots vacated next season senior NFCA All-Region selections Veronica Wootson (Fontana, Calif.) and Yuruby Alicart (Maracay, Venezuela).
“We were trying to address specific needs in the infield, catcher and pitcher, it’s a well-balanced class,” Graf said. “We’re losing our starting second baseman and shortstop so we’re looking for immediate help and we expect Ashley and Kristie to start right away. Sarah is going to be a great asset to our pitching staff and Allison will be a good dp or catcher. It’s a class with a lot of talent that has the potential to contribute right away.”
A two-time All-Area selection by the Northwest Florida Daily News, Collins collected her first state-wide recognition in 2006 with an Honorable Mention spot on the Florida Sportswriters All-State 5A team after hitting .380 last season. A four-year honor roll member at Niceville, she plays for coach Danny Hensley on the Eagles’ squad. Collins is coached by her father Doug – a member of Alabama’s 1979 National Championship football team – on the High Intensity 18U Gold travel team.
Staying in the Big Bend area is right-hander Hamilton. Last season she earned Player of the Year honors from the Tallahassee Democrat after leading Chiles to a 23-4 mark and a district title. A Second-Team 5A All-State selection, Hamilton had a 14-3 record with a 0.35 ERA and 247 strikeouts in 199 innings. Hamilton played on the same High Intensity Gold travel team as the Collins sisters while Karen Linder is her coach at Chiles.
“We’re really excited about Sarah, she’s the first pitcher we’ve signed out of Tallahassee,” Graf noted. “It speaks to the fact that high school programs in Tallahassee are improving. It’s always exciting to sign someone who always wanted to come to Florida State.”
A product of New Port Richey’s Mitchell High School, Stager goes into her senior year after earning 6A Second-Team All-State honors from the FSWA. As a junior she hit .469 with 38 runs and 20 RBIs to earn her third-straight All-Sunshine Athletic Conference and All-Pasco County honors for coach Scott Bisbe. Last year she led her Florida Ultimate Gold traveling team, where she is coached by her father Tom, to state and regional titles while hitting .478 with 43 runs and 19 RBIs. Stager chose Florida State over UCLA.
While Florida State’s other three signees are gearing up for their senior seasons, McConn has already completed her prep career. Finishing her career in grand style, McConn was named First-Team All-State Large East by the Oklahoma State Coaches Association as well as All-Region 7 Large East and Metro Lakes Conference Co-Player of the Year. A four-year all-conference selection, she hit a career-high .457 with 39 runs and 21 RBIs as a senior in leading head coach Joy-Marie Galliart’s Comets to the regional playoffs. McConn plays for Dave Simmons’ Tulsa Eagles travel team.
“We’re recruiting players that can go anywhere in the country,” Graf added. “Those players see that Florida State is one of those programs that is challenging for a national championship and a conference championship every year and those kids want to be a part of that.””
Florida State finished the 2006 campaign with a 44-30 record that included the title of the NCAA Tournament Athens Regional, a trip to the NCAA Super Regional and a runner-up spot in the ACC Tournament. The Seminoles return six position starters and all three starting pitchers for the 2007 season, which opens February 9-10 with the Seminole Classic.