February 4, 2000 - by
FSU Softball Set To Open Season Versus Georgia Southern On Sunday

Feb. 4, 2000


NEW CENTURY, NEW TEAM



The year 2000– a new millennium full of excitement and
celebration. For the Florida State softball program, it also represents a
rebirth of sorts as the Lady Seminoles strive to lift the program to even
greater heights.

“The year 2000 is really exciting,” FSU Head Coach Dr. JoAnne Graf
said. “It’s going to be a neat season. We’ve done some great things in the
1990s, but we want to do even better things in the year 2000. It is kind
of fitting that we are starting a new year with a new coaching staff and a
new facility and kind of a new team.”

A lot of new faces will don the garnet and gold this season. Just
three starters return and 11 letterwinners from last year’s senior-ladened
squad that finished 40-25-1. Florida State is replacing an entirely new
infield, with the exception of the catcher and will also have newcomers in
left and center field.

“It is going to take awhile to establish a team-identity,” Graf
said. “We have quite a few new players and two new coaches, so I think the
early part of the season we are going to have to get to know each other and
see how everybody reacts under pressure in positions that maybe they
haven’t played before. So for all of us, it is going to be a learning
experience. As the season goes along and as the new players learn our
system, I think we will continue to improve and really be playing well by
the end of the season which is always a goal that you want.

“It’s going to be challenging — there’s no doubt about that,
probably one of the most challenging ones that we’ve ever had, but I think
we’ve got the kind of players who will respond to that challenge.”


Pitching



The Lady Seminoles return two solid performers in the pitching
department in junior Jennifer White-Stokes and sophomore Leslie Malerich.
Gone is Stacy Venable, who led the team with a 1.04 ERA and a 13-1 record
in 1999. White-Stokes and Malerich, however, combined for 27 victories.

“We will miss Stacy Venable,” Graf said. “She was kind of our
“championship” pitcher. But we do have two very strong pitchers coming
back in Jennifer and Leslie. I feel that they are only going to be
stronger. They are both more experienced and both pretty healthy. And
mentally, they’ve gotten a lot better.”

White-Stokes had the most appearances with 37 of all three pitchers
last year and earned 16 victories. In 28 starts, she led the pitching
staff with 24 complete games and seven shutouts. She led the FSU hurlers
with 164 strikeouts and ranked third in the ACC with a 1.53 ERA. At the
plate, White had a .255 batting average and drove in eight runs.

As a rookie, Malerich got a lot of game experience with 32
appearances, including 19 starts, and had an 11-8 record as the squad’s
number three pitcher.

Graf plans on a two-pitcher rotation, with White-Stokes and
Malerich, much of the season but newcomer Robin Gauger, from Gulf Coast
Community College, will add depth on the mound. Gauger will serve as more
of a spot relief pitcher and may pitch a few games just to stay sharp, but
will also see action at other positions.


Infield



Aside from the catcher position, the Florida State infield will be
relatively new. Senior Teresa Edenfield and junior Andi Lyons, who shared
the starting duties behind the plate in 1999, return as the veterans in the
infield.

Edenfield, who was named to the 1999 ACC All-Tournament Team,
played in 37 games, hit .243 and had 13 RBIs. In her first season as a
Lady Seminole, Lyons saw action in 49 games at catcher and designated
hitter. She hit .245 and drove in 16 runs.

“As the only returning starters in the infield, both Teresa and
Andi will be even more valuable this season,” Graf said. “Their leadership
for the young players and their experience with the pitching staff will be
a key to our success.”

Returning senior Becky Wallace and junior Kelly Miller will likely
share the reigns at first base. Wallace played in 45 games, mostly at
designated hitter, and was fourth on the team with 19 RBIs. Miller played
in 28 games and drove in 10 runs in 51 at bats.

“While neither Becky or Kelly have been full-time starters, they
each have solid game experience are each very capable of successfully
holding down the job at first base,” Graf said.

Slated for starting honors at second base is freshman Brandi
Stuart, while junior college transfer Stephanie Elowsky will serve as
backup. Drake University transfer junior Natalie Bennett will get the nod
at shortstop. Becky Brock, who played in 11 contests as a freshman last
year, should occupy third base.

“It’s going to be an interesting year in the infield,” Graf said.
“Getting the unit to gel, the line-up combinations worked out and figuring
out who’s going to win the battles is going to be a challenge. We have a
lot of close battles in which nobody has really come forward and taken the
position. We’ve got to get into some game situations and get experience
that you can’t duplicate in practice. Once we do that, and find out who’s
strong at the plate, then we can start settling into a lineup.”


Outfield



Like the infield, the outfield will have a new look in 2000.
Sophomore Kimmy Carter is the lone returnee in the outfield and will hold
down the starting job in right field for the second straight season.
Carter, a solid fielder, is also the leading, returning hitter with a .294
batting average and 21 RBIs.

Center field will likely be occupied by junior newcomer Rita
Brooks, who possesses the most speed on the team. The two catchers, Teresa
Edenfield and Andi Lyons, will rotate in left field while newcomer Staci
Brandon could also vie for playing time there. Returnees Felecia Williams
and LaTanya Mitchell will also provide depth to the outfield.

“Kimmy is a solid player and we have great confidence in her
offensively and defensively,” Graf said. Rita is by far our fastest player
and she can really cover a lot of ground in center. We have several
players who have the ability to play left field for us. That position
could boil down to who’s hitting the ball the best.”


Schedule



As always, Florida State will have a very strong schedule. The
Lady Seminoles will host two tournaments at the Seminole Softball Complex
and travel four different directions to compete in four other
regular-season tournaments. The Tribe will head south to the Florida
Atlantic Tournament in late February. In early March, FSU will head north
for the annual NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga. In mid-March, the
Lady Seminoles will travel west to participate in the Fresno State Classic
in Fresno, Calif., and will end the month with a tournament at
Tennessee-Chattanooga.

“We play a lot of the teams that played in regionals last year,”
Graf said. “We’ve got a very tough schedule, but it will give us a chance
to learn what we need to work on and how we stack up against the top teams
in the country and how they stack up against us.”

At the end of April, Florida State will host the Atlantic Coast
Conference Tournament for the second straight season and sixth time
overall.

“The ACC is getting tougher and tougher each year,” Graf said.
“I feel that the ACC is beginning to establish a reputation as a strong
conference. Maryland earned a lot of respect for our conference when they
went out and beat Arizona last year in regionals. I think that proves on
the field that we are a conference that can compete with anybody. It’s
going to a tough situation to come back and repeat as the ACC champion, but
that is certainly one of our goals.”


Graf on …


The team offensively …
While Florida State may have increased its offensive power this
season, they may have lost some speed. Danielle Cox, a first team
All-American who led the team and the nation with 73 stolen bases last
season and also led the team with a record 98 hits and .432 batting average
has moved on to the professional ranks. The Lady Seminoles will have the
task of replacing her offensive production.

“I think we will have some more power, but I think we’ve lost some
speed. Rita (Brooks) is very, very fast, but doesn’t have the experience
and is going to have to work to get on base and get herself into some
stealing opportunities. We are going to miss Danielle Cox. She had just a
awesome senior season. But I think we are going to put the ball in play
more and hit the ball a little harder and will hopefully be a better
offensive team then we were last year.”


The coaching staff …

Two new assistant coaches round out the 2000 staff with the arrival
of Louie Berndt and Heather Compton. Berndt was an assistant coach at FSU
in 1989 and returns to Tallahassee after serving as the head coach at
Marshall University the past six seasons. Compton, a standout collegiate
pitcher from UCLA, spent the summer playing professionally with the Tampa
Bay Firestix.

“I am very excited about our new coaches. I think we have very
good experience in Louie. She’s very enthusiastic, very knowledgeable and
a great recruiter. Heather, although this is her first college coaching
job, has played internationally, played ASA ball and played professionally
and brings an experience level that I think our players, especially our
pitchers, can relate to. We are working well as a group which is very
important as we enter this season and really begin to learn a lot about
each other. Our chemistry as a staff is very evident to the players which
is so important.”

Postseason play…
“We want to get back to regionals. We felt like we got snubbed
last year and we were playing better than anybody at the end of the season.
We swept the conference tournament, but we didn’t get the respect from the
teams in our region, so we are going to play more teams from our region. I
hope we get that respect back. We’ve got a lot to prove this year.”

The new Seminole softball complex…
“I think everybody who plays here, plays better. It’s the type of
facility that you get out and get excited about playing on. I definitely
think that we play on one of the nicest facilities in the country. It’s
really nice to have an all inclusive facility with everything right here
and that’s what makes us special. There are some nice fields out there,
but they don’t have everything right there.”

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