May 23, 2002
Oklahoma City, OK –
For the first time in more than 10 years, the No. 1 seed in the Women’s College World Series lost its first game of the tournament as the eighth seeded Florida State softball team (54-18) downed top-ranked UCLA (54-8) 2-1 in nine innings. The win over the Bruins sent UCLA to just the program’s second-ever opening round loss in 18 trips to the Women’s College World Series.
Senior Monique Marier hit a game-winning home run in the top of the ninth and Leslie Malerich picked up her fifth consecutive postseason win as FSU won just its second WCWS opener in six tries. The win was the program’s first-ever versus a team ranked No. 1 in the nation and moves the eighth-seeded Tribe into the winner’s bracket where they will face the winner of Oklahoma/Cal tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. EST.
“It was obviously a tough, tough opening game,” said head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “I had a lot of confidence that the longer the game went the better chance we would have of upsetting them. I think the kids came through. Big, big hit by Mo (Monique Marier) with the big home run that really propelled us and good defense at the end that pulled us through the game.”
The ninth-inning blast was Marier’s ninth of the year and she has now accounted for seven of FSU’s last 11 bombs. It was also her third game-winning RBI in the Garnet and Gold’s last five wins as she had the hit that downed Auburn and Georgia Tech in the NCAA Regionals paving FSU’s way to the College World Series.
“I guess I just keyed in after taking a good cut at the high rise ball,” said Marier. “When I was running to first I thought it was going to go foul and it was like, ‘oh nuts’.”
Malerich was once again masterful inside the circle. After throwing 320 pitches and winning three games on championship Sunday at the 2002 Tallahassee Regional, the Merrillville, IN native held the Bruins to just one run after UCLA averaged almost six runs per game coming into the World Series. She picked up her 34th win and 34th complete game of the season as she moved within one victory of tying her career high with 35 wins.
“I wasn’t nervous and I think that’s what was running through my mind just like regionals,” said Malerich. “Knowing that they were an excellent team and that that they can pull through anything. I just knew I had to hit my spots. I’m just putting the ball where it needs to go and my teammates are helping me out.”
The Seminoles got the lead-off batter on in the first inning off of UCLA first team All-American Keira Goerl (31-4). Shundra Colzie reached on a throwing error by Bruin third baseman Toria Anuela but the Tribe was unable to sacrifice her to second as UCLA cut down the lead-off runner on the next two plays.
The Bruins answered immediately as shortstop Natasha Watley singled and stole second putting a runner in scoring position with no one out in the bottom of the first. Malerich got the next hitter, Amanda Freed to ground out before walking Tairia Mims to put runners on first and second. Malerich got the second out of the frame by retiring UCLA’s top hitter Stacey Nuveman on a pop up to Brandi Stuart in shallow right field. The Bruins were able to get on the board though as Claire Sua sent a slow roller up the middle that bounced off the second base bag and scored Watley with the games first run.
With the Garnet and Gold down 1-0, Goerl rolled through the top half of the second inning getting the side in order on two strike outs and a ground out. Malerich matched her by setting the Bruins down in order also. Newly named first team All-American Stuart recorded all-three putouts on pop-ups to second. With the three putouts in the inning, Stuart recorded four of FSU’s first six putouts in the game.
The Seminoles recorded their first hit of the game in the third as Colzie sent a 1-1 offering from Groel up the middle. Florida State was unable to advance Colzie though after the two out single as the UCLA sophomore hurler recorded her fifth K of the game to end FSU’s half of the inning.
After Watley reached for the second time in the game and stole her second base on the day in the bottom half of the frame, Malerich once again knuckled down and kept FSU within a run. She induced two more pop outs, her fifth and sixth of the game, and a ground out to send the game into the fourth with FSU’s No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 hitters coming to the plate.
Stuart, after recording four of FSU’s nine putouts defensively, got things going offensively as she sent a one-out single to right and was sacrificed over to second by Tatiana George. As she has done all season long, Stuart made things happen for FSU on the base paths. The junior stole her 54th base of the year as she swiped third and came around to score when Nuveman tried to nail Stuart but her throw sailed over the head of Watley. Stuart advanced home to tie the game as she scored her 63rd run of the year and moved into second for the most runs scored in a single season at FSU.
The Bruins tried to regain the lead in the bottom of the fourth as they advanced Stephanie Ramos, who drew a lead-off walk, to third with two outs. Malerich once again kept UCLA at bay leaving Ramos standing just 60 feet away as the game moved in to the fifth inning.
Goerl came out strong in the fifth as she struck out the side and picked up her 10th K of the game. The Bruins looked to build on that in the bottom of the fifth as Watley once again got on base on an infield hit and was sacrificed over to second as UCLA searched for the lead run. Mims followed with a single to shallow left field moving Watley to third with just one out and Nuveman coming to the plate. The NCAA’s career home run leader with 89 bombs in her career was intentionally walked to load the bases. Florida State got a force at home on the next play leaving UCLA with two outs and the bases still full. Malerich got her first strikeout of the game to end the Bruin threat as Casey Hiraiwa watched strike three.
Colzie led off the sixth with her second consecutive hit and she became the first FSU player to record two hits in a game versus the Bruins in more than 10 years. Florida State was unable to capitalize though as the opener of the 2002 College World Series moved into the bottom of the sixth with the game still tied 1-1.
The game entered a weather delay in the bottom of the sixth as lightning began to strike beyond the outfield at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The delay, which began at 11:58 a.m., ended 36 minutes later with Toria Auela drawing UCLA’s fifth walk of the game. The Seminoles erased Auela off the bases when catcher Kimmy Carter threw down to first and Stuart blocked the bag picking off the Bruin base runner for the second out of the inning. After a walk and Watley’s fourth hit of the game, Malerich retired the side on a shallow fly out to center field.
As the game moved into the seventh still tied 1-1, FSU lead off with a base runner for just the third time all game but for the second consecutive inning. The Tribe was unable to advance George as a fielder’s choice cut down the lead runner. With pinch runner Skyla Cox on first, senior pinch hitter Jackie Hirschfeld drew her 12th walk in 21 at bats putting two Seminoles on base for the first time all game. The runners moved to second and third on a Elisa Velasco ground out bringing up pinch hitter Bryttani Lindheim. Goerl got Lindheim to pop out to second with the potential winning run unable to advance from third.
The Bruins went into the seventh with their No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 hitters coming up with a chance to win the game. Malerich, who allowed just six hits through six innings, got Mims to line out to Beth Wade for the first out of the seventh bringing up Nuveman. Malerich got her to ground out to second keeping her hitless on the afternoon with two walks. Sua drew a two-out walk as UCLA continued to avoid extra innings against the No. 8 seed. Ramos then sent a shot into the gap in left with Sua running on contact. Jessica van der Linden tracked the ball from her center field position and laid out to make a diving stab to send the game into the eighth inning.
Goerl got the Seminoles in order in the top of the frame as she retired Colzie, Carter and van der Linden on two ground outs and her 11th strikeout of the game. Malerich started the bottom of the frame off by inducing two ground outs to shortstop George before walking No. 9 hitter Monique Mejia. Malerich ended the threat when she retired Watley for the first time on the day as she snared a line drive right back at her. Through eight full innings, the senior allowed just three of UCLA’s batters to reach via a hit.
The Seminoles looked like they were going to go quietly in the ninth as Gorel retired the first two batters on just four pitches and she moved out to a 0-2 advantage on Marier. The senior sent a shot over the fence down the left field line as the 190-foot blast just curved around the foul pole giving FSU its first lead of the game. It was the Clearwater, Fla. native’s ninth home run of the season and she has hit seven of FSU’s last 11 homers.
Malerich came out looking to close out her fifth straight postseason victory and opened up by getting Freed to line out softly to short. After Mims reached on an error, the winning run came to the plate in Nuveman. The senior drew her third walk of the game putting runners on first and second with one down. Sua next grounded out to short moving the runners up a base and moving the Seminoles one out away from the school’s first ever win over the No. 1 seed in the World Series. The Bruins looked as if they were going to tie the game with two outs as Ramos sent a soft liner to left field that was threatening to drop in front of Marier. The hero from the top of the ninth laid out and just wedged her glove between the grass and the ball to make the final out and secure the win.
Florida State continues College World Series play Friday, May 24 at 5:00 p.m. EST in a nationally televised game on ESPN2 versus the winner of this afternoon’s Cal/Oklahoma game. The Tribe downed Oklahoma 1-0 earlier this season and went 1-2 versus Cal in last year’s NCAA Regional in Tallahassee. 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.