February 10, 2006 - by
Game Day: FSU Softball Plays Host To Early Bird Tournament

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The Leadoff Hitter (This Week’s Games):
Florida State hosts Early Bird Tournament – Tallahassee, Fla.
JoAnne Graf Field at The Seminole Softball Complex (1,000)
Friday-Saturday, February 10-11

Friday, February 10
vs. Louisville (43-20, 20-4), 4 pm
Louisville GameTracker
vs. Samford (27-26, 17-9), 6:30 pm
Samford GameTracker

Saturday, February 11
vs. Nicholls State (18-34, 10-17), 1:30 pm
Nicholls State GameTracker
vs. TBA, 4 or 6:30 p.m.

Tournament Central:

Internet Broadcast

Base Hits (What You Need To Know):
• The Seminoles haven’t lost a regular-season opener since 1999 when they dropped a 3-1 decision to Georgia Southern. Over the last five seasons, FSU is 17-3 during the first four games of the year.

• Florida State is 21-2 against the tournament field with the only two losses coming against Nicholls State. FSU beat the Colonels twice last season.

• All-America candidate Natasha Jacob (Coppell, Texas) comes into the 2006 campaign riding a 24-game hitting streak. The streak is an ACC record, the 19th longest in NCAA history and the longest in the nation over the last two years.

• Making her inaugural start at first base, senior Kim Hoffer (Houston, Texas) is the first Seminole in the last 14 years to start all four infield positions.

• FSU, ranked 28th (USA Softball) and 30th (NFCA), will play seven teams in the preseason Top 25, including defending national champion Michigan at home on March 2.

• Friday (Feb. 10) is the 2006 FSU Softball Fan Day. The players and coaches will be signing autographs after the Samford contest. Free shakers will be handed out to the first 200 fans.

• Head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf will be on the air with Cash & Carrie Monday morning on 94.9 FM WTNT.

Seminoles Open 2006 Campaign With Early Bird Tournament
Coming off its sixth-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, 18th overall, the Florida State softball team opens the 2006 campaign on Friday (Feb. 10) when it plays host to the Early Bird Tournament. The Seminoles will take on 2005 NCAA participant Louisville at 4 p.m. on Friday, followed by a 6:30 p.m. contest versus Samford. On Saturday, FSU takes on Nicholls State at 1:30 p.m. then will play at either 4 p.m. — in the No. 1 vs. No. 2 game — or at 6:30 p.m. — No. 3 vs. No. 4 — depending on the results of the round-robin play.

Florida State Use To A Fast Start
Head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf always has her teams ready to play at the beginning of the year as is evident with FSU’s 24-3 record in the opener. The Seminoles haven’t lost a regular-season opener since 1999 when they dropped a 3-1 decision to Georgia Southern. Over the last five seasons, FSU is 17-3 during the first four games of the year. Since 1984, the Seminoles have won their opening game by an average of 5.4 runs and have thrown 11 shutouts. Last season, FSU started the campaign with a 5-2 decision over Florida A&M. The Rattlers were also on the losing end of the Seminoles’ first game during NCAA competition, a 12-0 decision in 1984.

Welcome Back
Florida State has one of the most experienced teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference this year as it returns seven position starters from the 2005 campaign, including all three outfielders and three of four infielders plus catcher Melissa Wood (Lilburn, Ga.). Four of the seven returning starters have at least two years of starting experience. The lone returning pitcher in 2006 will be right-hander Tiffany McDonald (Belfair, Wash.), the 2005 ACC Co-Freshman of the Year. During the Seminoles’ Women’s College World Series run in 2004, Florida State had six returning position starters, but did have the benefit of two returning pitchers.

Forget Jack Bauer, Natasha Jacob is the Real Star of 24
It started with just a single against Virginia Tech on April 2, 2005, but when the season wrapped up, left fielder Natasha Jacob was in the NCAA Record Book. The All-America candidate comes into the 2006 campaign riding a 24-game hitting streak which is an ACC record and the 19th-longest in NCAA history. The senior is just the third player in NCAA history to take a hitting streak of this length from one season to the next.

Picking Up Where She Left Off
Besides Natasha Jacob, no other Seminole wanted to see the 2005 season continue besides infielder Veronica Wootson (Fontana, Calif.). The junior ended last season by hitting .412 (7-of-17) in her last five games, including a pair of home runs. A Second-Team NFCA All-American in 2004, she broke into the FSU all-time top 10 with 11 career home runs and a .445 slugging percentage last season.

“Old” McDonald Is The Veteran on the Seminole Pitching Farm
Not too many sophomores are called “veterans”, but that’s the role for Tiffany McDonald. The 2005 ACC Co-Freshman of the Year, she set an FSU frosh record with 158.2 innings pitched and her 14 victories were more than Jessica van der Linden and Casey Hunter had as freshman. The last FSU staff made up of the ACC FOY and freshmen with tremendous upside was in 2003 when the Seminoles won their ninth ACC title.

Hoffer Is Jack Of All Trades
Name an infield position and senior Kim Hoffer has played there. By making her first career start at first base, Hoffer will have played all four infield positions at FSU. She has made 63 starts at shortstop, 31 at third base and one at second base.

And Your Name Is?
FSU is going to depend on its five newcomers to fill holes left by Casey Hunter, Tatiana George and Lesley Palmer. Joining Tiffany McDonald on the pitching staff will be right-hander Kayla Collins (Niceville, Fla.), a two-time First-Team All-State selection and lefty Melissa May (San Diego, Fla.), another All-State pick. Vying for spots on the infield will be junior Yuruby Alicart (Maracay, Venezuela) and All-State selection Michelle Snyder (Wenatchee, Wash.). The lone newcomer in the outfield is rookie Kim Petrovich (Plantation, Fla.), the younger sister of sophomore Robyn Petrovich (Plantation, Fla.).

Junior Transfer Yuruby Alicart Brings Latin Flavor To Seminoles
The newcomer that will have the biggest impact on the Seminoles, at least during the early part of the season, will be shortstop Yuruby Alicart, a native of Venezuela. Over the last two season the junior had gaudy numbers at Thomas University. The 2005 NAIA National Player of the Year, she hit .506 last season with 27 homes runs and 75 RBIs. A two-year NAIA All-American, she led Thomas to the 2004 NAIA National Championship.

Last Line Of Defense May Be The Best
Without question the strongest part of the team will outfielder, which coach Graf calls the fastest she’s ever had at Florida State. Besides Natasha Jacob, the corps returns junior All-American candidate LaShaun Davis (Marietta, Ga.), who was the third-leading hitter on the team. Sophomore Whitney Buckmon (Stone Mountain, Ga.) and senior Carly Brieske (Safety Harbor, Fla.) will battle for time in center field, while senior Carey Galuppi (Boca Raton, Fla.) was the Seminoles top back up in 2005.

Wood And Gay Are Rock Solid Behind The Plate
One comfort for the young pitching staff should be the experience behind the plate. Getting the starting nod for the second season will be sophomore Melissa Wood, FSU’s second leading hitter in 2005 at .258, six home runs and 24 RBIs. Fighting Wood for playing time is senior BillieAnne Gay (Tallahassee, Fla.). The Lincoln HS product is coming off her best season at the plate as she improved all of her offensive numbers.

There’s No Place Like Home
The friendly confines of JoAnne Graf Field have been particularly good to the Seminoles over the last five years. Since 2000, Florida State has won more than 86 percent of its games (135) at home, compared to just 65 on the road (120). FSU has won at least 20 games at home each of the last five years and averaged 27 triumphs per seasons.

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