May 11, 2002
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
For the second time in the last two years, the top-seeded and 21st-ranked Seminole softball team lost in a Saturday winner’s bracket game at the ACC Championship, this time 2-0 to Georgia Tech (48-16-0). The loss means FSU (49-16-0) will have to win three straight games if they want to re-capture the conference title that they lost to North Carolina last season. The Tribe begins its quest Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. in an elimination game versus the winner of Virginia/UNC.
ACC Rookie of the Year Jessica Sallinger (24-7) was masterful as she limited Florida State to just three hits and picked up her 27th complete game and 11th shutout of the season. The Kennesaw, GA native has yet to allow a run in two starts at the 2002 ACC Softball Championship. The Jackets left nine runners on base and pounded out seven hits in sending All-American Leslie Malerich (29-11) to her first loss since April 17 against Florida.
“We didn’t hit the ball well today and that is what really hurt us,” said Florida State head coach JoAnne Graf. “We have to get some better production from our line-up and we have to start to hit the ball better.”
Malerich set the Yellow Jackets down in order in the top of the first frame as the ball never left the infield. Sallinger gave up one hit, a single to Jessica van der Linden, and then All-American candidate Brandi Stuart drew her fourth walk of the tournament before finishing the Seminoles off in the first.
Georgia Tech took advantage of some sloppy play by FSU in the top of the second as a hit, an error, a walk and a passed ball set the Jackets up with the bases loaded and no outs. Malerich came back to strike out the next hitter on three straight pitches before inducing a grounder that forced out the runner at home. With the bases still loaded and two outs on the board now, Malerich got herself out of the jam when a Kirin Kumar ground out to first ended the inning and the Georgia Tech threat.
Both teams were retired in order in the third with Malerich striking out the side. The game remained scoreless until FSU threatened to get on the board in the fourth. Stuart drew a one-out walk, her fifth of the championship, and proceeded to steal her 51st base of the year. That brought up Monique Marier whose soft liner got past Tech second baseman Felicia Coursey and into shallow center. Stuart had to hold up until the ball cleared the infield and then tried to make it home but was pegged at the plate on a perfect strike from center fielder Sara Wissman.
Tech answered the FSU threat in the fifth as another error opened the door for a Yellow Jacket rally. After a lead-off single and a misplayed sacrifice bunt, the Jackets loaded the bases on an infield single to short. For the second time on the day Tech was looking at the bases loaded with no outs but this time they took advantage of the situation as first baseman Katie Donovan singled through the left side to put GT up 1-0. After a fielder’s choice with a force out at the plate, Malerich got the next two batters on a line out and a foul out to end the threat and keep FSU within a run.
The Garnet and Gold attempted to even the game in the fifth as Shandra Colzie singled to right and her twin sister Shundra Colzie drew a walk to put runners on first and second with two kept FSU scoreless though as she got van der Linden to fly out to center ending the inning and stranding the Tribe’s 18th batter in two games.
The Seminoles put the pressure on Georgia Tech in the sixth as Stuart once again drew a walk to start the inning. Carter then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Stuart to second. When she saw that nobody was on the bag, the junior made the turn and attempted to make it to third on the play but was called out on a close play to end the threat.
“The umpires are out there trying to make the best call they can and that is about all I can say,” said Graf when asked about the controversial call at third on Stuart.
After the Yellow Jackets added an insurance run in the top of the seventh, FSU attempted to stage a come back in their last at bat but was unable to get anything going against Sallinger sending Tech to its first ACC Championship since 1995.
Florida State returns to action against the winner of the elimination game between Virginia and North Carolina Saturday, May 11 at 7:00 p.m. The Seminoles swept the season series from both squads this year and one more victory would send FSU into the ACC Title game Sunday where they would meet the Yellow Jackets once again. Florida State would need to beat GT twice on Sunday to capture its ninth ACC Title. For more information on the 2002 ACC Softball Tournament including game times and ticket prices, please visit our official athletic website at www.seminoles.com or the official conference website at www.theacc.com.