April 30, 2003
Tallahassee, FL –
The 2003 season has been a dream for Florida State junior Jessica van der Linden. On top of ranking amongst the NCAA leaders for batting average (12), strikeouts per game (10) and ERA (37), no player in Division I softball this year has a higher batting average (.455) and lower ERA (1.08) than the Florida State junior. She is currently 23 percentage points ahead of the highest batting average in school history and just last week became the first FSU player to ever hit 40 doubles in a career. But none of that compares to hearing she was named Wednesday as one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award presented by the Amateur Softball Association (ASA).
“I am so excited and was trying to just contain myself waiting to see if I had made it into such an elite group,” said van der Linden. “I am focusing on playing well right now and helping my team but you can’t help being just blown away by this honor. I always thought my goal was to be an All-America but this is more than I could ever ask for to be one of just 10 players up for this award.”
The Cerritos, CA native is currently leading Florida State in eight major offensive categories and is second in three others. She not only has the team’s highest batting average but she leads the 12th-ranked Seminoles in runs scored (39), doubles (12), triples (4), walks (43) and on base percentage (.585) to name just a few. She is also second in RBIs (33) and slugging percentage (.606). In over 20 years of Florida State softball, none of the Seminoles’ 20 All-Americans has ever led FSU in average, doubles, triples, runs scored and walks like van der Linden is in 2003.
“I think this is a credit to all the hard work Jess has put in,” said head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “She has been our most consistent player all year and I believe she is the most versatile player up for the award. I always thought she had the talent to be a great player but to be named one of the 10 best in the country is quite an accomplishment. I am really excited to see her capitalizing on her potential and putting it all together.”
Van der Linden is not only doing it at the plate. The lefty is 16-4 with a 1.08 ERA and 218 strikeouts inside the circle. She has issued just 45 walks and opposing batters are hitting just .149 against her. Van der Linden has won 10 straight starts and at one point hadn’t allowed a run in 47 consecutive innings. During FSU’s current 22 game winning streak, the junior has a 0.61 ERA, six shutouts in 11 starts and a strikeout to walk ratio of 6 to 1. She has also struck out 10 or more batters in 11 of her last 15 starts.
“The way this team is playing right now makes it all so much more fun,” said van der Linden. “When the whole team is hitting like they are, it makes my job pitching so easy. My last time out they scored 12 runs for me. There is no reason to stress when you are up 12-0. My teammates deserve so much credit for the success I am having individually.”
The award, which is considered the Heisman Trophy in women’s collegiate softball and is the only national player of the year award, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country. The top three finalists will be announced May 13 and the winner of the 2003 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award will be honored May 21 at the opening ceremonies of the NCAA College World Series in Oklahoma City, OK. The winner will be recognized and presented with the Player of the Year trophy during the ASA National Council Meeting in Orlando, FL, in November.
A replica of the award will be placed in a permanent display in the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City along with photos of the winner. An additional replica of the award will be presented to the player’s academic institution. Photos of each of the finalists along with current statistics can be found on the USA Softball web page at www.usasoftball.com under the College Corner section.
The Amateur Softball Association, founded in 1933, is the National Governing Body of amateur softball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. As the National Governing Body, the ASA is responsible for identifying, selecting and training male and female athletes to compete in World, Pan American and Olympic competitions. It is also responsible for promoting and growing the sport of softball across the country.