May 16, 2004
GOING OUT IN STYLE
It didn’t take Jessica van der Linden long to get the three strikeouts she needed to set a new FSU career record. The senior set the record in the first inning of FSU’s 8-0 win over North Carolina as the All-America set down the first three Tar Heel batters all on strikeouts to give her 835 in her career. She went on to fan five more over the next four innings and increased her career total to 840. van der Linden now owns the single season and career K records.
Jessica van der Linden’s shutout victory over UNC shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Over the last two van der Linden has just owned the Heels in the circle. Since 2003, she has gone 3-0 with no runs allowed in 19 innings. She has given up just three hits and issued only two walks with 35 strikeouts. In fact, Casey Hunter has fared pretty well also as she has not allowed an earned run in the last two seasons against UNC as well. The two pitchers have combined to shutout the Tar Heels the last five times the teams have met.
When junior Lesley Palmer blasted a two-run homer versus UNC in Saturday’s 8-0 win, the designated player couldn’t help but think back to last year’s ACC Tournament. The 2003 MVP hit an ACC Tournament record three homers as she batted .800, slugged 2.600 and recorded 13 total bases. This year the junior is hitting just .333 but she is playing on a torn ACL in her left knee. That injury has limited to either singles or home runs but her power hitting in the four-hole has been a key to FSU’s run to the ACC Championship final.
CAN SHE DO BOTH?
If you want a true idea of just how good Jessica van der Linden is, get a load of this. We already know that van der Linden has smashed the single season strikeout record with 328, which is 21 more than the previous record. Now she is just five RBIs from setting a new single season record in that category as well. With her two-RBI, bases loaded hit versus UNC she upped her total to 49. That is the second-most in school history. It is one thing to lead a team in strikeouts and RBIs in a season but it something else to set single season records in both categories in the same season. That deserves a WOW.
WHAT THE HEEL?
Florida State has a decided edge in the series with North Carolina this season. On top of being 3-0, FSU has outscored UNC 14-0 in the three meetings. Florida State holds a .318 to .106 edge in batting average and the Tribe has a 0.00 ERA compared to 5.04 for North Carolina. Individually, Natasha Jacob has been a thorn in the Heels’ side in the series as the All-ACC sophomore has gone 5-for-6 for a .833 average. She has scored three runs and also has a double to her credit. Jessica van der Linden leads FSU with four RBIs and is hitting .429. Lesley Palmer is the only Seminole to homer against the Tar Heels and she did that in Saturday’s game. Florida State is 8-3 all-time against the Heels in the ACC Tournament and they have won one ACC Title when facing the Heels.
STINGING THE JACKETS
The Seminoles and Yellow Jackets have a lot of recent history when it comes to big games. The two teams met in the ACC Championship semifinals in 2002 with the Jackets taking the game 2-0. Less than a week later the Jackets stung the Seminoles again in the NCAA Tallahassee Regional sending the Tribe to the loser bracket. The Seminoles fought their way back and made it to the regional final where they beat Tech twice to advance to the Women’s College World Series. Lately the series has been one-sided in FSU’s favor. The Tribe has won six straight against the Yellow Jackets winning those six games by a combined score of 24-6. In this year’s series Elisa Vasquez has hurt Tech more than any other player at the plate. She is hitting .667 with two runs, a double, a home run, three RBIs and a 1.111 slugging percentage. Overall the Seminoles are hitting .271 versus Tech, which is almost 30 points below their season average, but it is 116 points higher than Georgia Tech is hitting against the Tribe. In the battle of the pitchers, the Seminoles hold a decided edge versus an excellent Tech staff. On top of being 3-0 versus 0-3 for the Jackets, FSU’s staff ERA is just 0.33 in the series compared to 1.53 for the Jackets. The only time the teams met for the ACC title was in 1995 in Tallahassee where FSU won 5-2. The Tribe won that title in three games and beat UNC and Georgia Tech on its way to the title game. In 2004, the tournament is also in Tallahassee and the Seminoles also beat UNC and Georgia Tech to get to the championship game versus the Yellow Jackets. Weird, isn’t it?
HEATING UP AT THE RIGHT TIME
With FSU struggling at the end of the regular season it was up to the team’s first team All-American to step it up and she has done just that. Jessica van der Linden will enter the ACC Championship final on a seven game hitting streak. Over the last seven games, van der Linden has gone 10-for-20 with six runs scored, a triple, a home run, four RBIs, a .750 slugging percentage and a .560 on base percentage. In the ACC Tournament she is hitting .500 with a run scored and two RBIs.
WINNING TWO WILL BE TOUGH
Whoever the Seminoles play in the ACC Championship, that team will have its work cut out trying to beat FSU twice in one day. FSU has been swept in a doubleheader just once in its last 58 twin bills and that came just last week at No. 5 Michigan. The last team before that to sweep a doubleheader from FSU was Georgia Tech in 2000. Florida State has lost two games in a day only once in the last 131 games and it has lost twice in a day to the same team just two times in the last 385 games.
THE BEST EVER?
The 2004 Seminoles are trying to make their case as the best fastpitch squad head coach JoAnne Graf has had in her 21 years. The team has already received the highest ranking in team history when they spent a month at No. 2 and for the first time ever the team received a first place vote in a national poll. Only one fastpitch team in Graf’s tenure has ever recorded more wins than the 2004 squad and had a higher winning percentage. The 1992 Seminoles were 63-9 and they won the ACC Title and eventually advanced to the WCWS. Since then no team has won as many as 55 games and posted a winning percentage as high as the 2004 Seminoles’ .859. This team will have to make a run to the WCWS to compete for the “Best Ever” title.