May 7, 2002
Tallahassee, FL –
The 21st-ranked Florida State softball team fired the opening shot in the season’s most important series with 10th-ranked Florida Atlantic (55-10) Tuesday afternoon. Seminole ace Leslie Malerich (28-10) pitched FSU to a 3-2 win in a game that wasn’t decided until the bottom of the seventh inning. The senior All-American went seven innings, allowed four hits and notched the 100th win of her career. She is just the 25th pitcher in Division I softball history to win 100 games in a career. The victory over the top-ranked team in the South Region moved the Seminoles to 48-14 and 23-2 in the region.
The much-anticipated pitching match-up of ACC Player of the Year candidate Malerich and FAU’s National Player of the Year finalist Nicole Myers was over before it began. The Owls surprised some by starting freshman Candice Freel (24-5) in game one of the doubleheader. The Oregon native came into the game a gaudy 20 games over .500 with a 1.12 ERA and showed she deserved the start. The right-hander didn’t allow a Seminole run through three innings while allowing just two hits.
The Owls took an early lead in the first when Freel helped her own cause with a two-out bloop single up the middle. The freshman fisted the first pitch she saw into shallow center plating left fielder Ninya Ybarra with the game’s first run.
Florida State looked as if it would tie the game in the bottom of the frame when senior Kimmy Carter took the first pitch she saw to the warning track in left before Ybarra tracked it down. Florida State went on to string together back-to-back two-out singles but was unable to get the tying run across the plate.
The Seminoles threatened Freel again in the fourth and ended up taking the lead. The inning started with Jessica van der Linden’s slow rolling single to second base. She was followed by Brandi Stuart who laid down a textbook sacrifice bunt and she reached safely when the throw from FAU catcher Callie Piper hit her in the helmet. Stuart moved to second and van der Linden to third on the ricochet off the errant throw. That brought up FSU’s leading RBI producer in Kimmy Carter. The senior catcher came through once again as she sent a single into left center scoring both base runners and pushing her team-leading total to 47 on the year. Carter’s 47 RBIs are the second-most in the 24-year history of FSU softball and moved her within two of tying the single-season record.
The FSU advantage was short-lived as eight-hole hitter Rhianna Rogers led off the top of the fifth by sending a 3-2 pitch out of the deepest part of the park in straight-away center. It was the third round-tripper of the year for the third baseman and the seventh homer Malerich has allowed. Of the 13 home runs the Seminole pitchers have allowed in 2002, only three have come with runners on base.
The fifth-inning homer was a key hit as the game moved to the bottom of the seventh with the teams still knotted at 2-2. After retiring Becky Brock to lead off the inning, Shandra Colzie chopped a single over the first baseman Pam Mazzarella’s head. The hit put the junior at 2-for-3 on the day. She was followed by Tatiana George who singled up the middle to put runners on first and second with one out. Twin sister Shundra Colzie followed with another infield hit and the Owls were unable to gun down the lead runner at third leaving the bases loaded with one out. Florida Atlantic then brought in their ace Myers to try to end the Seminole uprising. The National Player of the Year finalist went to 3-2 on van der Linden before missing on the pay off pitch to plate the winning run.
After completing today’s twin bill with FAU, Florida State opens conference tournament play Friday at 7:00 p.m. The Seminoles open up with the winner of the day’s first game between North Carolina and Virginia at 3:00 p.m. 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.