May 15, 2003
Gainesville, FL –
For the first time in two months the 10th-ranked Florida State softball team (46-10) lost a game. The seventh-seeded Mavericks of Texas-Arlington (40-15) upset the second-seeded Seminoles 1-0 in opening round play at the 2003 Region 4 NCAA Tournament in Gainesville, FL. The opening round NCAA loss was the first for FSU since 1998 and Florida State will now have to win six games in a row if they want to return to their second straight Women’s College World Series.
Maverick ace Katie Cox (28-6) shutout the Seminoles for the first time since Florida State’s last loss March 14 when the Tribe fell 3-0 to Louisiana-Lafayette. It was also only the fourth time all season the Tribe has been shutout. All-America candidate Jessica van der Linden (18-5) pitched a gem as she had a no-hitter through five innings and a shutout through seven before a UTA solo homer in the seventh.
“I think our hitting was pretty poor today but when you hit like that you have to give credit to the other team’s pitcher,” said head coach JoAnne Graf. “She (Katie Cox) did what she needed to do. She kept us from scoring runs.
“I think their pitcher did a good job. Maybe we could have focused a little better and made something happen. We got a lot of pop ups and she was throwing a good spinning rise ball. We didn’t get it done when we needed to.”
Van der Linden got through the top of the first fairly easily with the exception of a one-out walk. The Tribe came up against Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year Cox in the bottom of the opening inning. The SLC Tournament MVP got Shandra Colzie on a liner to shallow left but then lost Tatiana George after starting out 1-2. With a runner on first, the Haltom City native retired van der Linden on a fly out to center bringing up FSU’s team leader in RBIs and two-out RBIs Elisa Vasquez. The junior got caught looking at strike three though as the game moved into the second.
The Seminoles breezed through the top of the second as van der Linden set the Mavericks down 1-2-3. The first team All-Region selection recorded her second strikeout and the Seminoles recorded their third ground out to third in two innings. After retiring the first hitter in the home half of the frame, Beth Wade singled to left for the first hit of the game. The Tribe couldn’t cash in though as Cox picked up her third K of the game and ended the second.
The Mavericks went down in order again in the top of the third as van der Linden upped her strikeout total to four. Cox matched her as she retired the Tribe in order with two more K’s upping her total to four.
The Mavericks put their second runner on base in the fourth as van der Linden hit Autumn Petrino and the freshman proceeded to swipe second. The Mavericks couldn’t cash in as the game moved to the home half of the fourth. The Tribe put a lead off runner on for the first time all day as van der Linden drew a lead off walk. She was followed by Vasquez who singled on an attempted sacrifice bunt. The hit upped the junior’s hitting streak to 13 games. Florida State couldn’t capitalize again as they stranded runners at first and third as Cox continued her mastery over the Tribe hitters. It marked just the first time since April 9 versus UCF when FSU hadn’t scored at least one run in the first four innings of a game.
“We played good defensively and Tat (George) made some great plays defensively but when it comes down to it you have to be able to hit and we weren’t able to do that.”
The Seminoles tried to break through again in the bottom of the fifth as they put together back-to-back infield singles with one away in the inning. The Mavericks moved one out away from getting out of the jam as they nailed Natasha Jacob trying to swipe third. Cox walked Tatiana George and then van der Linden looked as if she was going to put the Seminoles in front. The junior blasted a shot trailing away to the gap in right center but Maverick outfielder Melanie Williams tracked it down and made a snow cone catch to save the run and end the inning.
“I was hoping it would fall,” said van der Linden. “The outfielder made a great play out there.”
Texas-Arlington started the sixth with its first hit of the game off van der Linden as nine spot hitter Jennifer English singled to left field. The Tribe cut down the lead runner on the sac bunt but threw away the throw to first as they tried to turn two putting a UTA runner in scoring position with just one out. After getting the second out of the frame, designated player Beverly Rowan sent a shot about 230 feet foul before the southpaw sat down her seventh batter via the K to end the inning.
Cox continued to stymie Florida State in the bottom of the sixth. The Seminoles were getting the bat on the ball but couldn’t get anything to fall as the junior retired the side in order for the second time in the game. The last time the Tribe had been held without a run through six innings was March 22 against Boston University. That was also the first win in the 27 game winning streak.
The Seminoles looked like they were headed to the bottom of the seventh with a chance to win the game after van der Linden set down the first two hitters. Second baseman Jenna Owens then changed the game with one swing of the bat as she sent the first van der Linden pitch she saw over the fence in center field for her fourth homer of the year. It was the first HR the junior has allowed since March 23.
“She hit a mistake basically and that is what good hitters are supposed to do,” said van der Linden. “I was going in and I didn’t get it in enough on her.”
With its final chance to even the game, Cox recorded the first two outs of the inning before the Seminoles put back-to-back singles together. Down to its last out, FSU sent George up to the plate. The sophomore fouled the first three pitches off as she and Florida State were a strike away from their first loss since March. George then sent a screamer down the left field line that landed two feet foul before grounding out to third to end the game.
Next up Florida State will take the field at 9:00 a.m. against Oregon State (32-30) as they try to stave off elimination. The only time FSU has ever opened the NCAA Tournament with a loss and advanced to the WCWS was 1993 in a much smaller field of teams. On top of that, Florida State’s only game against the Beavers this year was a 2-0 loss.
“I don’t think this will sting for too long. You have to lose some time and I think this will serve as a wake up call for us,” said 2003 all-region first team selection Brandi Stuart. “We have to play better than we just played. We now have to step it up. This will test our character. This team has a lot of fight left. I think we will be around to fight another day.
“We had one long streak and now we need another. It starts for us tomorrow.”
For more information on the 2003 ACC Softball Champions, please log on to seminoles.com, the official home for Florida State athletics on the internet.