May 8, 2003
Tallahassee, FL –
For the third time in 12 years, Florida State left the annual ACC Awards Banquet with Player of the Year and Coach of the Year trophies in hand. Junior Jessica van der Linden was named the 2003 ACC Player of the Year becoming the first ACC player ever to win rookie of the year honors and then win player of the year honors as a junior. She is the fifth player in conference history to win both awards. Head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf was named ACC Coach of the Year for the fifth time in her career as she led the Seminoles to the conference’s first-ever 8-0 record. Five other Seminoles were named to the All-ACC team marking the third year in a row FSU led the conference in All-ACC selections and the seventh time in 12 years.
Sophomores Casey Hunter and Tatiana George, juniors Elisa Vasquez and van der Linden and senior Brandi Stuart were all named All-ACC selections. Stuart’s selection was the fourth of her career and she is the first Seminole to ever garner conference honors all four years of her career. This is the third straight honor for van der Linden and the first ever All-ACC award for George, Hunter and Vasquez. Florida State now leads the conference with 51 all-time All-ACC selections.
USA Softball Player of the Year finalist van der Linden becomes just the second Seminole to win ACC Player of the Year honors in the last seven years. No player in Division I softball this season has a higher batting average and lower ERA than the Cerritos, CA native. She is half of the nation’s fourth best staff as far as ERA goes and she is eighth in the nation in strikeouts. She is also 16th in DI softball with a .439 batting average and 24th with a 1.04 ERA. Her .439 batting average is currently the highest in the history of Florida State softball and she leads the team in seven offensive categories. She also leads the conference in average, walks and on base percentage. She went a perfect 3-0 with a 0.49 ERA in ACC games this season and is in the midst of an 11 game winning streak.
It is hard to imagine that in 25 years where she has accomplished almost everything a coach can accomplish, Graf found more records to break but that was the case this season. The winningest coach in NFCA history led her team to the first-ever 8-0 record in ACC play and she has now completed back-to-back undefeated ACC campaigns for the first time in school or conference history after going 6-0 in 2002. Her team has won 20 straight ACC regular season contests and she became the first coach in collegiate softball history to surpass the 1,200 win mark this season. She is now just eight wins away from becoming the second coach in NCAA history to reach the 1,000 fastpitch win plateau.
Stuart is capping off her stellar career by becoming just the fifth player in ACC history to garner All-ACC honors four consecutive years. She has already broken the FSU career records for home runs, RBIs and walks. With her 52 straight starts in 2003, Stuart has also set FSU records for games played, starts and consecutive starts. She is the first Seminole to register 30 or more steals for four straight years and she is currently first in six offensive categories for the Tribe. She is among the conference leaders for batting average, hits, runs scored, home runs, RBIs, doubles, total bases and slugging. She is also in the top five of eight different offensive categories among FSU players in conference play.
Vasquez is one of three Seminoles to be named All-ACC for the first time in their careers Thursday night. The junior form Hesperia, CA is having her best season ever as a Seminole as she enters the ACC Tournament hitting and slugging more than 200 points higher than her career average. The catcher leads FSU in RBIs and triples, is second on the team in batting average and third in slugging percentage. Vasquez is on pace to break the single-season RBI record at Florida State and has already surpassed her career RBI total this season. She is in the top three in eight different offensive categories and top five in 12 offensive categories. Vasquez is fifth in the ACC in batting average and second in the conference in triples and she ranks third in the ACC in RBIs and is amongst the conference leaders for hits and slugging.
Nobody on the 2003 Seminole team has had as big of a breakout season as sophomore hurler Hunter. The Millstadt, IL native is leading the FSU pitching staff and is third in the nation in ERA and 12th in the nation for wins. She is one of just three sophomores in FSU history to lead the team in wins, ERA, strikeouts, shutouts and appearances and she is attempting to become just the third Seminole in the last 10 years to finish the season with an ERA below 1.00. Hunter has allowed more than two earned runs just once in 34 appearances and she didn’t allow a single earned run in 22 of those games. She has also allowed three hits or less in 17 of her 28 starts and has thrown three one-hitters and a no-hitter. The right-hander leads the conference in ERA, shutouts and wins in both overall and ACC games. She had the most wins and lowest ERA of any FSU pitcher in team history in ACC games and has allowed just two earned runs in ACC play this season.
George’s play in 2003 is one of the main reasons FSU is 43-9 and has won 24 straight games as she was awarded with her first-ever All-ACC award. Compared to last season, she is hitting 61 points higher, slugging 67 points higher and she is fielding 42 points higher. She has already surpassed her career RBI total and equaled her career home run total this season and she is amongst the team leaders for runs scored, total bases, sac bunts, slugging, hits, triples, on base percentage and RBIs. Since April she has hit .383, slugged .638 and has an on base percentage of .463. She has scored 15 runs, has two doubles, two triples, two home runs, 15 RBIs and seven walks. George is also second in runs scored and total bases and third in RBIs in ACC games and in games versus ACC teams, George is first in the ACC in home runs, slugging percentage and walks.
The 10th-ranked Seminoles open ACC Tournament play Friday, May 9 at 7:00 p.m. against either Virginia or Maryland. The 2003 ACC Tournament is being held at the Seminole Softball Complex on the campus of Florida State University. Tickets for the tournament are available at the Softball Complex box office and there is more information on the 2003 ACC Championship on-line at the official athletic website for Florida State at www.seminoles.com.