May 9, 2003
Tallahassee, FL –
The 10th-ranked Florida State softball team (44-9) started the 2003 ACC Softball Championship the way they ended the regular season, with another win. The Seminoles extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 25 games as they won their first round ACC tournament game for the 12th year in a row. The Tribe set the record for home runs in an ACC Tournament game with three and tied the record for most runs in an inning with seven as they blasted Virginia (35-25) 10-1 in five innings. The win was FSU’s third in a row over UVa in the last two weeks and the combined score in those games was 27-2.
Elisa Vasquez, Lesley Palmer and Beth Wade all went deep in front of 730 fans, the second-largest crowd in Seminole Softball Complex history. Vasquez’s HR was her third in the last seven games as she now has 44 RBIs on the season. Palmer’s dinger was her first in more than a month and Wade went deep for the first time since April 30, 2002 against Virginia in Charlottesville. Jessica van der Linden, the 2003 ACC Player of the Year, drove in a run as did freshman Natasha Jacob in the win.
“I was really pleased with how we came out offensively early. Scoring those runs put us in control of the game,” said head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “The long ball was a big asset for us tonight. Sometimes I wish we could save some of those runs for tomorrow.”
All-ACC pitcher Casey Hunter (26-5) won her 14th straight decision as she pitched four shutout innings before allowing the Cavs to end her shutout bid in the top of the fifth. Although she handled the Cavaliers for the second time this season, she once again found it tough to strike out the Virginia hitters. After registering just three Ks versus UVa the first time around, Hunter didn’t record a strikeout Friday for the first time all season.
“Casey did a great job tonight but it is na?ve to think that she will be able to keep a team that is this good at the plate off the bases all night,” said Graf. “The nice thing is that her defense is playing very well behind her and I am pleased with all aspects of our game.”
Hunter found herself in trouble in the first as Virginia took advantage of an error and a bunt single to put two runners on with nobody out. After third baseman Palmer turned a double play on a soft liner, the Cavs threatened again on a single by All-ACC selection Sara Larquier. The Seminole right-hander got out of the inning though as she kept the game scoreless in her first ever ACC Tournament start.
“I always get nervous in the first inning but I tried to pitch my game. It usually goes away but I am not sure it went away tonight,” said Hunter. “I was just trying to hit black and throw strikes. All of those runs helped.”
The Tribe got its first hit of the game in the bottom of the second as 2002 First Team All-American Brandi Stuart led off the inning by ripping the first pitch she saw into left. Wade sacrificed her to second and the senior then stole third. On the throw down the ball hit Stuart in the back and bounced into foul territory allowing the four-time All-ACC selection to come home with the first run of the game. Palmer, who made a huge defensive play in the first, singled and was followed by Shundra Colzie who blasted a double to center putting runners on first and third. Freshman Natasha Jacob then slapped a hit through the right side of the infield to push another run across the plate. Virginia starter Christina Grimm (13-8) got the second out of the inning before the Cavs third error of the day allowed another run to score. The Tribe went up 4-0 as van der Linden smashed a single to short. That brought up All-ACC catcher Vasquez who blasted her fourth homer of the year, this one a three-run shot, over the wall in right center and off the scoreboard.
“I was hoping she would give me the outside pitch so I could hit it hard and she did,” said Vasquez. “I think that was the best I got around on a pitch this season and I was pretty excited when it went off the scoreboard.”
The Tribe went back to work in the third. After UVa right fielder Jessica Taylor laid out to make a brilliant diving catch on a Wade liner, Palmer came up with the bases empty and one out. The redshirt sophomore took Grimm’s 1-2 offering over the fence in left center as FSU went up 8-0. Shundra Colzie then singled off new pitcher and Tallahassee native Erin Horn. She then moved to second on a passed ball. A Jacob bunt single put runners on the corners for Shandra Colzie who drew a walk to load the sacks for Tatiana George who struck out swinging at a high fast ball. The freshman then got out of the inning on a hard liner that was smashed to first but handled by Hannah Owings.
Just like they did in the second and third innings, FSU continued to build on its lead in the fourth. For the second time in a row the Cavaliers walked Stuart bringing up Wade. The junior, who hadn’t hit a home run in 2003, took the first pitch she saw over the fence in centerfield. It was the Colquitt, GA natives 21st RBI surpassing her career total of 18 in two seasons combined.
“I got up there and was just looking for a pitch to hit hard and it went out,” said Wade. “I just go up to the plate looking to get a hit especially since it has been a while since I had a home run.
“We are hitting well as a team and that has been great. It’s not the same person everyday that is coming out and contributing. A different person everyday is winning games for us. One of our goals this year was to take home the ACC Championship and we came out focused tonight.”
Next up for Florida State is a rematch with No. 3 seed Georgia Tech (35-21) who upset No. 2 seed North Carolina 3-1 in ACC Tournament action earlier in the day. The Tribe finished the regular season with 4-0 and 6-0 wins over the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta last week. The last time the team’s met in the ACC Tournament, Georgia Tech sent FSU into the loser’s bracket at the 2002 ACC Softball Championship in Tallahassee with a 2-0 win.
“Tomorrow is a big game because if you win that you are through to the championship game Sunday,” said Graf. “Georgia Tech is a great hitting team and I am sure they are going to be ready for us after what happened last weekend. They will be ready to play us. They are a great team and we have a lot of respect for them.”
For more information on the 2003 ACC Softball Championship and the Florida State softball team, please log on to seminoles.com, the official home for Florida State athletics on the internet.