Feb. 29, 2004
Columbus, GA –
The 10th-ranked Seminoles (17-2) couldn’t defeat their fifth consecutive ranked team Sunday evening, falling 4-3 to the 12th-ranked LSU Tigers (18-3) in the 2004 NFCA Leadoff Classic gold bracket championship. The Seminoles tied a season high with 11 hits but were unable to cash in with bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the sixth trailing by just one run. The second place finish was the best ever by the Seminoles in the country’s top tournament. Casey Hunter pitched all seven innings and suffered the loss as she fell to 8-1 on the season.
The Seminoles broke on top once again at the NFCA Leadoff Classic. In the second inning the Tribe used a two-out rally to break on top of Kristin Schmidt (9-2). Lesley Palmer started the rally with an infield single that spun off the bag at second base. After a Schmidt K, Beth Wade singled into right field moving Palmer to second. Carly Brieske then drove a run in on her single to left putting FSU up 1-0.
The Tigers mounted their first threat of the game in the third. A walk and a steal put a runner in scoring position but LSU was still looking for its first hit versus Hunter. Sophomore Lauren Castle provided that with a shot into left field that scored the run from second and evened the game at 1-1. Another single into left, this one a line shot scored another run and put FSU behind for just the third time in six games in the tournament.
Veronica Wootson started the bottom of the third with a single through the left side putting the lead runner on for FSU for the first time all day. She was promptly erased off the bags though as LSU picked her off as she was caught between the bases as she wandered too far from first.
Two out hits continued to haunt Hunter. After striking out the first two batters she faced in the fourth, Hunter served up a homer to LSU’s all-time roundtrip leader in Julie Wiese. The shot over the fence in left was the senior’s 28th of her Bayou career.
Kim Hoffer led off the fourth in place of an injured Tatiana George. The Tribe’s new shortstop smashed a shot right back up the middle to start the inning and then moved up to second on a passed ball. Hoffer moved up to third on a wild pitch giving FSU the chance to cut into the Tiger lead. Schmidt got Beth Wade looking at strike three as she moved a step closer to getting out of the inning. The senior then uncorked her second wild pitch allowing Hoffer to come home with the Tribe’s second run and making the score 3-2.
Louisiana State put the pressure on FSU again in the top of the fifth. A lead off walk and a stolen base put another Tiger in scoring position with nobody out. A mishandled ball up the middle deflected off Hunter and put runners on the corners for LSU. Castle hurt FSU again as she lined an RBI single down the left field line to put the Tigers up 4-2. Hunter came back strong and retired the next three hitters, two by strikeout to move the game into the home half of the fifth.
With only eight outs left to put together a rally, Wootson dropped down a great bunt and got on base to try and kick start a FSU rally. Jacob sacrificed her to second bringing up van der Linden with two outs and a runner in scoring position. The senior’s grounder to short was thrown away allowing Wootson to come home and make it a 4-3 game. The Tribe left the All-American standing on second though as the ballgame moved to the sixth.
Hunter had her best inning since the first as she made quick work of LSU in the sixth. The junior set down the Tigers 1-2-3 and kept FSU within striking distance going into the home half of the inning. Palmer started the frame off by just getting under a Schmidt pitch and driving it into left field but short of the fences and right at the LSU defense. That brought up Hoffer who manufactured a run in her first at bat. This time the shortstop smashed a ball at the third baseman and she couldn’t handle the hit putting the Texan on at first. A wade single through the left side moved everybody up a base and brought up Carly Brieske with one away. The sophomore singled up the middle to load the bases. The Seminoles came into the game hitting .500 with the bases loaded in the NFCA but Schmidt got pinch hitter Katie Fricke swinging and then ended the bases loaded threat when Wootson grounded out to third.
Looking for some insurance, LSU began the seventh with a single up the middle. Hunter induced pop outs from the next two hitters and Vasquez then gunned down the Tiger base runner trying to steal to move the game into the bottom of the seventh.
Florida State will take the week off before returning to action at home this coming Friday, March 5 for the Seminole Challenge. The Tribe opens play Friday at 3:30 p.m. versus Penn State and then wraps-up day one action against Rhode Island at 5:30. Live stats will be available for all of FSU’s contests at the official athletic website for FSU at www.seminoles.com.
NOTES: Four Seminoles were named all-tournament: Casey Hunter (P), Tatiana George (SS), Natasha Jacob (OF) and Jessica van der Linden (OF)…this was just the second-ever meeting between LSU and Florida State in softball…this was FSU’s first appearance in the NFCA Leadoff Classic gold bracket championship game and the first-ever appearance by an ACC team…FSU defeated four straight ranked teams to reach the NFCA Leadoff Classic final. In that streak was three straight wins versus 2003 College World Series squads…the LSU homer by Julie Wiese was the first Casey Hunter had allowed all season in 57 innings…Kim Hoffer’s run scored was her ninth of the season.