This weekend’s Seminole Challenge Tournament represents one of the biggest early season challenges for the 15th-ranked Seminoles that the team has had to face in a long while. Three of this weekend’s four opponents were NCAA Tournament teams in 2001 and two of them are currently ranked. The Seminoles open tournament play Friday against two of the nations top teams in No. 9 Washington and NCAA Tournament foe Florida Atlantic.
Florida State is coming off of two doubleheader sweeps of Georgia Southern (7-0, 4-0) and Mercer (2-0, 2-1) and will look to establish themselves as one of the nation’s top contenders this weekend.
WASHINGTON (5-0): The Huskies come into the weekend as the top dog in more than just name alone. Washington is off to a fast 5-0 start including a sweep of No. 23 San Diego State and a 10-0 win over CS-Northridge. The Huskies have been to five of the last six College World Series and have made eight straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC (5-0): Currently receiving enough votes to place 30th in the pre-season Top 25, FAU looks like they will move into the Top 25 next poll after two convincing wins over No. 25 South Florida (9-3, 5-2). The Owls and Seminoles played four classic games in 2001 decided by a total of three runs with FSU winning three of the four games.
SOUTH CAROLINA (0-0-0): The Gamecocks open their 2002 campaign in Tallahassee, FL this weekend after making the team’s seventh NCAA Tournament in the last eight years. South Carolina went 40-20-1 last season and won the SEC’s Eastern Conference crown. South Carolina returns seven starters including All-SEC second-team pitcher Megan Matthews.
LOUISVILLE (0-0-0): The 2002 Seminole Challenge will mark the start of the 2002 softball season for the Cardinals also. Louisville is coming off of an impressive 40-26 campaign and have been tabbed to finish fourth in Conference USA in 2002. UL lost five starters off of last year’s squad and two pitchers. This is just Louisville’s first year playing softball.
WHERE THEY LEFT OFF
The 2001 Florida State pitching staff accomplished something that had never been done in the history of Seminole softball. Jen White-Stokes, Leslie Malerich and Jessica van der Linden combined for the lowest ERA in D1 softball in 2001 earning the NCAA’s ERA title for FSU. The staff’s 0.71 ERA was .06 better than National Champion Arizona’s mark and well ahead of national powers UCLA, LSU, Notre Dame and Cal. The Seminole pitching staff was in the nation’s top five for most of the season but their 0.80 ERA in the Tallahassee Regional against the nation’s top competition pushed them to the top of the pack.
Although White-Stokes has graduated and moved on, the Seminole staff looks like it is picking up right where it left off. In four games so far this season, FSU pitchers Leslie Malerich and Jessica van der Linden have allowed one earned run in 28 innings pitched. The staff ERA is sitting at 0.25 and opposing batters are hitting an amazing .078 off of the two FSU pitchers. Although the Seminoles are only four games in, that is a good start.
Senior Kimmy Carter is already off to a great start knocking in runs. The All-Region catcher is leading the team early on with five RBIs in just four games. If you combine that with her two runs scored, a triple and two walks, the co-captain is providing the production the coaching staff expected from one of their experienced veterans.
One of the biggest question marks surrounding the 2002 squad seems to be an area of strength so far this year. With three new infielders and a new outfielder starting for FSU, the team’s defense hasn’t seemed to suffer. In 122 chances, the 2002 Seminoles have committed just three errors. New starters Bryttani Lindheim (third base) and Shundra Colzie (center field) are leading the way with perfect 1.000 fielding percentages. Freshman Tatina George, who’s baptism by fire continues at short, is also holding up very well. She has made just one error in 17 chances.
HERE SHE GOES AGAIN
Does anyone remember the start All-American Brandi Stuart got off to in 2001? Just in case you forget, here’s a little reminder. Stuart, a sophomore from Cerritos, CA, led the Seminoles in seven different offensive categories through 12 games. Stuart hit .487 and led the team in seven offensive categories: RBI’s (10 tied for first) slugging percentage (.667 tied for first), hits (19), home runs (2), total bases (26), steal attempts (6) and stolen bases (5 tied for 1st). She was second in runs scored (9) and third in walks (4), Stuart also led the team with a .650 batting average with runners on base, led the squad with a .667 average with runners in scoring position, had the most 2-out RBI’s (4) and she led the team with a 1.000 batting average with the bases loaded. Stuart also excelled in tournament play where she batted .500 with eight RBI’s and two home runs. That all culminated in Stuart being named NFCA/Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week.
If the first four games of 2002 are any indication, Stuart might shatter those early numbers this year. In just four games, Stuart is batting .692 with a double, a home run and three RBIs. She is slugging 1.000, has an on base percentage of .692 and is a perfect five-of-five in stolen base attempts. She is hitting .500 with runners in scoring position and is advancing runners successfully more than 70% of the time. She leads FSU in batting average, runs scored (5), doubles (tied), total bases (13), slugging, hits (9), homeruns and on base percentage. If she is able to sustain a level of play just with in the same vicinity as those numbers, Stuart will become FSU’s first junior 1st-Team All-American since Serita Brooks accomplished that feat two seasons ago.
POWER TWINS ACTIVATE…
Junior college transfers Shandra and Shundra Colzie have made their presence felt immediately this season. Shundra has started every game in center field and Shandra has started two games as FSU’s designated player. If the two Miami natives weren’t identical enough already, their exact .333 averages and .333 slugging percentage just make it more confusing to tell the two identical twins apart. They both have an on-base percentage of .500 or higher and hit back-to-back in the line-up with Shandra hitting ninth and being followed by Shundra who leads off.
In one-way or another, the Colzies have been involved in most of the runs FSU has scored this season. In Florida State’s 2-0 win over Mercer, Shundra led-off both innings by getting on base and scored both runs in the win. Shundra has scored four runs, drew four walks, stole three bases and has a 1.000 fielding percentage. Her four walks lead the team and she is second with three steals. Shandra has one of just three sacrifices for FSU this year and that led to a four-run inning that helped FSU blow out Georgia Southern 7-0. She has also scored a run.
JUST 8 WINS AWAY
There is no doubting what head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf has accomplished in her 23 seasons at Florida State. The one and only coach in Seminole softball history has won two slowpitch national titles, taken FSU to 14 NCAA Regionals and five Women’s College World Series, won eight ACC Titles, coached 21 All-Americans, been named ACC Coach of the Year four times and never had a single losing season in 23 years. While every one of those feats is impressive, none can match the record she is about to set.
With just 8 more wins, Graf will break the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) record for career victories and will do it in almost five fewer years than the current record holder Judi Garman of Cal St. Fullerton. Graf entered the 2002 season with 1113 wins of which 894 have come during fastpitch competition. She also appears in the top 10 of every NCAA coaching record and is in the top 4 in five of those six categories.
Is it a coincidence or what that just as Dr. JoAnne Graf prepares to make softball history this season, she will have the opportunity to face as many as three other coaches that appear on the NFCA top 10 All-Time wins list.
This weekend, coach Graf and the Seminoles will welcome three other 2001 NCAA Tournament teams to Tallahassee for the Seminole Challenge. Amongst that group will be No. 22 South Carolina coached by Joyce Compton. When the Seminoles and Gamecocks meet at 1:00 p.m. February 9, the two coaches on the field will have more than 1917 wins combined. That’s amazing!
Coach Graf will also face Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso, who fourth on the NCAA’s Winningest Active Coaches (by percentage) list, when FSU travels to one of the nation’s toughest tournaments at the vaunted Kia Classic. Depending how things go at the Kia, Graf could also run into Arizona coach Mike Candrea (No. 2) and Margie Wright (No. 6) who both appear on that same list.
After weather forced the cancellation of games versus Cal State Fullerton and possible match-ups with Utah and Michigan at the Tallahassee Democrat/Seminole Invitational last season, FSU faces an ever more daunting schedule in 2002.
The 15th-ranked Seminoles are scheduled to face No. 7 and 2001 College World Series participant Oklahoma, No. 9 Washington, No. 10 Cal-State Fullerton and No. 22 South Carolina. Florida State will also face four other teams that are receiving votes in the first USAToday/NFCA Preseason Poll. The Seminoles are slated to play Texas (No. 27), Florida Atlantic (No. 30), North Carolina (No. 31) and Virginia (No. 33).
It is possible FSU could also end up facing No. 1 and defending National Champion Arizona, No. 11 Michigan, No. 12 Nebraska and No. 16 Fresno State. That is a total of eight ranked teams and three College World Series teams from 2001. The Seminoles will see 13 opponents that played in the 2001 NCAA Tourney.
Senior Kimmy Carter is 55 games away from entering the All-Time games played list for FSU Softball. She has averaged 66 games per year in her three years with the team.
Carter is also 151 at bats away from becoming a career leader for Florida State in that category. She has averaged 180 at bats per season in her previous three years.
Carter and junior Brandi Stuart are both nearing career records for runs scored. Carter is 39 runs away after scoring 38 times in 2001. Stuart has two seasons to secure the 38 runs she needs to make it on to the list. At her current pace, Stuart will end up second All-Time by the time her career is over with 178 runs.
Carter and Stuart should both find themselves on FSU’s career list for hits also by the time the season is over. Carter needs just 52 this season after posting 64 her junior year. Stuart could end up as FSU’s All-Time hits leader when all is said and done. At her current pace she would finish her career with 304 hits, which is just six hits shy of No. 1 on the list.
Carter, Stuart Jessica van der Linden and Monique Marier are also zeroing on the record for All-Time doubles after the 2001 squad set a record with 93 last season. Carter is just three away from making it on the list and if she repeats her effort of nine from 2001 she will end up third on the all-time list. Marier and van der Linden each launched 14 last year (the second most in team history) and are just 10 away from reaching the all time list. Van der Linden is on pace to shatter the record of 38 after her record freshman season. Stuart is also on pace to take over first after recording 18 doubles in just two seasons.
The same duo of Carter and Stuart are also nearing the triples record. Carter is two away and Stuart has two seasons to record eight more.
Brandi Stuart has already amassed 77 steals in just two seasons. She is already fifth on the All-Time steals list and is projected to finish third All-Time with 144 swipes.
Here they go again. Carter and Stuart are closing in on the All-Time RBI record also. At her current pace, Carter could finish her career tied for fourth and needs just 14 to break onto the All-Time list. Stuart is just 22 away from making the RBI list and has posted 36 RBIs in back-to-back seasons. If she does that over the next two years, Stuart will end up FSU’s All-Time RBI leader.
While Brandi Stuart and Kimmy Carter are in the midst of launching an offensive assault against the Florida State All-Time record book, Leslie Malerich is doing the same but from the mound. The senior All-American, barring unforeseen circumstances, will end up on every All-Time list in the Florida State record books. She already appears on three of the five lists and has a shot to end up No. 1 in most of the categories. Here is a look at where she currently stands:
Malerich is currently second All-Time and just moved into sole possession after her two starts versus Georgia Southern and Mercer. Her 126 appearances are just 9 shy of tying the career mark set last season by Jen White-Stokes.
She is currently fifth on the list with 687.1 innings pitched. Debbie DeJohn owns the FSU recorded with 798, which puts Malerich just 111 innings behind the former Seminole star. Malerich has never pitched less than 145 innings in a season so she will likely own that record also when the 2002 season comes to an end.
This is the only All-Time pitching record that the All-American hasn’t cracked into yet but she will probably end up No. 1 after 2002. Malerich is just 17 wins away from becoming the winningest pitcher in FSU history and she has averaged 30 wins over the past two seasons.
This is one of just two categories Malerich probably won’t finish No. 1 but she will end up in the top four. She currently sits fourth on the list with 509 K’s but she is still 525 behind the All-Time leader (Julie Larsen). Malerich secured the six strikeouts she needed to take over fourth place in the opener versus GSU and she can now set her sights on Toni Guiterrez (648 K’s).
Malerich has already recorded 33 shutouts in her career and if she just makes her average of 11, she will become one of the career leaders in this category also. She could conceivably move up to third if she matches her career-high total of 16 shutouts set during her junior season.
Earned Run Average:
This might be the toughest category of all for the senior. Despite a sparkling 0.72 ERA last season, she still needs to drop her career ERA from 1.24 to 0.84 to get on this list.
When senior Monique Marier came to FSU last season as a Junior College transfer and the leading home run hitter in the nation in 1999, people expected to see some power and Marier didn’t disappoint. She led FSU in homers (6), RBIs (38), slugging percentage (.565) and she had the second-most doubles in a season with 14. Unlike many power hitters around the nation, Marier also hit for average during her first season of D1 softball as evidenced by her .313 average, fifth on the team. After ‘adjusting’ to the D1 game last year, its scary to think what she will have in store for 2002.
THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR
If the last name of two of FSU’s newcomers, Shandra and Shundra Colzie, sounds familiar, it should. The twins from Miami are the sisters of four-time letterwinner James Colzie who played football at Florida State from 1993-96. Colzie played in 10 of the Seminoles 11 games as a senior in 1996 and was tied for the team lead with three interceptions. James Colzie is currently the defensive backs coach for the FIU Golden Panthers who will play their first season of football this fall.
With the addition of California natives Tatiana George and Bryttani Lindheim, one-third of FSU’s roster is now made up of Cali-kids. The West Coast has long been fertile ground for the nation’s top softball players and FSU has increased its presence in the area especially over the last two seasons. In 2001, the Seminoles landed three top prospects from the Golden State in Julie Jordan, Elisa Velasco and ACC Rookie of the Year Jessica van der Linden. They joined All-American junior Brandi Stuart who hails from Cerritos, CA. With seven players from the state of Florida, California is gaining on the Sunshine State when it comes to Seminole Softball.
DOUBLE DARE YA
The 2001 season was a great one for Seminole softball in many aspects. The team was ranked from wire-to-wire once again and made a return trip to an NCAA Regional final. The Seminoles also captured the NCAA’s ERA crown but what this team did when it comes to doubles was amazing.
In 2001, FSU shattered the team’s doubles record set in 1999 when the squad hit 71 on the season. Last year’s team hit an amazing 93. The 2001 Seminoles also had two players come within two doubles of tying the All-Time record for doubles in a season when Monique Marier and Jessica van der Linden each hit 14 two-baggers.
Junior All-American Brandi Stuart is on the verge of re-writing the FSU record books and she still has two seasons left. The newly elected co-captain is coming off her best season ever and has a chance to own almost every offensive record in Seminole softball history.
After a stellar rookie campaign, Stuart improved in almost every category during the 2001 campaign. She raised her batting average 12 percentage points from .349 to .361, scored 10 more runs (49 versus 39), doubled her doubles (from 6 to 12) and hit more than twice as many homeruns (5 compared to 2). She equaled her RBI total of 36 and raised her slugging percentage from .442 to .515, an increase of 73 percentage points. She also cut down on her strikeouts by almost 38% (from 34 to 21). Stuart also was more patient at the plate garnering 11 more walks in 2001 (28 versus 17).
Another area of Stuart’s game that is often overlooked is her ability to steal bases. In two seasons, she has amassed 72 swipes. That is just 25 behind All-American Serita Brooks’ total from her two years at Florida State and she is considered by many to be one of the top base-stealers in Seminole history. Brooks currently holds three different NCAA records for stolen bases.
At her current pace, Stuart will finish in the top two for runs scored, first in doubles, fifth in triples, third in steals and first in RBIs amongst FSU’s All-Time leaders. She would single-handedly wipe away almost 20 years of history. That’s impressive.
CAN SHE KEEP IT UP?
Projecting career numbers for Brandi Stuart is a little risky with two years still to play but it is downright dangerous to do that for Jessica van der Linden but… In her first season, the ACC Rookie of the Year already set the record for the most no-hitters in a single year with three. If you project that number for four years, nobody in FSU history would be close to her 12. Her 14 doubles, the second-most in a single season, would project to 56 for her career, which would shatter the record of 38 set by Corrie Williams from 1996-99.