March 11, 2003 - by
No. 16 FSU In California For KIA Klassic

March 11, 2003

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As FSU prepares to head to Fullerton, CA for their second straight KIA Klassic, you can’t help but think back to last years amazing trip. There is no doubt that the Seminoles gained a lot of confidence when they traveled to Fullerton for the prestigious Kia Klassic tournament last season. Few people outside of Tallahassee were expecting the Tribe to make much of a splash on the west coast. The tournament featured nine ranked teams, including the last two national champions, and FSU was in one of two, four-team pools that featured three ranked opponents. It is safe to say the Garnet and Gold opened some eyes and proved that east coast teams can also play ball by advancing to the final four. Florida State, which was winless in six games versus ranked teams in Tallahassee, downed three top 15 teams in three days. The Seminoles beat then No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 14 DePaul and got a measure of revenge when they beat No. 13 Washington to go to the tournament semifinals. To put in perspective just how well FSU did, they advanced further into championship play than No. 2 Arizona, No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 10 Fresno State, No. 13 Washington, No. 14 DePaul and No. 18 Louisiana-Lafayette. The Seminoles only two losses came against the Kia champion (Cal State Fullerton) and runner-up (Texas).

The benefit of that trip out west was immeasurable when you look at what the Seminoles did during the regular season after the Kia. Florida State left Fullerton with a respectable 25-10 record and .714 winning percentage but since then they went 23-4 and posted an amazing .852 winning percentage. Included in that amazing stretch was a 10 game win streak that wasn’t broken until the final game of 2002 against then-10th-ranked FAU. Florida State hit .323 as a team over that stretch, belted 21 home runs, 13 triples, knocked in 133 RBIs and slugged an incredible .481. Seven everyday starters hit .290 or above during the run with five hitting .300 or above and Brandi Stuart hitting .446. FSU pitchers did their part also in posting a 1.41 ERA and a strikeout to walk ratio of almost 3 to 1. FSU outscored its opponents 148-57 in the final 27 contests of the regular season.


The last time FSU and Arizona faced off there was a place in the 2002 National Championship game awaiting the winner. The two teams played an epic 11-inning game that the Cats eventually won 6-2 in the 11th. It was the eighth straight win in the series for Arizona over FSU and it left the Seminoles continuing to search for their first ever victory against the perennial powerhouse. The 2002 WCWS meeting marked the third consecutive meeting in the NCAA postseason and was also the first-ever extra innings affair between the schools. In last year’s game, FSU recorded five hits and they return players who tallied four of those hits including Shundra Colzie who had a game-tying HR off of Jennie Finch. Junior Jessica van der Linden is also back this year after starting the game and holding the Cats to one earned run in six innings of work. The Tribe won’t have to worry about Finch who pitched all 11 innings and had the game-winning home run but they will have to contend with three players (Lovie Jung, Jackie Coburn and Mackenzie Vandergeest) who combined to go 5 for 16 with three runs scored, four RBIs and a homer.


Unlike the postseason memories FSU has of their encounters with Arizona, the memories of playing Long Beach State at the UCLA Regional in 2000 are good ones for the Tribe. Florida State last faced Long Beach State at that regional and won the game 2-0. Current Seminole Brandi Stuart is the only player on the 2003 squad who played in that game. Stuart went 1 for 3 with a stolen base in the victory. The All-Time series between the two squads is tied at 1-1.


After taking a couple years off, the rivalry between Florida State and Louisiana-Lafayette resumes out in Fullerton. The two squads have met 15 times but not since the Ragin’ Cajuns went 3-0 versus the Tribe in 2000. The two teams have faced one another five times in NCAA Regional play with FSU winning all five match-ups. In fact, the Seminoles started the all-time series by jumping out to a 8-1 lead from 1984-1992 but since then ULL has won five of the last six against FSU. In the last four meetings between the schools, the Cajuns have outscored FSU 28-7.


It is hard to imagine anyone having a better night than 2002 1st Team All-American Brandi Stuart had in Troy, AL against the Lady Trojans. The senior second baseman left jaws dropped by the time the doubleheader was over and the FSU bus pulled out of town. In two games, Stuart went 6 for 7 with five runs scored, two doubles, two homeruns, four RBIs, 14 total bases and three steals. She slugged 2.000 and hit .857 in the twin bill. She raised her season’s batting average 55 points (.364 to .419) in just those two games. When she came up for her final at bat in the second game it was hard to imagine any way she could really top what she had done the previous seven times she stepped to the plate but her shot down the right field line and the resulting inside the park homerun put a great cap on the night. We are not sure what it is about the Lady Trojans but Stuart has had quite a career versus TSU. In the last three seasons covering eight games she has hit .583, slugged 1.083, recorded 11 RBIs, three doubles, three homeruns, scored 11 times, stolen eight bases and has 26 total bases.


As good of a night as Brandi Stuart had versus Troy State there was one category in which she didn’t lead the team. Despite Stuart’s two doubles, two home runs and six hits, it was junior catcher Elisa Vasquez and her six RBIs in the Troy State doubleheader that led the team. The Hesperia, CA native is off to a blazing start when it comes to knocking runs in as she is leading the squad in 2003 with 16. She already has established a new career high with more RBIs than she had in her freshman or sophomore seasons. In just the Troy State doubleheader alone, Vasquez had nearly as many RBIs as she had her entire freshman year when she knocked in eight RBIs in 59 at bats. Vasquez’s penchant for RBIs this year has been critical with the loss of two of FSU’s top three RBI producers from the 2002 season.


When Brandi Stuart arrived at Florida State there were a lot of things people expected of her. She was expected to be a great second baseman, to hit for average, to steal bases and to drive in some runs. The Cerritos, CA native has done all of those things and more but few probably expected her to set the career home run record at FSU. With her two round-trippers in one game against Troy State Stuart upped her career total to 21 and she is now five away from taking over first place on the all-time career home runs list at FSU. If Stuart is going to make a serious run at the record, this is the time she is going to do it. In 2002 and 2003, Stuart has hit eight of her 14 home runs in the month of March with three of her four HR’s this season coming in just the last week. Last season she hit four homers in three days in March at the Buzz Classic at the Al Bishop Softball Complex. The Seminoles return to the Buzz at the end of March.


Senior Brandi Stuart has been climbing the all-time charts all season long and we are just 25 games into 2003 so far. The second baseman has already moved from fourth to second for runs scored, from fifth to third for all-time hits, from third to second in home runs and second to first in walks. All those marks are very impressive but she is now on the verge of one of the biggest all-time marks and that record could fall any day. The 2002 1st Team All-American is just five RBIs away from becoming the most prolific RBI producer in FSU’s 25-year history. The Cerritos, CA native has 132 in her career and is rapidly closing in on Kimmy Carter’s all-time record of 136. It will be another huge accomplishment for Stuart on her way to the Florida State Hall of Fame.


Florida State’s game one win over Troy State is one highly recruited freshman Julie Hauck will always remember. After streaking out to an 8-0 lead through three innings, Hauck made her second appearance of the season to start the fourth. After a rough bottom of the fourth inning that saw the Lady Trojans score three runs, two of which were earned, the Oklahoma native settled down and cruised to the first win of her career even set some other career firsts. In the fifth inning she fanned the first batter she faced for her first career K and she set the Lady Trojans down 1-2-3 in that inning also, that was a first for the Yukon High graduate also.


Florida State’s Jessica van der Linden has been out of this world at the plate in 2003. Her .500 batting average, .606 slugging percentage and .624 on base percentage attest to that but when it comes down to it she is a pitcher at heart. The left-handed junior is tough on herself and hasn’t been happy with the way she was pitching at the start of the season but that has all changed recently. Since her 2-0 loss to Oregon State February 22, the Cerritos, CA native has shaved more than a half of a run off her ERA as it has dropped from a season high 2.07 to 1.53. In her last three starts, van der Linden has gone 3-0 with three complete games, a no-hitter, 34 strikeouts and just one earned run. She has set and broken her season-high for strikeouts in the last two games (11 versus Troy State and 13 versus Winthrop) and three of her four double digit strikeout games have come in her last three outings.

In her outing against Winthrop at the 2003 Seminole Invitational, van der Linden not only struck out a season-high 13 batters but she threw the fifth no-hitter of her career. She came just one walk away from a perfect game and ended up facing the minimum amount of batters when freshman catcher BillieAnne Gay threw out her 11th would-be base stealer in 20 attempts.


Jessica van der Linden isn’t the only pitcher who has seen her ERA dropping; the whole Florida State staff has been getting better and better every week. After hitting a season-high team ERA of 1.83 after a loss to No. 10 Georgia, the Seminole staff ERA has dropped .79 runs per game over the last 18 games and now stands at 1.04. Even more impressively, if you look at the numbers week-by-week, FSU’s staff ERA has dropped every week after a season-high 2.15 after week two of the season. Since then the Tribe pitchers have posted weekly ERA’s of 0.81, 0.54 and 0.37.


The 2003 Seminole outfield may be the best defensive outfield FSU has had since the days All-American Shamalene Wilson was roaming around old Lady Seminole Field. The group of Jessica van der Linden, Natasha Jacob, Shandra Colzie, Shundra Colzie and Carly Brieske has committed just two errors this season with four of the players fielding a perfect 1.000. Nothing this group has done in 2003 can compare to what they did Saturday night against Penn State. In the eighth, ninth and tenth innings, each outfielder came up with a game-saving play to keep FSU alive versus the Nittany Lions.

In extra innings Penn State had a chance to win the game three times but was foiled on each occasion by a great play in the outfield. It started in the eighth with Shandra Colzie. Penn State had a runner on third with two outs when they sent a dying line drive into shallow right. Colzie charged the ball and completely laid out on her dive and just got her glove under the ball. In the ninth it was Jacob’s turn. With the bases loaded and just one out PSU sent another drive to the outfield but this one to left. The freshman coolly ran under the ball, made the out and the gunned the runner out at home on a perfect strike to end the threat. In the bottom of the 10th, it was van der Linden’s turn. Once again PSU loaded the bases with one out and once again they sent a dying line drive to the outfield. Just as Colzie did two innings before, van der Linden sacrificed her body to make a spectacular diving catch for the second out of the inning.


Sophomore Lesley Palmer had another big week at the plate. The Virginia native hit .455, scored two runs, hit a home run, slugged .727 and was on base almost 63% of the week. Most impressive was the fact that three of her four RBIs last week were game-winning RBIs. Her RBIs versus Troy State, Rutgers and Winthrop all proved to be the game-winning hits. She now leads the team with four game-winning RBIs.

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