March 20, 2003
Now that Turner Field has replaced Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, a case can be made that the Al Bishop Softball Complex may be the new “Launching Pad” as far as FSU is concerned. At last year’s Buzz Classic, the Seminole softball team entered the tournament with 10 home runs. In the six games played at Al Bishop, FSU equaled their season total with 10 in a weekend. The Seminoles set a new season-high with three HR’s in a game versus Princeton and they had multi-home run games versus Campbell, UNC-Greensboro and UCF. The Garnet and Gold also had a home run versus Troy State and ended up homering in five of their six games at the Buzz. The team’s long ball performance at the Buzz Classic propelled them to setting a new season record for HR’s with 33. By knocking in four HR’s herself at the Buzz, junior Brandi Stuart finished the year tied for the single season record of 10 home runs. The 2003 Buzz Classic is a site for sore bats as the offense limps into the tournament after its poorest showing of the year at the Buzz Classic.
SECOND HALF SUCCESS
It’s hard to believe but the Tribe is coming around the bend and actually starting to head down the home stretch of the 2003 season. This weekend’s Buzz Classic is the last regular season tournament of the year and the Seminoles will primarily play doubleheaders from this point on. While there will be many more challenges for the 2003 team in the second half of the season, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Florida State doesn’t have a single game against a ranked opponent left on its schedule and has an all-time record of 244-43-1 against its remaining opponents. That comes out to a .849 all-time winning percentage against that group. Florida State also has a winning record against every team remaining on its schedule.
NO K IN STUART
At the 2003 KIA Klassic the entire Seminole softball team struggled at the plate as the team batting average barely broke the .200 mark, which wasn’t all that surprising considering seven Top 10 teams and 10 Top 25 teams were at the tournament. The most surprising thing though was Brandi Stuart’s four strikeouts at the tournament considering she came into the weekend with four K’s all year. The back-to-back two K games were the first in the last three years for Stuart, which covers 173 games. It just goes to show how good of a hitter the 1st Team All-American is. She has only struck out more than one time in a game seven times in the last three years and since her arrival at FSU; she has struck out just 98 times in 718 at bats. That comes out to one K every seven at bats. Including the 2002 Women’s College World Series, Stuart has K’ed just 14 times with six of those strikeouts coming against Arizona.
NO SUCH THING AS A GOOD LOSS?
When you have had the success that the Florida State softball program has had in Dr. JoAnne Graf’s 25 years, there are no more moral victories. After six World Series appearances and 15 NCAA Regionals, there is also no such thing as a good loss. BUT the way FSU played against No. 1 Arizona said a lot about the 2003 team. The two squads played an epic 11-inning battle at the WCWS last year, which the Cats eventually won 6-2. The meeting at this year’s KIA Klassic was just as close as FSU played the Cats just about as good as anyone has in 2003. The teams were engaged in a 0-0 tie before Lovie Jung’s two-run homer, her 15th of the year, decided the game. Of Arizona’s 30 wins, Florida State is one of just five teams to have even kept the game within two runs. They also had to go against the Cats No. 1 pitcher in Alicia Hallowell, which wasn’t the case for 13 of UA’s 30 opponents this year.
Boston University was a late addition to the 2003 Buzz Classic field and in turn a late addition to the Seminoles’ schedule. The Terriers will replace Nicholls State as one of FSU’s four opening-round opponents at the Buzz. This is the first ever meeting between the schools and comes on the heels of the Terriers second ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2002. Boston earned a bid to the 2002 NCAA Tournament after capturing its fifth American East title in the last 10 years. The Terriers are off to a rough start in 2003 though as they enter the Buzz Classic with a 2-11 record. The only common opponent between the two teams this year is Louisiana-Lafayette. The Tribe fell 3-0 to the Cajuns at the KIA Klassic last weekend while BU dropped a doubleheader at ULL 8-0 and 8-0. The Terrier staff is struggling early on as the team ERA is close to 5.00 and none of BU’s four pitchers have a winning record. On the other side, the Terriers are hitting just .251 as a squad and have an on base percentage of just .330 this year.
EYE OF THE TIGER
Florida State and Princeton meet for the second consecutive season at the Buzz Classic and for the 10th time overall in the series. The Tribe leads the series 9-0 and has held the Tigers to one run or less in seven of the nine meetings including a 5-1 win last year. Like many northern teams, Princeton has barely begun its season and will enter the Buzz Classic having played just six games compared to 28 for FSU. Entering games against Georgia State and Tennessee, Princeton was just 1-3 on the year. The Tigers are also coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2002 as winners of the Ivy League crown. Current Seminole Brandi Stuart had a big game versus the Tigers last year going 2 for 4 with a home run, an RBI and two runs scores. In the circle, Jessica van der Linden pitched all seven innings for FSU an allowed just one earned run while striking out 11 and issuing just one walk.
SO WE MEET AGAIN
After meeting for the first time ever in 2002, the Seminoles and Lady Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee are becoming fast and furious friends. Their meeting at this weekend’s Buzz Classic marks the third time the teams will play this season alone. Last year the Tribe needed 10 innings to get past MTSU but it has been a different story in 2003. Florida State handled MTSU easily this year in two meetings at the Sunshine State Tournament. The Seminoles won the first game 11-0 in five innings and the second game 6-3. Jessica van der Linden, Brandi Stuart, Elisa Vasquez and Bryttani Lindheim combined for 13 RBIs in the two games played in mid-February. Lindheim went 3 for 3 with a double and three RBIs while van der Linden exploded in the two games. The junior went 6 for 7 with three runs scored, a double, four RBIs and a 1.000 slugging percentage. Overall, the Tribe hit .434 as a team in the two games and slugged .604. Casey Hunter led the Tribe on the mound as she held MTSU without a run in five innings while issuing just one walk.
Georgia State and Florida State will conclude Pool 3 play against one another in the 12th all-time meeting between the schools. FSU has won four in a row against the Panthers by a combined score of 28-1 shutting out GSU in three of those four contests. In 11 meetings, the Tribe has never allowed Georgia State to score more than one run in a game and has held GSU scoreless in seven of 11 meetings. Even in their one loss to GSU, the Tribe allowed just one run in a nine-inning loss during the 1990 season. The teams played a doubleheader in 2001 but did not face one another last year. This meeting at the Buzz Classic will be a preview of this year’s DH between the teams that is scheduled for the last weekend of the season before the ACC Tournament. As freshmen, Jessica van der Linden and Elisa Vasquez both had big games against the Panthers in 2001. Van der Linden went 3 for 7 with two runs scored and two RBIs while Vasquez also had two RBIs and went 2 for 4. Second baseman Brandi Stuart also had a big day the last time the teams met going 3 for five with three runs scored and a triple.
Whenever you go out to the KIA Klassic and face a field that features seven Top 10 teams and 10 Top 25 teams, there is always a chance that you could get a loss or two. That was the case for not only FSU who went 1-2 but also for No. 5 Nebraska (1-2), No. 7 Texas (0-3) and No. 13 Arizona State (1-2). With their two losses in Fullerton, the Seminoles are now 1-3 in their last four games. The only two times this year that FSU has had any sort of losing streak they have followed with their two longest winning streaks. After losing two of three games just over a week into the season, the Tribe responded by winning a season-long seven games in a row. The Seminoles responded in a similar fashion after losing three of four during a trip to the NFCA Leadoff Classic. After that mini slide, FSU reeled off six consecutive wins. With 9 of its next 10 scheduled games coming versus teams with losing records, the Tribe has the chance to bust out of the recent 1-3 streak with another long run of wins.
As FSU Athletics Director Dave Hart Jr. said, “The 16th-ranked Florida State softball team leads the nation in rain outs” and he wasn’t far off. The 2003 FSU softball schedule has been kidnapped for long stretches by the weather. So far this season, FSU softball has had a minimum of nine games cancelled due to rain and weather has forced an abrupt ending to four consecutive tournaments for FSU. The cancellations started at the prestigious NFCA Leadoff Classic as the tournament was halted after pool play with FSU losing out on a minimum of two games. Then a game versus Mercer was rained out on top of two games on the opening day of the Seminole Challenge Tournament. At the 2003 Seminole Invitational, once again teams were unable to advance into bracket play due to rain and that cost FSU two more games. Finally the rain in usually dry southern California washed away FSU’s game against No. 13 Arizona State and at least one more contest. The nine cancellations were so key because they came against regional teams and ranked opponents.
LOST & FOUND
While many Seminoles seemed to have lost their bats out at the KIA Klassic, one player found her swing. Beth Wade had been struggling at the plate for most of the season but out in California, she really turned a corner and was one of just two players to record a hit in all three games. The redshirt junior has seen her batting average increase by 78 percentage points over the last 14 games since hitting a season low .095. After starting the year with just two hits in the first 12 games, she has recorded seven hits in her last 13 starts. It is a perfect time for the Colquitt, GA native to be heating up as she returns to her home state for this weekend’s Buzz Classic.
WITH THE GREATEST OF E’S
Another player who stood out for FSU at the KIA Klassic was Hesperia, CA native Elisa Vasquez. The junior catcher was one of a few Seminoles that had a big weekend at the plate and defensively. She led the team with a .500 batting average going 4 for 8 on top of scoring a run. She also posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage behind the plate and threw out her fifth would be base stealer of the season. The junior still leads the team with 16 RBIs in 2003 as she has already set a new personal season high in that category.
LEADING THE WAY
When it comes to leading the conference in hitting and pitching, nobody is doing as well as Florida State this year. On top of having the best staff ERA (1.44) and best team batting average (.283), the Tribe is the only ACC team that has two pitchers and two hitters among the top four in the conference. Casey Hunter and Jessica van der Linden are first and fourth respectively amongst the ACC’s individual pitching leaders. Hunter is the only ACC hurler with an ERA below 1.00 and she is a half a run per game ahead of her nearest competitor. Not only is van der Linden fourth in the conference for ERA but also she is leading the ACC with a .486 batting average. The junior is joined by 1st Team All-American Brandi Stuart who is currently fourth in the ACC amongst the leading hitters.