Feb. 7, 2004
Tallahassee, FL –
For the 19th time in 21 tries the 19th-ranked Florida State Seminoles opened a season with a win. The Tribe, who staked Illinois State to a 3-0 lead in the first, stormed from behind with back-to-back five-run innings in an 11-3, five-inning win. The 11 runs were the most scored by FSU in a season opener since 1984 when they downed Florida A&M 12-0. The win was also the team’s 25th consecutive regular season victory. Junior Casey Hunter (1-0) picked up the win as she faced the minimum number of batters from the second inning on.
“We were pretty rusty today and that showed with our play throughout the game,” said head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “I am proud of the way our kids fought back after falling behind early. There were some very positive things to build on and there are also some areas we need to work on. Overall, it was kind of what you expect in the first game of the season.”
“I knew we would make a comeback,” said Elisa Vasquez. “We just needed a couple innings because the way this teams hits the ball, that’s all it takes.”
Two of Florida State’s biggest RBI producers in 2003 picked up right where they left off. Vasquez and Lesley Palmer each knocked in two runs along with senior Beth Wade. Vasquez had a big afternoon going 2-for-2, with two runs scored and the two RBIs. Both freshman starters, Veronica Wootson and LaShaun Davis, also picked up the first hits of their Seminole careers. The pair were the first rookies to start opening day since 1999 when Kimmy Carter and Leslie Malerich started as freshmen.
“I felt good today. I went up to the plate with the mentality that I wanted to continue what I did last season and drive in runs,” said Vasquez. “I was just happy to be able to contribute today.”
Hunter, who is coming off a breakout season, had a little trouble with control in the first inning. The Illinois native walked the first two hitters she faced, gave up two hits and allowed three earned runs. In 38 appearances last year, Hunter allowed three earned runs on just one occasion. The All-America candidate bounced right back into form by retiring 12 of the next 13 batters she faced and striking out six to pick up the victory.
“It was a rough start,” said Hunter. “I just tried to stay mentally strong, which is something I have been working on improving. I went in the bullpen between every inning and worked on it. I think the way I responded shows that I am more mentally prepared this season.”
Illinois State got off to the fast start in the top of the first Katie Guilbault and Lauren Bierwirth each had RBIs and the Red Birds jumped on top 3-0 on two hits and a Seminole error.
Hunter responded by setting Illinois State down in order in the second, including her first two strikeouts of the game. The Seminoles looked to cut into the ISU lead in the bottom of the second as Vasquez drew a lead off walk but she was erased off the base paths on a failed steal attempt. Wootson followed with a single in her first career at bat. She swiped second and advanced to third on an errant throw. The freshman from California came around to score on the next play on a booted ground ball to third base. The Tribe was unable to trim the lead any further as the game moved into the third with FSU trailing 3-1.
In the bottom of the third, the Seminoles stormed back aided by four ISU errors and three hits. Florida State put the lead-off runner on for the second time as Davis recorded the first hit of her FSU career. The Georgia native then swiped second to move into scoring position with nobody out. After an out, a misplayed fly ball to center field allowed Davis to move to third and put Jessica van der Linden on second with just one away. Palmer then drove in her first run of the year as she flared a two-strike, RBI single into shallow center. With runners on second and third once again, ISU brought a new pitcher into the game to face NFCA All-American Vasquez. The senior singled to shallow center but an error allowed the ball to roll into the outfield scoring Palmer and van der Linden. Wootson then popped up a ball to third that was dropped and then thrown to the outfield wall allowing both runs to score and FSU to jump in front 6-3.
In the bottom of the fourth the Red Birds got in trouble again as they walked the Tribe’s first two batters, Natasha Jacob and Davis. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch and then Tatiana George singled a two-strike single through the left side scoring Jacob. With no outs, the Tribe was still in business with runners on second and third and first team NFCA All-American van der Linden at the plate. Illinois State pitcher Stacy Birk threw around the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year candidate to load the bases for Palmer. A fielder’s choice brought in FSU’s eighth run and second of the frame. Vasquez followed with her first double of the year and second RBI of the game. The Hesperia, CA native led FSU in RBIs last season with the second-highest single season total in team history. A walk by new ISU pitcher Sheila Eems to Wootson loaded the bases once again for FSU and Beth Wade took advantage with a two-RBI single as the Seminoles moved in front for good 11-3.
The Seminoles return to action later today as they wrap-up their first day of action at the 2004 Seminole Classic with a game against Louisville (0-2). The game is slated to start at approximately 6:00 p.m. For more information on the 2004 Seminole softball team, please log on to the official athletic website for FSU at www.seminoles.com.