April 17, 2002 - by

No. 20 FSU Softball Hosts Rival Gators Today At 4:00

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April 17, 2002


Florida State’s drive to a 15th NCAA Tournament got underway versus Georgia Tech and UAB last week and if those results were any indication, the Seminoles look ready to capture their third straight NCAA bid. Florida State took care of business in a big way last week and began to re-establish their ACC supremacy.


After sweeping a doubleheader from a quality UAB squad, the Seminoles turned around and welcomed in Georgia Tech just two days later. The Yellow Jackets had already played their entire ACC slate except for FSU and were undefeated in the conference. Despite the Tribe’s eight ACC titles in 10 years, FSU had never completed an eight-game ACC schedule undefeated. Tech came into Tallahassee looking to become the first school to ever go 8-0. The Garnet and Gold quickly dashed those dreams by taking game one 7-3 and then sweeping the series with a 4-2 victory.


The Seminoles continue their quest for a ninth ACC crown this weekend against defending champion UNC but have the rival Gators in for a Wednesday doubleheader first. FSU went 3-0 versus UF last season, sweeping the season series for the first time ever.


THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS


FLORIDA (26-28-0): Florida State had a break through season against the Gators in 2001. Despite only fielding a program for five years, the young Gators have fared very well against an established FSU program over the years. Coming into last season, the Tribe had never swept UF and the two schools split all four of their meetings. That all changed last season as FSU traveled to Gainesville and secured its first-ever sweep of Florida (5-3, 3-1). The Seminoles then knocked the Gators out of the 2001 NCAA Tournament (6-2) to go 3-0 versus UF. The Gators are struggling a little in 2002 with a sub-.500 record but do have some impressive wins. Despite a 4-14 record versus ranked opponents, the Gators have beaten ninth-ranked Washington three times and spanked defending ACC Champion UNC 10-0. The UF pitching staff is struggling with a 2.96 ERA and all three starters have a winning percentage below .500. The Gators are just 3-10 on the road this season. FSU leads the all-time series with Florida 7-4.


NORTH CAROLINA (29-21-0, 2-2-0): The series between the Tar Heels and Florida State has become one of the most heated in the ACC in recent years and fuel was added to that fire when UNC dethroned FSU at the ACC Championships last season. This will be the first meeting between the teams since North Carolina clinched the ACC Title. Florida State swept the Heels in conference play last year (2-0, 5-0) but lost to UNC at the Tar Heel Invitational (3-2 in 8 inn.) and twice at ACC’s (2-0, 4-1). After being swept by Georgia Tech in their ACC opener, UNC rebounded by taking two from Virginia last weekend. The Tar Heels have also struggled on the mound with a 3.09 team ERA but have made up for that with their bats. UNC is hitting .297 and is lead by Tiffany Tolleson who is hitting .446. FSU leads the all-time series with North Carolina 32-9.


REMEMBER THE TIME


One of the greatest FSU/UF softball moments came two years ago at the Seminole Softball Complex. With FSU down 3-1 entering the bottom of the seventh, UF loaded the bases and walked in a run to make the score 3-2 bringing up freshman Brandi Stuart. Stuart took the count to 3-2, fouled off three more pitches and then launched a walk-off grand slam to give FSU the 6-3 win.


NOT IN THE SOUTH?


Despite the fact that the University of Florida is located about 150 miles south of Tallahassee, the two schools are not in the same region as far as the NCAA is concerned when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA aligns teams in regions by conference affiliation rather than geography. That is why Maryland, which is more than 880 miles north of Tallahassee, is in the South Region and Florida is in the Central Region.


STREAK AND PEAK


It seems Florida State is ready to peak at the right time. Of the Seminoles next 14 games, only two are against a team not in the ACC or in the South Region and those two games are against Florida this Wednesday. Florida State announced that it is ready for the stretch run by sweeping Georgia Tech who came into Tallahassee undefeated in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets were looking to complete the first perfect season in conference history but lost both games at the Seminole Softball Complex. The two wins extended FSU to a season-long seven-game winning streak.


NATIONAL EXPOSURE


For the first time in 2002, the NCAA released national statistics April 8. The Seminoles, either individually or as a team, appear amongst the nation’s leaders in six different categories. Leading the way for FSU is junior Brandi Stuart and senior Leslie Malerich. Stuart is fourth in the nation in steals per game at 0.85 and currently sits at No. 47 in the nation with a .404 batting average. Malerich is tied for fourth in the nation for victories with her 20 wins and she is just one of 10 pitchers in the country to already have 20 victories in 2002. Malerich also has the 33rd best ERA in the nation at 1.04. There are only six pitchers in the country who have as many wins as Malerich and a higher ERA. Malerich is joined in the top 50 for ERA by teammate Jessica van der Linden who is sitting at No. 50 with a 1.17 ERA. One of the biggest surprises is freshman Casey Hunter who has the fifth most saves in the country this year with four. After capturing the NCAA’s ERA title last season, the Seminoles are once again amongst the nation’s best staffs. Their 1.20 ERA ranks as the 11th-best ERA in the nation this season.


SHUN-DERFUL


Junior college transfer Shundra Colzie has been one of the biggest surprises of the second half of the season for Florida State. The outfielder hit .250 with no HR’s, two RBIs and committed one error over the first 24 games of the year. Albeit, that was good enough for the fourth highest batting average on the team but is nothing compared to what she has done over the last 26 games. Colzie has hit .365 (the second highest average on the team), scored 18 runs, has a double, two triples and four home runs and has knocked in 10 RBIs. She is slugging .635 now compared to .250 in the first half of the season. Colzie has also hit safely in 21 of her last 26 games and hasn’t made a single error.


PROLIFIC


Florida State continued its assault on the record book against Georgia Tech when it comes to the most prolific home runs hitting teams in school history. Florida State broke the all-time record for home runs in a season in game one versus Georgia Tech and it came from a pretty unlikely source. Junior college transfer Shundra Colzie led off the game by taking a 2-2 pitch over the left field fence for her fourth HR of the year and FSU 24th of the season. The previous record of 23 was set 10 years ago by the 1992 squad that ended the season in the College World Series. The Seminoles added to their all-time mark when Brandi Stuart tied the record for homers in a single season with her 10th of the year. She is now tied with Tiffany Daniels who also hit 10 in 1987. Stuart will have at least 16 more games to try to become the most prolific single season home run hitter in FSU history.


THE THIRD WAS GOOD


All season long, the third inning has been traditionally deadly for Florida State opponents. The Seminoles have scored the most runs (57) and allowed the fewest (7) in the third compared to all other innings. That trend held up against Georgia Tech as FSU out scored the Yellow Jackets 4-1 in the third but more importantly, Florida State won both games on hits that came in that inning. In game one, Beth Wade’s 2-out, 2-run single in the third turned out to be the game winner in a 7-3 victory. That was also the case in game two when Brandi Stuart’s record-tying 10th homer of the year was the difference in a 4-2 win.


ALL-AMERICAN PLAY


Junior Brandi Stuart had another phenomenal week for FSU as she continues to chase All-American honors. The Cerritos, CA native was named ACC Player of the Week after hitting .714, scoring seven runs, knocking in 4 RBIs, two triples, a home run, slugging 1.714 and posting an on base percentage of .818 in four games. She tied a single-season school record with her tenth homer of the year and she is now third all-time in career home runs. Stuart led the Seminoles to a sweep of a Georgia Tech team that was 6-0 in ACC play coming in to the weekend. She went 4-for-5 with runners on base and hit 1.000 with runners in scoring position for the week. In the last 26 games, Stuart has launched six bombs and almost doubled her career HR total from the start of the season and she has hit four of FSU’s last seven HRs. She has also recorded an RBI in 10 of the last 13 games. She knocked in her 36th RBI of the year against Georgia Tech and now has 36 in each of her first three seasons. Stuart has amassed more RBIs in her first three seasons than any player if FSU’s 24-year history.


BRANDI’S WORLD


Junior All-American Brandi Stuart is on the verge of re-writing the FSU record books and she still has the rest of 2002 and her senior season. The 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 last season. 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 home runs (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.


The trend of Stuart improving her game from year to year looks to be holding up this season also. Through 44 games in 2001 and 2002, the junior has shown improvement in almost every category despite playing against 11 ranked teams this season compared to just one last year. Stuart has raised her batting average (from .394 to .396), raised her slugging percentage almost 100 percentage points (from .551 to .649), she has scored three more runs (33 compared to 36), hit one more double (seven compared to six), hit five more home runs (eight compared to three) and she has stolen almost twice as many bases (36 compared to 19). Her fielding percentage has improved from .931 to .959 and she is even getting on base more frequently (.471 compared to .462). She has assumed an even greater offensive role this season as she leads the club in ten different offensive categories compared to six last season through an equal number of games. At her current pace, Stuart will finish in the top two for runs scored and home runs, 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.


TURNING IT ON


Junior All-American candidate Brandi Stuart is raising the level of her game as the Seminoles come down the stretch in search of their third consecutive NCAA Tournament invitation. The second baseman is playing as well as ever and has raised her numbers from the first half of the season in almost every statistical category despite tougher competition. She has raised her average from .411 to .427, has scored six more runs, has three more triples, two more home runs, four more RBIs and is slugging 142 percentage points higher in the second half of the season than she was in the first.


BLASTING THE BLAZERS


After its 18-run explosion versus FAMU, FSU’s bats picked up right where they left off against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In two games, the Tribe hit .372, slugged .791, had six triples and two home runs. The Seminoles hit back-to-back triples on two occasions and also hit back-to-back home runs. Both Brandi Stuart and Jessica van der Linden had four at bats, two triples and slugged 1.750 in the two games.


2 AND 14


Kimmy Carter is nearing two major milestones as her senior season enters the home stretch. With just two more at bats, Carter will move into the career leaders in that category and with 14 more games played, she will become No. 1 in that category in FSU history. Carter has now started 226 straight games since her freshman season.


POWERFUL


Senior Kimmy Carter must be taking her vitamins because she has shown surprising power at the plate so far this season. The co-captain came into the 2002 season with four career home runs and through 47 games this year, she has already set a single season high with three. She is now just one HR away from matching her total from the previous three seasons combined. She has already eclipsed her RBI total from her freshman and sophomore seasons with 36 this year she has established a new career high after knocking in 33 runs last season.


ALMOST HALF


Senior Kimmy Carter and junior Brandi Stuart are two of the most important cogs that drive the Seminole softball machine and that fact is never more evident than when you look at the chart below and add up game-winning RBIs. Between the two, Carter and Stuart have combined for 17 game-winning RBIs, which is almost half of FSU’s 2002 victories. Carter leads the team with 10 while Stuart isn’t far behind with seven.


ACE OF THE BASES


When senior Kimmy Carter set a season high with five RBIs against DePaul by doubling and tripling with the bases loaded, she probably had no idea how big those hits were. Her double moved her onto the all-time doubles list at Florida State with 24 in her career and the triple gave her a total of 15 and she is now just one away from becoming a career leader in that category also. If Carter is able to get one more triple, she will become just the second player in the 24 year history of the program to appear as a career leader for both doubles and triples (Lisa Davidson is the other). When Carter gets on the at bats and games played lists, which she will before all is said and done, she will be the only Seminole ever to appear on the career leaders list for games played, at bats, doubles and triples. That would be some accomplishment!


BRANDI BITES THE SNAKE


After going 0-for-5 in her first two games against Florida A&M, you knew it was only a matter of time until junior Brandi Stuart broke out against the cross-town rival. In the season’s finale versus the Rattlerettes, she was perfect at the plate in a doubleheader as she went 4-for-4 with a home run, a triple, four RBIs, five runs scored, a 2.250 slugging percentage and two walks. The homer was the ninth of the season for the junior and represents the most by any Seminole in a single season since Tiffany Daniel set the all-time mark with 10 in 1987. She has single-handedly hit almost 43% of the team’s 21 home runs this year.


In the first game of the DH, the junior All-American candidate led-off the second inning by drawing her 19th walk of the season. Stuart proceeded to steal her 38th and 39th bases of the year before Kimmy Carter’s single to center plated Stuart giving FSU a 1-0 lead. Stuart came up again in the third with a runner on third and she proceeded to lace the first pitch she saw down the right field line for an RBI triple. It was Stuart’s team-leading third triple of the year and moved her past her total of two triples from the 2001 season.


Stuart really went to work on the FAMU pitching staff in game two of the day. In the first inning, she singled, stole her 40th base of the year and came around to score. In her next at bat, Florida A&M walked Stuart on four straight pitches and she came around to score her second run of game two. Stuart had a monster inning in the third as FSU exploded for 10 runs in the inning. With two on and two out, the Cerritos, CA native launched her ninth homer over the right field fence as she drove in RBIs 30 and 31 of the season and extended her team-leading total for runs scored to 41 in 2002. She wasn’t done yet though as FSU batted around and she came back up to the plate with runners on the corners. This time Stuart singled the first pitch she saw up the middle driving in her fourth RBI of game two and fifth of the day.


15 YEARS IN THE MAKING


In its 18-3, five-inning win over Florida A&M, the Seminoles retired one of the oldest records in the FSU history books. The 18 runs the Garnet and Gold scored were the most since 1987 when FSU beat FAMU 17-0. That record covered 959 games. The Seminoles looked like they were going to break the record for margin of victory, which was also set in that 17-0 win but fell just a few runs shy as the Rattlerettes fought back to post a few late inning runs.


MORE FROM FAMU


In two games and 12 innings versus Florida A&M April 6th, FSU hit .480 as a team, slugged .660, knocked in 20 RBIs, pounded out 24 hits, scored 24 runs and posted an on base percentage of .587…three of Florida State’s everyday starters came into the April 6th doubleheader against Florida A&M without a hit in the two previous meetings in the series. Brandi Stuart, Kimmy Carter and Shundra Colzie were a combined 0-for-13 coming into the twin bill. Boy did all of that change. Those three Seminoles combined to go 9-for-12 in the sweep and hit .750 as a group. Stuart and Carter each hit 1.000 in the two games while Colzie hit .500 by going 3-for-6…senior Leslie Malerich has enjoyed her three starts versus Florida A&M this season. On top of going 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA, two shutouts, 16 strike outs and just four walks, the All-American has broken two of the biggest All-Time records in FSU history against Florida A&M. In her March 28th start versus FAMU, Malerich broke FSU’s All-Time wins record with the 91st victory of her career. Then in game one of the April 6th doubleheader, Malerich picked up the 20th win of the season. That win marked the third time in a row that Malerich has won at least 20 games in a season. She is the first pitcher in FSU’s 24-year history to post three 20+-win seasons in an FSU career…Seminole freshman Tatiana George was on quite a roll versus the Rattlerettes. After going 3-for-4 with a run scored and a game-winning RBI in FSU’s second game of the year versus Florida A&M, George seemed to carry that momentum into game one of the April 6th doubleheader against FAMU. The Fontana, CA native grounded out in her first at bat but came back with the bases loaded in the third to hit a bases clearing double to give her four hits and four RBIs in her last six at bats against Florida A&M.


HIGH TIMES AT THE NEW PARK


The Seminoles didn’t set quite as many season highs in the April 6th, 18-3 win over Florida A&M as they did when they seven in against St. John’s. But it is hard to argue the five they did establish weren’t more impressive. In the win over the Rattlerettes, Florida State establish five new season-highs as their 18 runs, 16 hits, 14 RBIs, 22 total bases and 10 runs scored in an inning all set new marks for the 2002 campaign.


GET WELL SOON


Freshman Tatiana George was injured in the second game of the UAB doubleheader when she covered second on a pick-off attempt and ended up with six stitches above her right knee due to a feet first slide. The loss is a big one for FSU considering how well the freshman was playing as of late. She was in the midst of a seven game hitting streak and had hit safely in 14 of her last 18 games. She was 4-for-4 in the UAB doubleheader before the injury. During her seven game hit streak, she recorded 13 hits and eight RBIs. Included in those 13 hits were a double, a triple and a home run. She also had two games with three RBIs. George could be back for Wednesday’s doubleheader with Florida or Saturday’s showdown with defending ACC Champion North Carolina.


TAT-TANIC


Freshman Tatiana George really seems to be finding her swing at the plate. The outfielder has raised her average 160 percentage points since reaching a season low .115 batting average after the 11th game of the year. Half of her 16 RBIs have come in the last seven games and both of her home runs came in the last 18 contests. At the Buzz Classic, George had the best weekend of her career. The Fontana, CA native hit .360, drove in three RBIs and hit her second career home run. She is now fourth on the team with eight multi-hit games. Her hot hitting continued in FSU’s March 28th game versus FAMU.


In Florida State’s game against the Rattlerettes March 28, the left fielder went 3-for-4, scored a run and drove in the game-winning run. George put FSU up early when her single to lead off the top of the first inning was the only hit but she came around to give FSU the lead. Shandra Colzie sacrificed George to second before a passed ball left her on third with just one out. Jessica van der Linden then reached on an error by the FAMU third baseman, which allowed the freshman to come home from third with the game’s first run. After a two-out double and a walk put the Seminoles in business again in the top of the second, George came through again with her second hit in two at bats but FSU was unable to extend its lead. After FAMU tied things up in the bottom of the third, neither team was able to take a lead through six when FSU came up for its last at bat in the seventh. With two outs and a runner on third, George took FAMU starter Tenyse Tasby to a full count before fouling off four pitches to stay alive. George then sent a shot up the middle scoring the game-winning run. It was just the second game-winning RBI of George’s career and the first since a double in the bottom of the seventh helped down Maryland 2-1.


TOUGH ENOUGH?


The 2002 season has brought with it a lot of challenges for Florida State softball but none more daunting than the schedule. The Garnet and Gold have faced nine teams who are ranked in this week’s USAToday/NFCA softball poll and two other teams (Mississippi State and South Carolina) who have been ranked. The Tribe has played #10 Washington and #18 Texas twice this season. The Seminoles also have a doubleheader remaining versus #11 FAU at the Seminole Softball Complex. Here’s a look at FSU vs. ranked opponents:

#7 CS Fullerton 8	Florida State 1
#20 Florida State 1	#11 Oklahoma 0
#20 Florida State 3	#9 Washington 2
#9 Washington 6	        Florida State 4
#10 FAU 4	        Florida State 2
#12 Michigan 1	        Florida State 0
#20 Florida State 11	#17 DePaul 5
#20 Florida State 1	#16 Texas 0
#16 Texas 4	        Florida State 2
#22 Ohio State 2	Florida State 1 (11)
#25 Georgia 3	        Florida State 2

DOUBLE THE FUN


There is little doubt that sophomore Jessica van der Linden is one of the top second-year players in the ACC and maybe in the nation. The reigning ACC Rookie of the Year is looking to become just the fourth player in Seminole softball history to lead the squad in doubles in back-to-back seasons. She finished with the second-most doubles in a season in team history last year when she totaled 14 and she leads the team this season with 10. She is now just one double away from tying Cindy Lawton for the most two-baggers in back-to-back seasons in the 24 years of FSU softball. She is just 12 doubles away from becoming the all-time leader at FSU with more than two seasons still to play. She already is tied for fifth all-time with 24 in just under two seasons.


Van der Linden has also taken advantage of her increased opportunities on the mound due to the graduation of 2001 ace Jen White-Stokes. The Cerritos, CA native has already surpassed her 2001 totals for appearances (22), games started (22), complete games (13), innings pitched (126.1) and strike outs (136). She is also just one win away from surpassing her total from 2001 when she went 13-3. Van der Linden should get the opportunity to add to all of those career highs with at least 16 games left.


NO SOPHOMORE SLUMP


Jessica van der Linden’s overall improvement from a stellar rookie campaign to her sophomore season is remarkable when you look at her numbers through 45 games in 2001 and 2002. Even though she has started almost the exact number of games both years (44 in 2001 compared to 45 this season) and has fewer at bats at this point in 2002 (127) than she did in 2001 (131), the super soph’s numbers are up in almost every area. She is hitting 34 percentage points higher this season (.339 compared to .305), she has 10 doubles this season compared to eight last year, she is slugging 45 percentage points higher (.472 compared to .427), she has scored seven more runs (23 versus 17 in 2001) and she has drawn seven more walks. She also has hit the first home run of her career this season. If you combine those numbers with her improved stats on the mound (see above note), it is easy to see why she is one of the most valuable Seminoles this season.


ADVANTAGE HOME?


There is no doubt that teams love to play at home but how much have the friendly confines of the Seminole Softball Complex helped the 2002 squad? Florida State is 22-6 at home and 16-7 away and at neutral sites. The Tribe has gone 1-5 versus ranked teams at the Seminole Softball Complex yet they have posted a 3-2 mark versus ranked opponents away from home. Interesting, no?


LIKE A BROCK


One of the most pleasant surprises of the 2002 season has to be third baseman Becky Brock. The senior was penciled in as a defensive replacement for freshman starter Bryttani Lindheim when the 2002 campaign began but as she started to produce at the plate, it become harder and harder to keep her out of the line-up. With her start versus FAMU April 6th, Brock already surpassed her total starts from 2001 and her three RBIs this year are also a single-season high. Her 69 at bats and 16 hits this season are the most since 2000 when she started 55 games. She has also surpassed her run total from 2001 with 10 and most amazingly, she has struck out just two times all year. In her last 91 at bats, Brock has struck out just three times.


THAT DIDN’T HURT SO BAD


So far this season, FSU pitchers have allowed 11 home runs but only three of those HR’s have come with runners on. Last season, the FSU staff, which won the NCAA’s ERA Title, gave up 11 round-trippers also but five of those HR’s came with runners on base. On the other hand, the Seminole offense has already broken team home run record of 23 that was set in in 1992. Florida State has hit 25 so far this year and is now the most prolific home run hitting team in the program’s 24-year history. Of the 25 HR’s the Tribe has hit this season, 15 have come with runners on base and four have been the game-winning hit.

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