March 28, 2002
The 20th-ranked Seminole softball team had another solid week on the diamond despite a loss to Troy State in the quarterfinals of the 2002 Buzz Classic. The Seminoles put on an offensive show at the tournament hosted by Georgia Tech. Coming into the weekend, FSU had hit 10 home runs in 38 games. The Garnet and Gold equaled that total in just six games at the Al Bishop Softball Complex. Three Seminoles had multi-homer weekends as Brandi Stuart hit four and Kimmy Carter and Shundra Colzie went yard twice.
The offense wasn’t just limited to home runs either. The team drove in 28 RBIs in the six games and hit 28 percentage points higher than their average coming into tournament play (.281 versus .253). The Tribe also had a slugging percentage of .468, which was 135 percentage points higher than the .333 slugging percentage they had when they entered the weekend.
It wasn’t just a great weekend for FSU at the plate. Starting pitchers Leslie Malerich and Jessica van der Linden where phenomenal also. They combined for a stellar 0.51 ERA in 41.1 innings of work. They combined to strikeout 46 batters while issuing just 15 walks.
FSU will wrap-up its season series with the Rattlerettes over the next week. The teams meet three times with two of the games being played at the Seminole Softball Complex.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT
FLORIDA A&M (18-17-0): The Rattlerettes are in the midst of a great stretch and have won 12 of their last 14 games going into their mid-week doubleheader with BCC. Catcher Ruby Nugent is still hitting well for FAMU as she leads the squad with a .427 average. Nugent went 3-for-4 and scored a run in the team’s first meeting and FSU will need to keep an eye on her over the next three games. She is slugging .650 and has 21 RBIs. Tenyse Tasby, who gave up just one earned run in 6.2 innings of work versus FSU last time, is leading the squad with a 2.02 ERA and 10 wins. FSU leads the all-time series with FAMU 65-5.
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!
THE LAUNCHING PAD
Now that Atlanta Fulton County Stadium has been replaced by Turner Field, a case can be made that the Al Bishop Softball Complex may be the new “Launching Pad” as far as FSU is concerned. The 20th-ranked Seminole softball team entered the 2002 Buzz Classic at the Al Bishop Complex 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. Now the team is within three homers of tying the All-Time FSU record for home runs in a season (23). By knocking in four of them herself this weekend, sophomore Brandi Stuart now has eight on the season and is just two away from tying the single season record. The second baseman has hit more home runs this season than she had in her previous two seasons combined (7).
It was hard to ask any more of pitchers Leslie Malerich and Jessica van der Linden than what they did last week. The two starters combined for a 0.41 ERA while allowing just three earned runs in 51.1 innings. Malerich was nearly untouchable as she went 2-1 with a 0.29 ERA in 24.1 innings. She struck out 25 batters and issued just seven walks. Opposing hitters batted just .167 versus the senior All-American. Van der Linden was equally as impressive. Her ERA of 0.52 was a shade higher but she went 3-1 this week. She pitched 27.0 innings and struck out 33 batters. Opponents hit just .173 off of her.
BRANDI WAS BUZZING
Junior All-American Brandi Stuart was a force this week. The second baseman from Cerritos, CA hit .414 for the week and slugged .862 while leading Florida State in nine major offensive categories as the 20th-ranked Seminoles went 6-2. Stuart led the team in home runs (4), RBIs (9), batting average (.414) and slugging percentage (.862) to just name a few. She hit as many home runs this week (4) as she had in all 38 games leading up to this week. In the Seminoles first game of a doubleheader versus Maine, Stuart’s double in the third was part of a four-run explosion that buried the Black Bears. The Cerritos native was just warming up though and she exploded for a career weekend at the 2002 Buzz Classic hosted by Georgia Tech. In six games, Stuart hit .500, slugged 1.045, drove in 9 RBIs, hit four home runs and a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000. She had the game-winning hit in the first versus Campbell when her RBI single gave FSU a 1-0 lead they would never relinquish. Went a perfect 3-for-3 in FSU’s next game versus UNCG. She won the game for FSU again against the Spartans when her two-run home run put FSU up 3-0. She went on to single in the third and the fifth while stealing two bases. Stuart homered again and scored two more runs in a 5-1 win over Princeton. As the Seminoles moved into single-elimination, championship bracket play against UCF, Stuart once again had a huge game. She homered for the third time in four games, drove in another run with a single in the first and stole her fourth base in four tries for the tournament. In a quarterfinal loss to Troy State, Stuart single-handedly kept FSU in the game. After the Trojans took a 3-0 lead, the Seminoles got a lead-off single but the runner was picked off and the next batter struck out. After a two-out single, Stuart took a 3-2 pitch and cranked a line drive home run to deep center bringing Florida State within a run at 3-2.
GET OVER IT
After stringing together four, four-game winning streaks and two, three-game winning streaks, the FSU softball team finally got over the hump and set a new season-high when they won five in-a-row for the first time in 2002. The Tribe looked to push it to six but the 11-inning loss to Ohio State ended the run.
Freshman Tatiana George really seems to be finding her swing at the plate of late. The outfielder has raised her average 121 percentage points since reaching a season low .115 batting average after the 11th game of the year. Six of her 11 RBIs have come in the last 16 games and both of her home runs came in the last 12 contests. Last week, 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 seven multi-hit games.
After a little bit of a rocky start in the infield due to three new starters, two of which were freshmen, things seem to have steadied for the Tribe. A lot of that credit can go to the group of B’s (Beth Wade, Brandi Stuart, Bryttani Lindheim and Becky Brock) that now make up the infield much of the time. Brock, a senior, has always been one of FSU’s best defensive players but she has solidified her spot at third with her play in the field and improvement at the plate. After hitting 0.83 in just 24 at bats last season, she is hitting .222 this year and had the game-winning RBI versus No. 6 Oklahoma. Lindheim has made the transition from third to shortstop and Stuart is a All-American at second. Wade does still split time with Elisa Velasco at first.
IT WENT SOUTH
Although almost every program in the nation covets left-handed pitchers but they are pretty rare. Florida State has its own left-handed ace in Jessica van der Linden and she is dominating teams but FSU didn’t seem to mind facing southpaws and they had fared pretty well against the opposite arms this season. As a team, the Seminoles were batting .278 against left-handed pitchers, which was 34 percentage points higher than how they fare against righties. Third baseman Becky Brock was having a great run against lefties as she hit .667 in limited at bats. Jessica van der Linden had also been dominant in hitting .750 and four other Seminoles were hitting .333 or above versus southpaws.
All that success against southpaws went south at the last two tournaments. The Tribe was 3-0 versus lefties but dropped the first two games of the season versus left-handed starters at the Kia Klassic and Buzz Classic tournaments. Losing to freshman sensation and Team USA pitcher Cat Osterman is nothing to be ashamed of. The Garnet and Gold are not the only team that has lost to that particular lefty and the loss came in the semifinals of the Kia Klassic. Florida State’s other loss came to the winningest pitcher in Troy State history in Kim Unkenholz. It was also in championship play as the senior hurler helped eliminate the Seminoles in the quarterfinals.
EIGHT ISN’T ENUF
Well, eight is enough if you are talking about equaling the longest hitting streak of the season but not enough if you want to break it. Jessica van der Linden is currently in the midst of an eight game hit streak and she has tied the season long set by Brandi Stuart. The super soph will be looking to set a new season-high versus FAMU Thursday. Over the past eight games, van der Linden has hit .370, slugged .444. knocked in 4 RBIs, scored five runs and hit two doubles. She has also struck out just two times.
MAKING A CASE
With every record she breaks, it gets harder and harder to argue that Leslie Malerich isn’t the greatest pitcher in FSU history. The senior is already No. 1 in appearances and innings pitched and she tied the record for the most wins in FSU history last week. She is just four shutouts away from becoming a career leader in that category also.
When she locks up win 91 of her career, she will be the only pitcher to be the all-time leader in three different categories and that would put her at the top of three of FSU’s six all-time categories. She has a realistic shot of moving to first in shutouts also with just nine more this season.
WHAT A TRIP
When Florida State traveled to Fullerton, CA for the prestigious Kia Klassic Tournament, 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 Tribe 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 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 the Garnet and Gold 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).
TWO AND THREE
Florida State has been deadly in the second and third innings of games this season. The Seminoles have outscored opponents 58-14 in those two innings. The Tribe is hitting .281 in the second and third while FSU pitchers have a combined ERA of 0.57 in those two frames. The third inning is where the Seminoles really go to town with a .292 batting average and a .440 slugging percentage. But FSU hitters are doing a lot of damage in the seventh inning also. Tribe hitters are batting an amazing .291 in the final frame. It is nice to know when FSU needs its bats the most, they are coming through.
Before the Seminole Invitational Tournament, FSU was just 1-5 when trailing after six innings, which means FSU had staged just one seventh inning or extra-inning comeback this season. That all changed at the Invite. Florida State came from behind twice, once in the ninth and once in the seventh to grab victories from the jaws of defeat.
Versus Middle Tennessee, Florida State was down to its last out of the game. The Seminoles were down 1-0 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth before pinch-hitter Elisa Velasco’s two-out triple to right kept the Seminoles alive and sent the game into the 10th tied at 1-1. The triple was the first of the year for the sophomore and it came on the first pitch she saw. Then in the 10th, Kimmy Carter drew a bases loaded walk to give the Seminoles a 2-1 win.
Against Auburn, FSU fell behind 4-1 and stayed in that hole until the seventh inning. Shundra Colzie, who came into the game hitting .200 on the season with all five of her hits being singles, homered to center knocking in the first two RBI’s of her career and closing Auburn’s lead to 4-3. Tatiana George then singled to third base and was followed by Jessica van der Linden who drew a walk. With runners on first and second, Brandi Stuart singled but George, the potential tying run, was gunned out at home to keep the game 4-3. After a Kimmy Carter line out to third, Velasco came up looking to be the hero for FSU once again. The sophomore singled up the middle scoring both van der Linden and Stuart giving the Seminoles a 5-4 win.
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.
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 super soph 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. That’s impressive.
STEAL OF THE CENTURY
Junior Brandi Stuart became just the third player in Florida State softball history to steal 100 bases in her career when she swiped her first base of the Kia Klassic versus Rutgers. The Cerritos, CA native was able to break the century mark in front of family and friends in Fullerton making the weekend even more special. The second baseman is making Tribe fans forget about All-American Serita Brooks’ prowess on the base paths. Brooks owns three NCAA steals records from her two seasons at Florida State but Stuart has already surpassed her career mark. The second baseman now has 108 career swipes, which is good enough for third all-time. She is still 79 shy of becoming the most prolific base stealer in Seminole history. The record is a long shot but she is on pace to break her single season mark of 42 set as a freshman. If she gets 20 more this season (56 for the year), she will have a shot at the record as a senior.
GETTING INTO THE SWING OF THINGS
Despite facing some of the nation’s toughest pitchers, FSU hit 22 percentage points higher as a team at the Kia Classic than they did in the previous 30 games leading up to the tournament. Five Seminole starters combined to raise their batting averages by 150 percentage points. Sophomore Elisa Velasco led the team as the most improved at the plate. The Hesperia, CA native, playing just over an hour from where she grew up, came in to the Kia batting .211. In four games in Fullerton, Velasco hit .400, an increase of 189 percentage points. First baseman and designated player Beth Wade also exploded at the Kia Classic. After coming into the tournament hitting .149, the redshirt-sophomore hit 184 percentage points higher than her season average by batting .333 in four games. Another Cali kid, Bryttani Lindheim, exploded out west as she hit .273, which was 141 points higher than the .132 average she entered the tournament with. Senior Kimmy Carter, playing in front of about twenty of her west coast relatives, put on a show for friends and family. Not only did she hit 126 percentage points higher than her season average (.389 compared to .263) the Seminole co-captain had a career RBI night versus the 14th-ranked DePaul Blue Demons. Carter came up with the bases loaded on two occasions and delivered with five RBIs on a double and a triple. It was a single-game record for the catcher whose previous high was four and came against the College of Charleston last season. Another one of FSU’s six Californians, Tatiana George, also flourished in her home state. The shortstop/outfielder came into Kia playing with a .188 average but she hit .278 in FSU’s six games, which was 90 percentage points higher than her season-to-date average. When you combine the increase at the plate with what Leslie Malerich did on the mound, it is easy to see why FSU made it into the final four.
NOT SHUN-ING AWAY
Junior college transfer Shundra Colzie probably had the biggest weekend of her young career at FSU at the Seminole Invitational Tournament. The outfielder hit .500 in eight at bats. She knocked in the first two RBI’s of her career and recorded the first home run of her career at a key moment. With FSU down to Auburn 4-1 in the seventh, Colzie launched a two-run homer to bring the Seminoles within a run and setting the stage for Elisa Velasco’s heroics.
She has continued to build on that performance by hitting .356 in her last 15 games with three home runs, eight RBIs, nine runs scored while making 14 starts.