May 10, 2002
TALLAHASSEE, Fla –
The 21st-ranked Seminole softball team got a measure of revenge versus North Carolina in the opening round of the ACC Tournament Friday. After losing the conference championship to UNC last year, Florida State (49-15) downed the Heels in the bottom of the seventh as Brandi Stuart led-off with her third walk of the game and came around to score the winning run on Beth Wade’s suicide squeeze. The win sent the No. 1-seeded Seminoles into the winner’s bracket versus No. 2 Georgia Tech (47-16) at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow and dropped North Carolina to 32-29 on the season.
“We’ve been down here three times this year and we’ve had the lead three times and we’ve lost three times,” said North Carolina head coach Donna Papa. “There is a reason Florida State is nationally ranked. They are one of the best teams in the country and I give them credit.”
The Seminoles looked to be off to a good start in the first as All-American Leslie Malerich (29-10) set down the Tar Heels in order in the top of the inning. Tatiana George then got FSU started by lacing a double into the gap in right center on the first pitch of the game from freshman Brandi Griffin. George was moved over to third on Shundra Colzie’s sacrifice bunt and after a walk to Jessica van der Linden, All-American candidate Brandi Stuart drew her 35th free pass of the season to load the bases. Griffin knuckled down though as she retired the next two batters she faced to end the threat with the bases juiced with Seminoles.
Malerich cruised through the order again in the top of the second. She faced just four batters and recorded her third strikeout. Florida State then led-off the bottom of the frame with another lead-off double to the gap in right, this one by first baseman Beth Wade. She was sacrificed to third by senior Becky Brock as the Seminoles once again looked for the game’s first run. The 274 fans in attendance at the Seminole Softball Complex thought FSU had that run when Shandra Colzie smashed a shot to first but Tar Heel first baseman Kelly Ramsey caught the line drive and Griffin once again worked her way out of the jam.
The Tar Heels put together two hits in the third, sandwiched around a pop out, for their first scoring threat of the game. Rosie Gustavson then sent a bloop shot over Stuart at second to load the bases with one out. Malerich retired the next batter on a pop up, which brought up All-ACC selection Natalie Anter. The senior catcher, who holds the single-season homerun record at UNC, blasted four hard hit foul balls before Malerich got her to ground out to end the threat.
For the third time in three innings, FSU led off the frame with a hit. This time it was Shundra Colzie doing the honors with a single through the left side. But before the Seminoles could build on the lead-off hit, Colzie was picked off of first. That didn’t stop the Tribe from once again trying to rally for the lead run. Jessica van der Linden singled and was followed by Stuart’s second walk of the game. An illegal pitch moved the runners to second and third before Kimmy Carter drew a walk to once again load the bases. Monique Marier then sent a deep drive to right, which plated van der Linden and put the Tribe up 1-0 but Griffin once again fought back and went on to record the final out and end the FSU threat.
The Tar Heels evened the game up in the fourth on Griffin’s RBI triple. She then came around to put UNC in front for the first time on a passed ball. With the Heels leading 2-1, FSU attempted to even the game in the fifth as the first two batters of the inning drew walks brining up All-ACC selection Stuart. North Carolina’s Erica Ennis came in to replace Griffin, who gave up just one run in four innings of work and she promptly struck out Stuart and Carter for the first two outs of the inning. Ennis ended the threat by inducing an inning-ending foul out.
The Garnet and Gold did tie the game in the bottom of the sixth. The rally began when pinch hitter Jackie Hirschfeld got on base when she was hit by hit by Ennis and Shandra Colzie reached on an error while attempting to advance Becky Brock, who re-entered the game, to second. The errant throw at first allowed Brock to reach third where she came home with the tying run on a wild pitch by new UNC hurler Shannon Walsh (13-15).
Malerich retired the Heels in order in the top of the seventh setting the stage for a dramatic victory for Florida State. Stuart led off the inning with a walk and was followed by Carter who sacrificed her to second. Monique Marier then smashed a shot to short that took a wicked bounce and ended up in the outfield but didn’t get far enough to score Stuart bringing up Wade. The redshirt sophomore who was already 1-for-3 then drove in her fourth game-winning RBI of the season on the gutsy suicide squeeze call.
“Coach Graf looked at me and asked if I wanted to squeeze and I told her that it was her call,” said Wade. “Brandi (Stuart) then looked at me and said ‘Let’s do it on the second pitch’. The first pitch was a strike and I was able to lay the second pitch down and with Brandi’s speed I had no doubts that she would score.”
Florida State returns to action versus the Yellow Jackets Saturday, May 11 at 1:00 p.m. The Seminoles swept Georgia Tech in Tallahassee earlier this season and one more victory would send FSU into the ACC Title game Sunday. For more information on the 2002 ACC Softball Tournament including game times and ticket prices, please visit our official athletic website at www.seminoles.com.