March 1, 2005 - by
No. 21 FSU Softball Faces Maine Wednesday Live On Sun Sports At 4:00 P.M.; Team Opens ACC Play Friday

March 1, 2005

Game Notes


Wednesday, March 2

No. 21 Florida State vs. Maine at 4/6 p.m. (Sun Sports 4 p.m. LIVE; Tape-delayed at 11:30 p.m.)

Internet Audio (3:30 p.m.)

Live Stats Game I

Live Stats Game II

Friday, March 4

No. 21 Florida State vs. North Carolina at 3/5 p.m.

No live stats or audio.

Saturday, March 5

No. 21 Florida State vs. North Carolina at 2 p.m.

Monday, March 7

No. 21 Florida State vs. NC State at 1/3 p.m.

Live Stats Game I

Live Stats Game II

Tuesday, March 8

No. 21 Florida State vs. NC State at 1/3 p.m.

Live Stats

:: Leading Off ::

Florida State head softball coach Dr. JoAnne Graf said all along that her 2005 season would be like running a marathon versus a sprint. According to the Seminole coach, she believed that instead of her team peaking early, they would improve as the season continued on and would hopefully be at their full potential by years end. That notion has already proved somewhat true as the Seminoles struggled early in the season only to come out on fire last weekend at the invite-only NFCA Leadoff Classic, finishing among the final four of 24 teams before rain washed the finals away. The 21st-ranked Florida State softball team (10-6) knocked-off Lehigh (5-1), Michigan State (4-1), and No. 25 Fresno State (2-0). Graf noted that the battle versus the Bulldogs, where senior pitcher Casey Hunter had a one-hit performance in the circle, was problem the best outing by her team this season. In its only loss of the week, FSU fell to 13th-ranked and eventual tournament champion, Oklahoma, 3-0. The Sooners were awarded with the championship trophy because of tiebreaker procedures that had them as the top remaining seed in the Gold Bracket. Senior shortstop Tatiana George earned all-tournament distinctions. Florida State was scheduled to face No. 8 Michigan before the rainout. Sun Sports will televise the Maine game.

:: Maine::

Wednesday will mark Maine’s third game of the 2005 season. The defending American East Champion was picked to finish second in the conference preseason poll. The Black Bears are scheduled to face South Florida tonight in a doubleheader. The Black Bears are under a new coach for the 2005 season and finished the 2004 campaign with a 28-23 overall record and are without only one player from last year’s squad. Interim head coach Michelle Puls welcomes back three first-team all-conference selections, highlighted by the reigning America East Pitcher of the Year Jenna Merchant. In 2004, the senior
right-hander boasted a 1.56 earned run average, a .205 opposing batting average, while allowing just 81 hits in over more than 112 innings pitched. Senior Jess Brady and junior Brittany Cheney are returning first-team all-leaguers, while the Most Outstanding Player of the 2004 America East Championship,
Lauren Dulkis, is also back for her final year of eligibility.

SERIES RECORD: The Seminoles pace the all-time series with Maine 6-0.
Florida State defeated the Black Bears 7-0 and 2-1 in Tallahassee last year.

:: Scouting North Carolina ::

Florida State will search for its 12th ACC title in 14 years when it opens it league season Friday against the UNC Tar Heels. The Tribe owns a healthy 42-10 advantage and has won the last four straight meetings. In 2004, the Seminoles shutout the Tar Heels 8-0 and 5-0. The Seminoles finished the ACC schedule with a 9-1 mark last season and the last time FSU lost a conference game was on April 17 at Virginia (5-4). Since the defeat, the Seminoles have reeled off six straight conference wins. FSU has never lost more than three ACC games in one season. The University of North Carolina softball team dropped a pair of games to top 10 opponents in its last outing, falling 4-0 to No. 6 Louisiana-Lafayette and 1-0 to No. 7 Alabama on day two of the NFCA Leadoff Classic. Crystal Cox (6-3) and Alison Yin (4-1) both took losses despite solid efforts in the circle. The Tar Heels are 13-5 overall.

SERIES RECORD: The two schools have met on 52 occasions with the series dating back to the 1984 season. The Seminoles own a 42-10 advantage.

:: Scouting NC State ::

Against the Wolfpack, FSU has a 2-0 gain with both wins coming in shutouts last year in Tallahassee. The Seminoles defeated NC State 8-0 and 4-0. In the Pack’s last outing, Abbie Sims put forth a strong effort in the circle and Jennifer Patterson added a clutch hit, as NC State softball improvd to 18-8 on the season with a 3-0 win over Appalachian State.
SERIES RECORD: Florida State leads 2-0.

:: The ACC ::

After starting ACC play with a 14-1 record in openers between 1992 and 1999, the Seminoles are 6-3 in ACC openers since 2000. The only time the Tribe opened up league action against UNC was in 1998 where FSU claimed both victories. This will be the first year that the ACC has three-game series.

• Seven ACC titles won when starting 2-0

• One ACC title won when starting 1-0

• One ACC title won when starting 1-1

• One ACC title won when starting 0-2

• Outscored opponents in ACC openers 135-42

Year Record ACC Tourney Finish

1992 1-0 (ACC Champs)

1993 2-0 (ACC Champs)

1994 2-0 (ACC Runner-up)

1995 2-0 (ACC Champs)

1996 1-1 (ACC Champs)

1997 2-0 (ACC Champs – tie)

1998 2-0 (ACC Champs)

1999 2-0 (ACC Champs)

2000 0-2 (ACC Champs)

2001 1-1 (ACC Runner-up)

2002 2-0 (ACC Quarterfinalists)

2003 2-0 (ACC Champs)

2004 2-0 (ACC Champs)

:: Texas Sensation::

Perhaps the most level-headed player of the team, Natasha Jacob is the first to admit that accolades mean nothing to the junior left fielder from Coppell, Texas. However, everyone else begs to differ. Jacob has had nothing short of a spectacular season as she leads the Seminoles in 10 offensive categories! That’s right…10. Furthermore, she is ranked at the top of the ACC in eight statistical offensive groups. That, along with her 1.000 fielding percentage, proves on paper that the junior sensation is among the best in the country, yet time after time she is overlooked for various awards given away at tournaments and by the conference. Even more impressive about Jacob’s game is that she pulls through in clutch situations. For instance, against Fresno State last weekend she hit a two-run RBI double and helped FSU overcome its first Top 25 opponent (2-0) of the season. “I just try to do whatever I can to help out the team,” said an always humble Jacob before practice. “Whether it is to sacrifice a bunt to move someone over or to get an RBI, I just want to do my job out there. The accolades don’t mean anything to me because my team comes first. It’s the least of my concerns.” Well, it means something to us, so make sure you don’t take your eyes off Jacob. At least you can say you heard it here first!

Freshman Whitney Buckmon

:: Fabulous Freshmen::

Florida State scholarship freshmen Whitney Buckmon, Tiffany McDonald, Brittany Osmon and Melissa Wood have logged a considerably amount of time starting for the Seminoles this year, and one would have to look way back in the FSU softball history book to find out the last time four rookies earned starts. Buckmon and Osmon have appeared in all 16 games, Wood made starts in 13-of-13 contests, and McDonald has appeared in eight games, respectively. In fact, starting as freshmen has been a pretty good omen for many Florida State players the past few years. Jessica van der Linden, Leslie Malerich, Elisa Vasquez, and Veronica Wootson all started on opening day as rookies. Every Seminole to earn NFCA All-American honors since 2000 has started from day one of her freshman year. So, if history repeats itself, expect the 2005 Florida State Softball Class to boast of some players who might be remembered forever in the Seminole softball annals.

:: Terrific Tiffany::

While NFCA All-American Casey Hunter (5-5) is the No. 1 pitcher for the Seminoles, we’d like to think she’s quite proud of her successor, freshman Tiffany McDonald, because of the freshmen’s early fortune in the circle. The Belfair, Wash., native has recorded a perfect 5-0 record in eight appearances! In three of her victories, McDonald tallied a one-hit performance. In fact, during her last two outings, only two hits were allowed and she has not given up an earned run in four outings. For her efforts, McDonald made the all-tournament team at the Sunshine State Tournament. This week McDonald leads the ACC with a league-best 0.53 ERA and she is holding opponents to a .117 batting average when facing her.

:: Hot Tot::

Senior shortstop Tatiana George is on fire at the plate right now. The Fontana, Calif., native has registered a hit in four consecutive games and she earned all-tournament honors at the prestigious NFCA Leadoff Classic last weekend. George received an at-large nomination and voters picked George, in part, because she was only one of three Seminoles to notch a hit against eventual champion, Oklahoma.

:: Rising Palmer::

Senior third baseman Lesley Palmer paces her squad in doubles, with five on the season, and she is ranked fourth in the ACC. She had two multiple-hits games at the Leadoff Classic, and originally entered the tournament with a .263 batting average and 10 hits on the season. However, after four outstanding plate appearances, she is now ranked second on the squad with a .311 mark, which is an outstanding 0.48 increase!

:: Error-Free::

The Seminoles had error-free games only twice this season. One appearances was in a victory over South Carolina and the other was during a loss to the Sooners. The Tribe had 10 or more hits four times, with a season-high 13 versus Michigan State last weekend. Of the 13, 12 of them were singles.

:: Early Start::

Florida State has scored in the third inning in 12 of its 16 games this season and 10 runs in the fourth inning. The Seminoles scored the least amount in the seventh inning, notching just four runs, but keep in mind that at home FSU might not get one more last at bat. Opponents have scored 11 runs in the fourth inning and seven in the second, third, and fifth, respectively.

:: Balanced Line-up::

The Seminoles often change their batting order, but there is a pattern that has started to take effect. The Tribe is 7-2 when Natasha Jacob leads off and 7-2 Whitney Buckmon follows her. With Tatiana George at No. 3, FSU is 6-3 and 5-3 with Lesley Palmer batting cleanup. As far as positions go, the lineup is balanced with the exception of the catcher spot. When junior BillieAnne Gay begins behind the plate, the Seminoles are 5-1.

:: No Long Ball::

The Seminoles power has not been on display this season, as the Seminoles have gone deep only one time in 16 games. Florida State freshman Melissa Wood earned the only homerun of the season with a two-out, two-strike grand slam to left center against Lehigh last weekend.

:: FSU Against Ranked Teams::

FSU faced just one ranked opponent this season: No. 25 Fresno State. The Seminoles upended the Bulldogs, 2-0, and pitcher Casey Hunter earned the victory pitching.

:: Seeing The Ball::

The Seminoles’ lineup has done a somewhat poor job this season in terms of pitch selection as evidenced by the only 38 walks drawn in 16 games and a .346 on base percentage. The Seminoles are averaging 2.37 walks per game this season, which averages out to 142.5 walks over a 60-game regular season. Florida State drew 252 walks in 74 outings (3.40 per game) during the 2004 campaign.

:: National Rankings::

After starting out the preseason ranked No. 10 in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25, the Seminoles dropped to No. 18 then settled in at No. 21 last week. The new rankings will not be released until Wednesday, however, the USA Softball/ rankings posted FSU at No. 21 in their latest poll.

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