March 17, 2004 - by
No. 3 Softball Lands In California And Prepares For Kia Klassic

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The 2004 FSU softball team likes the long ball. That is obvious through 34 games but it got a little out of control in the team’s 9-1 win over Robert Morris in pool play at the FSU Invitational. The Tribe hit four home runs in the win. It was most HR’s in a single game in more than a decade for FSU. Veronica Wootson and Beth Wade each had a homer and Lesley Palmer had two. Hitting three round-trippers in a game is nothing new for the Tribe. The Seminoles have done that twice already this season and this is the third straight season the Seminoles have hit three bombs in a single game. What is so amazing about the four HR game is the fact that it equals the total amount of homeruns hit in the entire season by FSU in 1998. In fact, the 2004 squad is tearing it up when it comes to homers. The team hit seven homeruns at the Florida State Invitational in just three days raising the team’s total to 24 on the year. That is the second-most homers ever hit in a season by an FSU team and we are only 34 games into the year. The 2004 team is only the eighth ever to hit 20+ HR’s in a season and they have reached 20 faster than any team in program history.

It isn’t just homeruns either (see note above). Florida State is collecting extra base hits at an alarming rate this year. The Tribe has an extra base hit in 29 of 34 games this season and in 21 games they have more than one extra base hit. The Seminoles have hit four homeruns in a game once, three homeruns in a game twice, three triples in a game once and had seven extra base hits in a game already this season. There hasn’t been a single time in 2004 when FSU went back-to-back games without some sort of extra base hit. With 82 extra base hits already, FSU is averaging almost 2.4 a game. The most extra base hits ever for FSU in a season is 137 and that came in 2001. That team averaged 1.95 per game so the 2004 squad is obviously way ahead of that pace. In 2001, that team had multiple extra base hits in 41 of 70 games, which was 58% of the 70 games they played.

2001	93	23	21	137
2000	66	32	17	115
2002	58	23	33	114
1994	58	33	20	111
1992	53	32	23	108
1995	67	29	10	106
2003	63	14	22	99
1999	71	19	7	97
1993	43	32	20	95
2004	46	19	24	89
1998	61	16	4	81
1987	34	28	19	81
1997	53	16	6	75
1991	41	26	8	75
1996	47	21	5	73
1984	30	15	21	66
1989	30	16	17	63
1990	27	18	13	58
1985	20	21	14	55
1986	17	12	15	43

Lesley Palmer’s five RBI game versus Robert Morris was a career high for the second year third baseman. Considering her previous career high coming into 2004 was two, that’s a pretty good increase. Five RBIs in a game is pretty rare though considering only two Seminoles had done it since 2001. At least it was pretty rare before 2004. This season three Seminoles have already recorded five RBI games. That means in the 202 games from 2001 to 2003, only two Seminoles recorded five-RBI games yet three have already done it in just 32 games this year.

Florida State’s 1-0 win over Michigan gave the Seminoles the 2004 FSU Invitational title but it was also big because it came against a national power and the 11th-ranked team in the country. The win over the Wolverines was FSU’s fifth versus a ranked opponent in just the last 17 days and FSU is now 5-2 versus the top 25. Last season, FSU played a total of seven ranked teams in 57 games and was 3-4 versus the group. Everyone in Tallahassee knew that this year’s slate would be one of the toughest ever and it is only going to get harder this weekend at the Kia. Florida State plays UNLV, No. 20 Nebraska and No. 24 Arizona State and that’s just in pool play. The Gators and Yellow Jackets, who are currently ranked, are still ahead for FSU as well as the team could play as many as 15 games versus ranked teams and that is just in the regular season.

Although All-American Jessica van der Linden plays internationally for Puerto Rico, that hasn’t stopped the reigning ACC Player of the Year from getting her share of love from USA Softball. The senior was a top five finalist for player of the year honors from USA Softball last season and she is on the watch list again this year. Now she has been honored again by the governing body of the US Olympic team. van der Linden was named USA Softball’s National Player of the Week. This is the second time in her career she has been named a national player of the week and this is her first national player of the week honor from USA Softball. This is the fourth time on school history a Seminole softball player has garnered national player of the week honors.

van der Linden dominated on the hill and at the plate helping lead No. 4 FSU to an 8-0 mark last week including wins over three teams that are or were ranked (No. 11 Michigan, Notre Dame and Texas A&M) as the Tribe captured the 2004 Florida State Invitational Tournament championship and she was named tournament MVP. The 2003 first team All-American started three games for FSU and went 3-0 in the circle with a 0.00 ERA. Against No. 11 Michigan, Texas A&M and Central Michigan, van der Linden allowed just five hits while striking out 22 batters and issuing only three walks. The three shutouts raised her total to 10 in 15 starts and the hurler has now gone 22 consecutive innings without allowing a run while raising her record to 14-2 and lowering her season ERA to 0.28. At the plate she was just as dominant. The junior hit .409, slugged .591, scored six runs, hit two triples and drove in seven RBIs. She drew three walks and didn’t strikeout once in 22 at bats. She also had a sac fly, stole two bases and was perfect in the field. She recorded a hit in six of FSU’s eight games and had two multi-RBI games last week as well. Her two-RBI single in the third scored the winning runs in an 8-0, five inning win over Texas A&M. She also limited the Aggies to one hit while striking out 10 on the mound in the impressive win. In the FSU Invitational championship game versus No. 11 Michigan, van der Linden held the Wolverines to just three hits, tying a season-low for U-M. She didn’t walk a single Michigan batter.

After sweeping a doubleheader from Troy State Tuesday, the 2004 Seminoles moved their record to an eye popping 31-3. This is the best start a Seminole softball team has gotten off to since 1992 when FSU started the year 30-2. Before 2004, the two Seminole teams with the best ever starts (1992 and 1993) both won ACC titles and advanced to the College World Series. Since 1992, only four of 13 Seminole squads have ever lost five or fewer games 34 games into a campaign. The best starts in FSU history through 32 games are listed below.

1992	30	2
2004	29	3
1993	29	3
1994	27	5
1995	27	5
2001	26	6
2002	23	9
2003	23	9
1996	22	10
1997	21	11
1998	21	11
2000	19	13
1999	16	15	1

On top of doing well against ranked teams this season, FSU is also off to a pretty good start against the Big 12 and Pac 10, the conferences in which their next two ranked opponents play. FSU is undefeated (4-0) in 2004 versus teams from the Big 12 and Pac 10 (1-0). The Seminoles have defeated Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M from the Big 12 and Washington from the Pac 10. FSU has not fared well all-time versus the Pac-10 with an 8-39 record. The Seminoles have done better against the Big 12 posting a 38-32 mark all-time mark. Florida State has had its success versus the Big East in 2004 as well as they are 4-0 versus teams from that conference. Of the Seminoles’ three losses, only one has come at the hands of a team in a ‘so-called’ major conference (LSU of the SEC). The other two losses came to a team from the Sun Belt (No. 10 ULL) and Atlantic Sun (Jacksonville).

Jessica van der Linden threw the second perfect game of her career March 5 versus Penn State, which is a rare and special highlight of any pitchers career. Fellow hurler Casey Hunter got a taste of what it was like to reach perfection just eight days later. The junior was perfect for five innings as FSU run-ruled St. Joseph’s 14-0. The perfect game was the first of her FSU career and Tribe hurler’s have now thrown two perfect games in just over a week. Coming into 2004, FSU pitchers had thrown one perfect game in the last decade and that was van der Linden’s 2002 gem versus Dayton. This is also the fifth time an FSU hurler has either thrown a perfect game or a no-hitter this season. That is the most no hitters in a single season in a decade as well.

The Seminoles’ march to the Florida State Invitational Tournament championship was pretty special. The Seminoles posted eye-popping numbers, wins over national powers and they put away some demons along the way. As a team in their six games, the Seminoles hit .367, slugged .640, scored 51 runs, had seven doubles, five triples and seven homeruns and drove in 42 RBIs. As amazing as those numbers are, what FSU limited its opponents to is probably even more amazing. The Seminole pitching staff didn’t allow an earned run all weekend and opponents managed a meesley eight hits and just one RBI. They batted .067 and had just three extra base hits. IN 36 innings they mustered just one run. Amazingly these numbers came against a group of teams that are some of the nation’s best every year. The Seminoles opened the tournament with Texas A&M. The Aggies have been ranked this season and have been to NCAA Regional four of the last five years on top of five College World Series trips and two national championships. FSU run ruled them 8-0 in five innings. The Seminoles also run-ruled Central Michigan 9-0 in five. That is a Chippewa team that has already defeated DePaul, No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 4 Washington. Then to cap off the tournament the Seminoles took out No. 11 Michigan. On top of being a perennial national title contender and World Series fixture, the win over Michigan was important for FSU. The Tribe had lost seven consecutive games to the Wolverines before the FSU Invitational championship. It was FSU’s first win over UM since 1990. And finally, it was just good for FSU to take back the crown of their signature tournament. It had been five years since the Seminoles won the Florida State Invitational.

Not only did Florida State win the FSU Invitational and dominate the field statistically, they took home the most hardware when all was said and done as well. Five Seminoles were named all-tournament including Jessica van der Linden who took home the MVP trophy. Natasha Jacob, Casey Hunter, Lesley Palmer and Veronica Wootson were all named to the squad, giving FSU the most all-tournament selections. The numbers these five put up at the tournament was staggering. On the hill, Hunter and van der Linden went 6-0 with a 0.00 ERA and five shutouts. They allowed just one run and only eight hits. The two combined to walk four batters in 36 innings and record 47 strikeouts. Impressive numbers considering two of those games came against No. 11 Michigan and perennial power Texas A&M. As a group, these four batters (Jacob, Wootson, Palmer and van der Linden) combined to hit .448 and slug .806. They scored 28 runs and drove in 25 RBIs. They had three doubles, three triples, five homeruns and 58 total bases. It is easy to see why they were named all-tournament when you look at those numbers.

Shortstop Kim Hoffer probably hasn’t gotten the pub the sophomore transfer deserves. With FSU cruising to a top five ranking and the team’s best start in 12 years, it is obvious how seamless her move into the starting line-up has been in place of an injured Tatiana George. The Texas native was just 19 games into her division I career when she was thrust into the starting line-up at short when George went down with a fractured wrist. Since stepping in against Penn State, Hoffer has hit .364 and drove in six RBIs. She has more walks than K’s and she is reaching base 52% of the time. She is fielding .904, considering how early it is in her career, that number isn’t so bad. Compare that to Tatiana George’s first 15 games at short when the Californian fielded .947 and hit .167. George has gone on to become a rock at short for FSU both in the field and at the plate. Hoffer’s early performance shows the Seminoles could have a stud in the waiting.

As many high points as there was for FSU at the Florida State Invitational this past weekend, not many people were around to see one of the best moments of the weekend for the FSU players. It took place late in the game and in the midst of a 14-0 drubbing of St. Joseph’s. Freshman and third team catcher Lena Sifen was brought in to pinch hit in the bottom of the fourth with runners on second and third and FSU in front 12-0. The diminutive catcher, one of the hardest workers on the team and a favorite among her teammates, was getting just her fifth at bat of the season. The Virginia native laced a two-run double that just missed going out of the park. The hit brought the entire Seminole dugout to its feet as they gave Sifen a standing ovation. It was the first career hit for the catcher.

When you are 31-3 there are obviously going to be some long winning streaks and that has been the case for FSU so far in 2004. The Seminoles began the season with 11 straight wins before an upset loss to Jacksonville thwarted the teams run at the all-time record for wins to start a season. The Seminoles bounced back to win five in a row including four against nationally ranked teams. FSU went just 2-2 in its next four games with both losses coming to top 10 teams. Since then FSU has gone on another long streak winning 12 straight and they will enter the Kia Klassic on the longest winning streak of the season.

When Lesley Palmer was named ACC Player of the Week March 15, it was the first conference player of the week honor for the second-year third baseman. Palmer won ACC Tournament MVP last season but this is the first weekly honor she has received. It isn’t the first weekly honor for the Seminoles though. Palmer is the sixth straight FSU player to be named player of the week this season and a Seminole has won player of the week honors every week this year. In just six weeks, the Seminoles have now won as many player of the week awards as they did all of last year.

It is hard to imagine having a better week than the one Lesley Palmer just had. The junior led FSU offensively in eight categories as the Seminoles went 8-0 last week beating three teams that are or were ranked (No. 11 Michigan, Notre Dame and Texas A&M) as the Tribe captured the 2004 Florida State Invitational Tournament championship. Palmer hit safely in all eight games and recorded an extra base hit in five of the eight contests. She batted .524, slugged 1.143, had 12 RBIs, four doubles, three homeruns, 11 hits, 24 total bases and she scored 10 runs. She was also on base over 64% of the time and she even stole the second base of her career. Palmer also led the team against FSU’s toughest competition. Versus three national powers (No. 11 Michigan, Notre Dame and Texas A&M) the junior hit .500 with two runs, three RBIs, three doubles and she slugged .800. In less than a 24-hour span, Palmer record a game with two doubles and two homeruns. She joins Brandi Stuart as just the second Seminole since 2000 to record a game with two doubles and two homeruns within a 24-hour span. The junior also established a new career high with five RBIs in a game.

With their combined show of force this past week, both Lesley Palmer and Beth Wade reached a pretty special milestone. Each player hit three homeruns last week and that gave both Wade and Palmer 10 for their careers. They are only the third and fourth Seminoles to reach double-digit homers in the last five years. Each will have a shot to climb their way onto the all-time homerun list at FSU. Palmer hit another versus Troy State and still has another season to go in 2005 and she should challenge Brandi Stuart’s career record of 25. Wade has a good shot of at least making the list. She would need five more bombs, which is a tall order but not so much considering the way the Georgia native has been hitting this season.

Who’s On Tap
Arizona State:
The 24th ranked Sun Devils head into the KIA Classic after a 4th place in their latest tournament winning three of five…the Sun Devils hold the lead in the all-time series with a record of 4-1 with the last meeting coming in 1999 when Arizona State shut out the Seminoles 2-0…Arizona State is led by recent all-tournament selection, senior Phelan Wright with a .423 BA and 38 RBI’s…the pitching staff is led by Sophomore Desiree Serano with a 1.18 ERA and 12 wins

Nebraska comes into Fullerton, CA having lost to Texas A&M at the Florida State Invitational in the semi-finals…Nebraska leads the all-time series with FSU 8-4…however the last meeting was in 2002 World Series with FSU winning 4-3…Nebraska is lead by Junior Anne Steffan with a .390 BA and 17 stolen bases…senior Peaches James leads the pitching staff which has a combined 1.65 ERA…James has a 0.93 ERA and 11 wins.

UNLV enters the tournament winning 6 of 7 and grabbing the UNLV Tournament II title…Florida State leads the all-time series 4-1 with the last meeting coming in 1999 in which FSU won 9-6…UNLV is lead by senior Bridget Byrne who is batting .438…the Rebels pitching staff is lead by junior Jacque Kerrigan who has 13 wins and a 1.28 ERA.

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