Jan. 13, 2003
Tallahassee, FL – The fourth-ranked Florida State softball team held its first full squad practice of the 2003 season Monday night in very un-Florida like temperatures of 43 degrees. The Seminoles, who have been in school since January 6, had their first opportunity of the spring semester to get on the diamond with the full squad and coaches. The team has just 18 days before they open their season at Georgia Southern February 1.
“It was great to finally have everyone out tonight and really start preparing for the season,” said head coach JoAnne Graf. “We really don’t have a lot of time to pull everything together before we have to hit the road. We have a lot of work to do between now and then but there was some reasons to be encouraged after what I saw tonight.”
With a schedule that features three games versus 2002 NCAA Tournament teams in the first week of the season and a trip to the prestigious NFCA/Leadoff Classic less than three weeks into the campaign, FSU will need to be sharp right out of the gate. The Seminoles will rely heavily on 1st team NFCA All-American Brandi Stuart and 2002 Louisville Slugger All-Region selection Jessica van der Linden to start the year. Van der Linden, a junior southpaw, will move into the No. 1 spot in the Seminole rotation and is coming off a career season at the plate that saw her hit .336 with 14 doubles, five triples and 35 RBIs.
“Considering this was our first day all together, I think we did extremely well,” said van der Linden. “We worked together as a team, everyone went out and gave 100 percent and that was great to see. We probably need to get into some game-like situations and get back into game shape.
“The season is just around the corner so we really need to jump on it but I think we will be ready.”
One of the biggest challenges for the Seminoles over the next three weeks will be working in their seven newcomers. While only two or three will be called on immediately to contribute, the Tribe will need to get all seven on the same page before opening up in Statesboro, GA. Florida State returns five of eight starters defensively and two of its three pitchers. Freshman hurler Julie Hauck, the 2000 Gatorade Player of the Year from Oklahoma, will start the season behind van der Linden and sophomore Casey Hunter in the rotation but she is one of the most-highly decorated high school players to ever commit to FSU.
“I am really excited to get out here. I have been waiting for us to really get things going,” said Hauck. “It was nice to be here in the fall and be able to settle in for a semester before the season starts. I am really prepared now. I’m not sure I was prepared in the fall but I am really excited as we get closer to starting to play for real.”
After opening the season at Georgia Southern, FSU will open their home season against 2002 NCAA Tallahassee Regional participant Auburn. The doubleheader, scheduled for Tuesday, February 4, will be a very early test against one of the nation’s top teams. The games are scheduled for 4:00 and 6:00 and there is no charge for admission at the Seminole Softball Complex. For more information on the Florida State softball program, please visit our official athletic website at www.seminoles.com.