March 11, 2004
WE’RE A HIT
The 2004 edition of the Seminole softball team is lethal at the plate and the further the season progresses, the more you cannot dismiss the success. The Tribe’s numbers aren’t a mirage due to an easy schedule (six of 25 games versus top 25 teams) either. This is a great hitting team. The 2004 Seminoles are batting .313 and slugging .463 and not one everyday starter is hitting below .288. Even more impressive is this group’s penchant for extra base hits. Florida State has 56 extra base hits, over two per game, and has double-digit doubles, triples and homeruns 25 games into the season for the first time in over five years. Ten different Seminoles already have a homer, never in 21 years of FSU softball have ten different players homered in a whole season before 2004 and the Tribe has played just 25 games. Eleven players this year have recorded a double and six have hit a triple as well.
When you are hitting as well as the Seminoles, you are going to beat up on some people and FSU has really done that so far in 2004. Florida State has won almost half of its games (12 of 25) by five or more runs and the Tribe has run-ruled nine teams so far. This season FSU is outscoring its opponents by a margin of 5-1 and the Tribe has scored seven or more runs 14 times in 25 games. No. 10 Louisiana at Lafayette is the only team this year that has been able to shutout the Seminoles and opposing pitchers have held FSU below three runs on just three occasions all season.
It is hard to be any better in the circle than Jessica van der Linden was last week at the Seminole Challenge Tournament. The senior All-American pitched 20 innings, allowed no earned runs, one unearned run, struck out 34, walked three and went 2-1. Her loss came in a classic 10-inning battle with All-American candidate Brooke Mitchell of No. 10 UL at Lafayette. The run came in that game as well and it was a result of international tiebreaker rules. Mitchell and van der Linden combined to allow eight hits, strike out 32 batters and issue just three walks. Included in her weekend of work was a perfect game as well, the second of her career. The last came as a sophomore in New Mexico when she was perfect for seven innings versus the Flyers. Overall, van der Linden has now thrown six no hitters and two perfect games in her FSU career.
After watching Jessica van der Linden complete a five-inning perfect game versus Penn State at the Seminole Challenge Tournament opener, junior hurler Casey Hunter decided to get into the act as well. The friendly rivalry between the two was pretty evident when Hunter followed van der Linden’s perfect game with the third no hitter of her career. The two went 12 innings without allowing a single hit before the first batter of the Louisiana Lafayette game the next day singled to start the top of the first inning.
On a team full of pleasant surprises, nobody is surprising more than second year outfielder Natasha Jacob. The left fielder is coming off the best week of her short career. Last week Jacob led all starters hitting .438 and slugging .750. When your number two hitter, who is known for bunting and slapping, is slugging .750, you know she is hitting pretty well. Just a week removed from hitting the first homerun of her career, Jacob recorded the first and second triples of her career in just a five day span last week. She not only tripled twice but she also had a double to go along with her four other hits. She scored six runs and knocked in an amazing seven RBIs in six games. In 53 starts last season, Jacob had five RBIs overall. In a span of three at bats last week, she equaled that total. In the first 72 games of the Texan’s career she had accumulated nine RBIs, in six games last week she plated seven. Since February 27, the last 12 days, Jacob has hit her first career home run, hit the first two triples of her career and knocked in nine of her 16 career RBIs. In 12 games she did three things she hadn’t done in the first 66 starts of her Seminole career. Jacob also did one other thing she had never done before and that was winning ACC Player of the Week honors. The left fielder’s big week was not an aberration. In less than a month (February 17) she has raised her average from .188 to .352 by hitting .421 in the last 16 games, the best of any Seminole starter. She is getting on base over 52% of the time in that stretch and she is now one of the top hitters on the team. Jacob is just .001 behind first team All-American Jessica van der Linden for the team lead in batting. She is even out slugging the All-American .500 to .485. Jacob is even developing into one of the Tribe’s top clutch hitters. Jacob is the ONLY Seminole hitting .400 or above with runners on base, with runners in scoring position and with the bases loaded. Only one other player is even hitting .400 or above in two of those three categories and that is van der Linden.
FRICKE IS AWESOME
There really are no words to describe how good of a pinch hitter newcomer Katie Fricke is. The Lake City Community College transfer is hitting .545 as a pinch hitter going 6 for 11. Florida State has eight pinch hits on the season and Fricke has six. We all should have had a clue that Fricke was a special hitter when on her third career at bat as a pinch hitter she hit a two run homer versus Southern Miss. In fact, in her first five at bats she either got a hit, scored a run or drove in a run. In three of her 11 pinch hit opportunities she has gone for extra bases including doubles in pinch hits in two games versus UConn. Before FSU’s third game versus UConn was cancelled, Fricke was getting ready to make just her third start of the season. Warranted considering she is hitting .444 overall, slugging .722 and has the best RBI to AB ratio on the team.
Player At Bats RBIs Ratio Fricke 18 7 .39 Galuppi 23 7 .30 Van der Linden 68 19 .28 Palmer 71 17 .24
When you look at the at bat to RBI chart above, Katie Fricke’s name may not be the only surprise on the list. Joining her is second year player Carey Galuppi. Along with Natasha Jacob and Katie Fricke, Galuppi has been one of FSU’s hottest hitters as of late. Since being reinserted into the starting line-up three games ago, all Galuppi has done is gone 5-for-8 with four runs scored and four RBIs. She has also hit the first home run of her career in that stretch. Coming into 2004, Galuppi was a career .200 hitter in just 24 at bats. In 23 at bats this year, she has almost four times as many RBIs, more than double the hits, two more runs scored, and her batting average has almost doubled and her slugging percentage has increased by over 350 points.
I REMEMBER THAT DAY
If FSU’s 1-0, 10-inning loss to Louisiana at Lafayette rang a bell you have a good memory. The extra inning loss came on the exact same weekend FSU lost its last extra inning contest. In 2003 FSU feel to Penn State in another tournament in Tallahassee on March 6. This loss to ULL came on March 8. Both were double-digit inning games and they are the only two extra inning losses suffered by FSU in the last year.
25 IN THE BOOKS
Comparisons between seasons can often be misleading since schedules vary and players change so much but when you compare the 2004 squad to the previous three Seminole softball teams of which all three went to NCAA Regionals, two went to the regional final and one to the World Series, the numbers are startling. No team in the last three years has gotten off to as good of a statistical start as the 2004 squad. Despite fewer at bats than another team has had through 25 games, this year’s team has scored more runs, has more hits, more doubles, triples and homers, more RBIs, more total bases and a higher slugging and on base percentage THAN ANY OTHER TEAM. The 2004 team does not trail any of those three teams in a single statistical offensive category. Simply amazing considering the fact that the 2004 team played more ranked foes in the first 25 games of the season than the last three teams combined.
Avg. AB RUNS HITS 2B 3B HR RBI TB SLG% OB% 2004 .313 639 151 200 31 10 15 124 296 .463 .420 2003 .291 649 131 189 29 4 6 95 244 .376 .418 2002 .254 643 100 163 21 5 8 76 218 .339 .342 2001 .283 649 99 181 30 9 4 93 241 .377 .355
DANGEROUS IN THE BAYOU
If there has been an Achilles heel for the 2004 squad it has been ranked teams from the state of Louisiana. Two of Florida State’s three losses have come to top 25 teams from the bayou state. FSU lost in the NFCA Leadoff Classic Championship to No. 4 LSU 4-3 and then they lost to No. 10 UL Lafayette at the 2004 Seminole Challenge 1-0 in 10 innings. All three of FSU’s losses this year have come by just one run and only one (Lafayette) has come at home.
I’VE BEEN BUSY
The Seminoles are in the midst of their toughest stretch of the season as far as number of games is concerned. FSU has played 12 games in the last 17 days and before the team leaves for California March 17, they will have played AT LEAST 21 games in a 24 day span. Considering the team plays between 60 and 70 games a year over four months, almost a third of those games are being played in a stretch of less than four weeks. Pretty tough.
Despite a tough 1-0 loss in 10 innings to a top 10 team in Louisiana at Lafayette, the Tribe stayed at No. 4 in the latest ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 poll. After a 5-1 week the Seminoles picked up steam in both polls in fact and inched from number six to number five in the just released USAToday/NFCA Top 25 poll. This is the first time in the brief history of these two polls (the USA Softball poll is in just its second year) that Florida State has been a consensus top five team. The Seminoles’ wins over Washington, Oklahoma, Texas and South Carolina at the NFCA Leadoff Classic really opened the nation’s eyes to the team in Tallahassee and the group is getting some much deserved respect. They will be tested once again this week though as they face two teams that have been ranked this season in Notre Dame and Texas A&M. If the Tribe is able to advance in the Florida State Invitational they may meet up with ranked foes Nebraska and Michigan as well.
The 2004 Seminole Invitational will mark the 21st time that Florida State has hosted the event. Held every spring since 1984, the tournament has annually showcased some of the nation’s finest softball talent. Part of last year’s tournament was cancelled due to weather conditions, marking the second time in three years that weather prevented the completion of the event. At the time the tournament was called off, Florida State had a 2-1 record, including Jessica van der Linden’s no-hitter against Winthrop. Their only blemish was a 4-3 loss to Penn State, which ended after 11 innings. Although no champion was determined, the All-Tournament Team was still selected and featured two Seminoles. van der Linden and Casey Hunter both had stand out performances that were worthy of recognition. In the 21-year history of the event, Florida State was finished as tournament champion on seven different occasions. The Seminoles won the first two tournaments in 1984 and 1985, added another championship in 1988, won three consecutive championships from 1991 to 1993 and added their most recent victory in 1998. During that time, five different Seminoles have been selected as Tournament MVP. Tina Kyler in 1984, Tiffany Daniels in 1988, Toni Gutierrez in 1992, Leslie Adams in 1993, and Jennifer White-Stokes in 1998.
GET EM WHILE THE GETTING IS GOOD
If you are planning on scoring versus a very good Seminole pitching staff you better get your licks in early. Of the 31 runs FSU has allowed this season, 12 have come in the first inning. Compare that to all the other innings where FSU have never allowed more than four runs. Eleven of those first inning runs have come with Hunter on the mound as the junior continues to get off to rocky starts. Once the hurler gets past the first though she is pretty tough to score on allowing just 12 runs in the second and beyond. Jessica van der Linden on the other hand has been stellar in the first allowing just one run in 12 first innings. When it comes to closing out a game, Hunter has been more successful. The junior has not allowed a single run in the seventh inning while van der Linden has allowed just one.
THE RHODE TO FRUITION
Florida State’s offense has been in high gear all season but not quite like it was versus Rhode Island in the Seminole Challenge. Florida State unleashed on the Rams for 16 hits, 11 runs, two triples and two doubles in the 11-0, five-inning victory. Amazingly 10 different Seminole batters had an RBI while five batters recorded multi-hit games and four had extra base hits. The game was actually just 2-0 entering the fourth before the Seminoles exploded for nine runs on eight hits.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS
NOTRE DAME: This is the third meeting between the schools and the first since 1996 when the Irish downed FSU 1-0 in Tallahassee. The Tribe leads the all-time series 2-1. UND has been to the NCAA Tournament eight times since 1994 and have been to five consecutive regionals. The Fighting Irish have been ranked this year but are currently receiving votes with a 12-6 record. They have already faced eight teams that are or were ranked and have a 4-4 record against that group. They have played just one top five team and that was a 2-1 loss to California. The Irish are 2-0 versus the ACC this year beating Georgia Tech and North Carolina. This is the only single game scheduled for FSU that isn’t part of a tournament.
TEXAS A&M: Like Notre Dame, Texas A&M is a perennial softball power that has just recently slipped out of the top 25 poll. The Aggies are 12-10 and come to Tallahassee as losers of three of their last four games. Texas A&M has played six ranked opponents and has a 1-5 record versus the group. After upsetting then-No. 15 Oregon, the Aggies have dropped five in a row to ranked foes. This will be just their second trip out of the state of Texas this year. FSU and Texas A&M have played three common opponents in Penn State, Southern Miss and Washington. The Aggies and Seminoles each beat Penn State and Southern Miss but TA&M lost to Washington (4-2) while the Tribe beat the Huskies 7-1.
ROBERT MORRIS: After a 9-38 season in 2003, the Colonials are off to another rough start in 2004. Robert Morris opened the season with an 8-0 win but has since lost 10 straight games by a combined score of 26-83. FSU has played RMU five times in program history and is 4-1 all time against the Colonials. RMU got its only win in the series in 1994 at a neutral site when they defeated Florida State 1-0. Every game except for one has been close in this series. The last two times the teams met (1995 & 1998), FSU won by just three runs each time. The Tribe has never lost to RMU in Tallahassee going a perfect 3-0 in those games.
ST. JOSEPH’S: After a 1-3 start, St. Joe’s evened their record at 3-3 before losing two lopsided games at No. 8 Georgia. The Hawks currently have a 3-5 record but will stop in Atlanta Thursday to face Georgia Tech before rolling into Tallahassee for the Florida State Invitational this Friday. This will be the first ever meeting between the Hawks and Seminoles. Florida State has already faced one opponent for the first time in school history this year and that was Army, who the Tribe defeated 10-0.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN: The Chippewas were the talk of the tournament at the prestigious NFCA Leadoff Classic. If you don’t know your softball you might have thought that CMU’s wins over DePaul, UMass, Oklahoma and Washington were big upsets but if you know the game, you know how good the CMU program is. Head coach Margo Jonker joined FSU’s Dr. JoAnne Graf as a 2003 NFCA Hall of Fame Inductee. Under Jonker’s guidance The Chippewas have made 12 trips to the NCAA tournament, have captured the most MAC titles in conference history with 10, and claim one visit each to NCAA Women’s College World Series and the AIAW National Championship. The FSU/CMU match-up will pit two coaches who have a combined 50 years of experience and over 2000 combined wins. The Seminoles hold a 7-2 all-time edge in the series and have won seven of the last eight. The last time the team’s met was 2001 in Tallahassee when FSU swept two games 3-1 and 2-0. Since their run at the NFCA, the Chippewas have struggled against lesser competition. CMU has lost to Creighton, Virginia Tech and Youngstown State and will enter the weekend with an 8-6 mark.
TROY STATE: The rescheduled doubleheader with the Lady Trojans is set to take place Tuesday night and was squeezed in right before FSU heads to California for the KIA Klassic. The Tribe leads the all-time series 14-4-1and has won four consecutive meetings. Half of the Trojans wins against FSU have come in Tallahassee where FSU holds a 9-2 advantage over TSU. The last time Florida State lost to Troy State was in bracket play at the 2002 Buzz Classic Tournament in Marietta, GA. In its 14 wins, FSU has only shutout Troy State on four occasions the latest coming in 2001 when FSU took back-to-back meetings 11-0 and 1-0. Troy State is 11-10 on the season entering this weekend’s action.