May 19, 2002
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
The Seminole softball team was one strike away from going to the 2001 Women’s College World Series and they were just two outs away from getting the opportunity to play for a trip to Oklahoma City, OK Sunday evening. The Seminoles (52-18-0) were up 2-0 on Georgia Tech (52-17-0) in the bottom of the seventh before a two-run rally brought the Jackets back to even things and send the game into extra innings where the Seminoles went on to win the game.
Monique Marier had her second game-winning hit of the 2002 NCAA Regionals as she laced a RBI double to the warning track in right in the top of the ninth to put FSU ahead. Senior Leslie Malerich (32-12) closed out the game as she pitched her second complete game on elimination Sunday for Florida State. The All-American allowed just one earned run in the two victories as she gave FSU the chance to play for its sixth Women’s College World Series this evening against the Jackets. In the process, FSU handed Jessica Sallinger (28-8) her first loss since April 18th.
Unlike the previous two meetings with Georgia Tech, FSU jumped on ACC Rookie of the Year Sallinger in the top of the first inning. Florida State, with a re-worked batting order, struck first and scored just the second run off Sallinger in the 2002 NCAA Tallahassee Regional. Shundra Colzie walked to lead things off and senior Kimmy Carter, hitting in the No. 2 spot for the first time all season, sacrificed Colzie to second. A Jessica van der Linden ground out to second moved Colzie to third with two outs in the frame. All-American candidate Brandi Stuart then came through with a huge hit as her two-out RBI double down the left field line scored Colzie and put FSU up 1-0. The RBI was the 45th of the year for Stuart as she continues to add to her record for the most doubles ever amassed in three seasons at FSU.
Starting pitcher Malerich got into a little bit of trouble in the bottom of the inning as Tech attempted a first inning rally of its own. The Jackets loaded the bases with two outs in a bid to get right back into the game but the senior hurler shutdown the threat as she struck out Sara Wissman on three straight pitches to retire the side.
Both teams collected a hit in the second with Carter’s two-out double, which just missed leaving the park by a couple of feet, being the most dangerous. Tech sophomore Tara Knudsen also got a two-bagger when she hit a soft shot down the right field line that was just deep enough to allow her to get to second.
Despite the hits, the game remained 1-0 into the top of the fourth as the Tribe once again attempted to add to its 1-0 lead. Stuart drew a lead-off walk and Elisa Velasco laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Stuart to second. The junior took off on contact and didn’t stop until she launched into a head-first slide into third beating the tag. The Cerritos, CA native was called out on the exact same play during the ACC Tournament on what most seemed to consider a very close call. The gamble paid off this time as Stuart broke for home as the Jackets were throwing to first to get the next batter out. Katie Donovan threw home to try and get Stuart but the throw sailed over the catcher’s head putting FSU up 2-0.
Tech staged another comeback attempt in the bottom of the fifth as they put together back-to-back singles with one out. With runners on first and second and power hitter Lindsay Wood at the plate Malerich once again came through with a little help from a great defensive play by new starter at third Robyn Larson and Stuart. Wood smashed a line drive at Larson who corralled the shot and threw to Stuart at second for the inning-ending double play. Stuart, who ran over to cover the bag, had to reach high up to get the throw but hauled it in to kill the Yellow Jacket rally.
With a 2-0 advantage in the sixth, the Garnet and Gold went in search for more runs as van der Linden sent a one out shot to center field but Sallinger was once again equal to the task. She retired the next two batters to get out of the top of the frame still trailing 2-0.
As was the case most of the day, Tech once again tried to crawl back into the game this time in the bottom of the sixth. Two singles and a ground out put the Yellow Jackets on second and third with two down in the inning. Tech brought in pinch hitter Tasha Waugh to face Malerich but the senior Seminole got her to pop up to Stuart standing on top of second base and leaving GT with just three outs to avoid a winner take all game.
With just one more chance to avoid a second game, the Jackets started things off with an infield single to short and a bloop single into left flied. With two runners on and nobody out, Malerich got Knudsen to hit into a fielder’s choice with FSU cutting down the lead runner. Wood then singled to left scoring Tech’s first run of the game and slicing FSU’s lead to 2-1. An error on the next play loaded the bases for Tech with just one down in the frame. A sacrifice fly to right by Wissman tied the game and a Malerich walk loaded the bases moving the World Series clinching run to third but Malerich got a fly out to shallow center ending the Tech rally and sending the contest to the eighth.
The Jackets had posted a 7-2 record in extra inning contests while the Tribe had gone 3-3 including an eight-inning win earlier in the day versus UTC. Florida State went quietly in the top of the eighth but Georgia Tech got a runner on by virtue of a one-out single through the left side. Donovan followed her with her fourth single of the game as the stage was set for Knudsen with one out and runners on first and second. The Jacket’s top-hitter struck out swinging leaving Malerich one out away from getting out of the jam. Wood, who was already 1-for-2 on the day with an RBI, tapped a check swing pitch that slowly rolled down the line and ended up loading the bases when she beat out the play at first. Malerich finished the threat though as she got Jamie Frost to ground out to first and end the inning.
Florida State tried to make something happen in the ninth with their 3, 4 and 5 hitters due to come to the plate. Van der Linden started things off by drawing a lead-off walk but Sallinger bounced back and got Stuart swinging for the first out of the inning. Velasco followed with a hot shot right at Sallinger but the freshman couldn’t handle the ball and both runners reached safely. That brought up Marier, who had the game-winning RBI versus Auburn in the first game of the regional, who sent a deep shot to the warning track in right field that landed over the head of Soraya Reddick. The double scored van der Linden and put runners on second and third with just one out. Sallinger showed why she was the ACC Tournament MVP as she bounced back to retire the side and move the game to the bottom of the ninth with FSU up 3-2.
Malerich got the first out of the inning but Tech began to claw its way back when Reddick laced a warning track double to left field to put a runner in scoring position with just one out. Tatiana George got the next out when she climbed the ladder to reel in a soft liner that was headed to the outfield.
The Seminoles and Yellow Jackets will face each other one last time with a trip to the WCWS on the line at 8:15 p.m. For more information on Seminole softball and the 2002 NCAA Tallahassee Regional, please visit the official website of the Florida State Athletic Department at www.seminoles.com. The regional’s official website contains game stories, box scores, photos, live stats, links to buy tickets and much more.