March 12, 2002 - by
Seminole Softball Heads To Fullerton For KIA Classic

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This will be a huge weekend for Florida State softball as the team travels to Fullerton, CA for one of the nation’s premier tournaments. The KIA Classic features nine teams ranked in last week’s USAToday/NFCA Top 25 and seven of those nine teams are amongst the top 15 in the nation.


The Seminoles are coming off of a strong showing in the Seminole Invitational Tournament but once again came up just a run short against a ranked opponent. Florida State made it through its pool without a loss and came back in the late innings to win two of its three games.


The Tribe rallied from a run down in the bottom of the ninth against Middle Tennessee and then won the game in the tenth. Florida State then rallied from a three-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh to down Auburn 5-4.


FSU’s run towards the title ended against last week’s No. 8 team Michigan and All-American pitcher Marissa Young. The Garnet and Gold were in the game all the way as the Wolverines took an early 1-0 lead in the second but FSU had numerous chances to get back into the game including stranding runners at third in two innings. The Seminoles capped the tournament off with a 3-2 loss to UMass in a Gold Bracket consolation game.


THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS


OKLAHOMA (23-5-0): Oklahoma is one of the most dominant programs in college softball today and they are just two years removed from a national championship. The Sooners are off to a 23-5 start this season and already have a win over previously ranked Notre Dame. OU recently dropped a pair of games to a team FSU is all too familiar with in Florida Atlantic. The Owls beat the Seminoles 4-2 earlier this season and downed Oklahoma 6-5 and 5-3. OU has four pitchers who have at least four decisions and every one of them has a winning percentage over .700 and an ERA below 2.20. As a team, Oklahoma is hitting a robust .304 which is 57 percentage points higher than FSU but The Seminoles’ ERA is a half a run a game less than OU’s. Christina Enea is leading the way for OU at the plate with a .418 batting average and a slugging percentage of .772. She has 10 doubles and six homers in 79 at bats. Florida State leads the series with Oklahoma 4-3.


RUTGERS (1-6-0): The Scarlet Knights are off to a little bit of a slow start at 1-6. When you look at Rutgers schedule it looks pretty familiar. Five of the six teams Rutgers has played appear on FSU’s 2002 schedule. The Knights have played Southern Illinois, Georgia Tech, FAU, and Dayton while FSU has played all of those teams with the exception of the Yellow Jackets. FSU will play GT twice when conference play begins. Rutgers has a record of 1-4 versus that group while the Tribe is 3-1 against those teams. FSU has outscored that group 21-5 while Rutgers has been outscored 8-10. Florida State leads the all-time series with Rutgers 5-0.


CS FULLERTON (20-9-0): The Titans are one of a handful of traditional softball powerhouses. Fullerton has a very similar record to FSU so far this season (20-9 vs. 21-9) but the Titans have played an unbelievable slate. CSF has already played 11 games versus Top 25 teams including two versus No. 1 UCLA (1-1), No. 2 Arizona (0-1), two versus No. 3 Stanford (0-2), No. 6 Cal (1-0), No. 10 Fresno State (1-0), No. 14 Oregon State (1-0) and two games versus No. 21 Texas A&M (0-2). Florida State and Cal State Fullerton have played three common opponents. Both teams beat Pitt (FSU 7-0 and CSF 3-0) and Texas (FSU 1-0 and CSF 9-1) while UMass downed FSU (3-2) but lost to CSF 6-0.


U.S.A. Blue team member Jenny Topping who is off to another great start at the plate once again leads the Titans. She is hitting .432 and slugging .568 on the year. Gina Oaks is the Titans leading hurler with an 11-2 record and an outstanding ERA of 0.78. She has nine complete games and three shutouts, The Titans get their power from senior infielder Monica Lucatero who leads the team with seven home runs, 23 RBIs and a .671 slugging percentage. Cal State Fullerton leads the all-time series with Florida State 5-2.


POSSIBLE KIA CLASSIC OPPONENTS: The Seminoles open Kia Classic action in Pool C and will be matched up with Pool B, which includes No. 7 Arizona State, No. 15 DePaul, Texas and New Mexico. Other featured teams are No. 2 Arizona, No. 10 Fresno State, No. 12 Washington and No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette.


6 OF 9


With so many Top 25 teams at this weekend’s KIA Classic and FSU scheduled to play No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 11 Cal State Fullerton, it is worth mentioning that the Seminoles have already faced six opponents who are currently ranked in the USAToday/NFCA poll. While the team has nine losses this season through 30 games, six of those nine have come to ranked opponents. Through 30 games last season, FSU was 25-5 and that team went on to get within one strike of the College World Series but that squad played just one Top 25 team in its first 30 games. So the 2002 Seminoles have just 3 losses versus unranked teams compared to four for the 2001 team at the same point of the season.


STEAL OF THE CENTURY


Junior Brandi Stuart is on the verge of becoming just the third player in Florida State softball history to steal 100 bases in her career. The second baseman is making Tribe fans forget about All-American Serita Brooks’ prowess on the base paths. Brooks owns three NCAA steals records from her two seasons at Florida State but Stuart has already surpassed her career mark. Stuart almost has twice as many steals as Brooks had through the first 30 games of last season (27 vs. 15).


“E”-FFICIENT


Sophomore Elisa Velasco may have only hit .231 at the Seminole Invitational Tournament but she had two of FSU’s biggest hits. In the Seminole’s opener against Middle Tennessee, FSU was down 1-0 in extra innings. With two outs in the game and a runner on third, Velasco was called in to pinch-hit. She took the first pitch she saw and ripped it down the right field line for an RBI triple, which kept the Seminoles alive. Florida State went on to win the game in the 10th and stay alive for a No. 1 seed in pool play. After FSU downed Iowa State 7-0, the Seminoles looked to complete pool play undefeated but trailed Auburn 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh. After the FSU closed the gap to 4-3 (see next note) Velasco came up to bat with two outs and runners on second and third. The catcher singled up the middle driving in two runs in getting her first game-winning RBI of the year. For the weekend, she hit .600 with runners in scoring position.


NOT SHUNNING AWAY


Junior college transfer Shundra Colzie probably had the biggest weekend of her young career at FSU at the Seminole Invitational Tournament. The outfielder hit .500 in eight at bats. She knocked in the first two RBI’s of her career and recorded the first home run of her career at a key moment. With FSU down to Auburn 4-1 in the seventh, Colzie launched a two-run homer to bring the Seminoles within a run and setting the stage for Elisa Velasco’s heroics.


THE TOP DAWG


Despite hitting in the four hole, watch out when junior All-American Brandi Stuart leads off an inning. The Cerritos, CA native hit .456 this past weekend when the bases were empty and for the season she is hitting .553 with nobody on base. For the tournament she reached base 80% of the time as a leadoff batter and for the season she is reaching base 73% of the time when she starts an inning.


DOMINATING


Although she has been pitching well all season, fans at the Seminole Softball Complex were delighted to see the return of the dominating Leslie Malerich they were all used to during her previous three seasons. After somewhat of a slow start compared to the standard she has set, the senior All-American has been on fire as of late. Despite an ERA that is a tad higher than where she finished the 2001 season (1.00 this year compared to 0.72 in 2001), senior Leslie Malerich is really having a very strong 2002 campaign. The All-American has allowed an earned run in just three of her last 16 appearances and she is coming off of a streak of 44 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run. She has won the last ten games FSU has won and she already has amassed 112 strikeouts. She leads the team in ERA, wins (13), appearances (21), starts (16), complete games (13), shutouts (6) and innings pitched (119).


GOING HOME


This weekend’s trip to Fullerton will be a sort of homecoming for FSU’s six left coast kids. Jessica van der Linden and Brandi Stuart are from Cerritos, Julie Jordan is from Garden Grove, Tatiana George is from Fontana, Bryttani Lindheim is from Mission Viejo and Elisa Velasco is from Hesperia. This trip will also be the closest junior Robyn Larson comes to her hometown in Bothell, WA.


COMING BACK


Before this past weekend’s Seminole Invitational Tournament, FSU was just 1-5 when trailing after six innings, which means FSU had staged just one seventh inning or extra-inning comeback this season. That all changed at the Invite. Florida State came from behind twice, once in the ninth and once in the seventh to grab victories from the jaws of defeat.


Versus Middle Tennessee, Florida State was down to its last out of the game. The Seminoles were down 1-0 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth before pinch-hitter Elisa Velasco’s two-out triple to right kept the Seminoles alive and sent the game into the 10th tied at 1-1. The triple was the first of the year for the sophomore and it came on the first pitch she saw. Then in the 10th, Kimmy Carter drew a bases loaded walk to give the Seminoles a 2-1 win.


Against Auburn, FSU fell behind 4-1 and stayed in that hole until the seventh inning. Shundra Colzie, who came into the game hitting .200 on the season with all five of her hits being singles, homered to center knocking in the first two RBI’s of her career and closing Auburn’s lead to 4-3. Tatiana George then singled to third base and was followed by Jessica van der Linden who drew a walk. With runners on first and second, Brandi Stuart singled but George, the potential tying run, was gunned out at home to keep the game 4-3. After a Kimmy Carter line out to third, Velasco came up looking to be the hero for FSU once again. The sophomore singled up the middle scoring both van der Linden and Stuart giving the Seminoles a 5-4 win.


IT’S A DATE


Even though it has been a little over a week since head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf broke the NFCA’s All-Time wins record, there is still some business to take care of. The only coach in Seminole softball history, Graf broke the record while the team was in New Mexico. That hasn’t stopped FSU’s administration from celebrating the honor the right way. Florida State will have an on-field ceremony for coach Graf right before game one of FSU’s doubleheader with Maine March 20 at 5:00 p.m.


RECORD WATCH


Senior Kimmy Carter is just 29 games away from entering the all-time games played list for FSU Softball. She has averaged 66 games per year in her three years with the team.


Carter is also 66 at bats away from becoming a career leader for Florida State in that category. She has averaged 180 at bats per season in her previous three years.


Carter and junior Brandi Stuart are both nearing career records for runs scored. Carter is 32 runs away after scoring 38 times in 2001. Stuart has two seasons to secure the 19 runs she needs to make it on to the list. At her current pace, Stuart will end up second all-time by the time her career is over with 178 runs.


Carter and Stuart should both find themselves on FSU’s career list for hits by the time the season is over. Carter needs just 34 this season after posting 64 her junior year. Stuart could end up as FSU’s All-Time hits leader when all is said and done. At her current pace she would finish her career with 304 hits, which is just six hits shy of No. 1 on the list.


Carter, Stuart, Jessica van der Linden and Monique Marier are also zeroing on the record for all-time doubles after the 2001 squad set a record with 93 last season. Carter is just one away from making it on the list and if she repeats her effort of nine from 2001 she will end up third on the all-time list. Marier and van der Linden each launched 14 last year (the second most in team history). Marier is just 7 away from reaching the all time list while van der Linden is 2 away. Van der Linden is on pace to shatter the record of 38 after her record freshman season. Stuart is also on pace to take over first after recording 18 doubles in just two seasons.


The same duo of Carter and Stuart are also nearing the triples record. Carter is two away and Stuart has two seasons to record six.


Brandi Stuart has amassed 99 steals in just over two seasons. She is third on the all-time steals list and is projected to finish third all-time with 144 swipes.


Here they go again. Carter and Stuart are closing in on the all-time RBI record also. At her current pace, Carter could finish her career tied for fourth and moved into fifth place already with 21 this year. Stuart is just 11 away from making the RBI list and has posted 36 RBIs in back-to-back seasons. If she does that over the next two years, Stuart will end up FSU’s all-time RBI leader.


ALL-TIME BEST


While Brandi Stuart and Kimmy Carter are in the midst of launching an offensive assault against the Florida State record book, Leslie Malerich is doing the same but from the mound. The senior All-American, barring unforeseen circumstances, will end up on every all-time list in the Florida State history. She already appears on three of the five lists and has a shot to end up No. 1 in most of the categories. Here is a look at where she currently stands:


Appearances:
Malerich is now FSU’s all-time leader in appearances after her start versus FAMU February 27th. She surpassed teammate Jen White-Stokes by making the 136th appearance of her career and now has 145.


Innings Pitched:
She is currently second on the list with 794.2 innings pitched. She is just 3.1 innings away from tying Debbie DeJohn for first place. Malerich has never pitched less than 145 innings in a season so she will likely own that record also when the 2002 season is over.


Wins:
This is the only all-time pitching record that the All-American hasn’t cracked in to yet but she will probably end up No. 1 after 2002. Malerich is just 5 wins away from becoming the winningest pitcher in FSU history and she has averaged 30 wins over the past two seasons.


Strikeouts:
This is one of just two categories Malerich probably won’t finish No. 1 but she will end up in the top four. She currently sits fourth on the list with 608 K’s but she is still 253 behind the all-time leader (Julie Larsen).


Shutouts:
Malerich has already recorded 37 shutouts in her career and if she just makes her average of 11, she will become one of the career leaders in this category also. She could conceivably move up to third if she matches her career-high total of 16 shutouts set during her junior season.


Earned Run Average:
This might be the toughest category of all for the senior. Despite a sparkling 0.72 ERA last season, she still needs to drop her career ERA from 1.24 to 0.84 this season to get on this list. She is doing her part though as she currently has an anemic ERA of 1.00.


MORE-BI’S


Four of FSU’s top five hitters, Brandi Stuart, Jessica van der Linden, Kimmy Carter and Monique Marier, are responsible for driving in more than 70% of the team’s runs this season. This group has knocked in 60 of Florida State’s 85 RBIs. While the coaching staff would probably like to have a little more parity among the line-up as far as RBIs go, they must be happy to have these four producing like they have so far this season.


SOUTHERN COMFORT


Although almost every program in the nation covets left-handed pitchers they are pretty rare. Florida State has its own left-handed ace in Jessica van der Linden and she is dominating teams but FSU doesn’t seem to mind facing southpaws and they have fared pretty well against the opposite arms this season. As a team, the Seminoles are batting .278 against left-handed pitchers, which is 34 percentage points higher than how they fare against righties. Third baseman Becky Brock is having a great run against lefties as she is hitting .667 in limited at bats. Jessica van der Linden has been dominant in hitting .750 and four other Seminoles are hitting .333 or above versus southpaws.


GUNNING FOR YOU


Would-be base stealers have always had to be aware when Kimmy Carter was behind the plate and nothing has changed this season. The senior co-captain has already thrown out six of the 21 runners who have tried to steal off of her. In 70 games last year, Carter threw out a total of 10 base runners. She is already more than half way to that number through just 30 games.


THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR


Would-be base stealers have always had to be aware when Kimmy Carter was behind the plate and nothing has changed this season. The senior co-captain has already thrown out six of the 21 runners who have tried to steal off of her. In 70 games last year, Carter threw out a total of 10 base runners. She is already more than half way to that number through just 30 games.


IS THAT NORMAL?


Senior Kimmy Carter is having a normal year in many ways. She normally starts every game and that hasn’t changed. She normally hits around .300 and she’s doing that once again. She also seems to be on pace to hit her career averages for doubles, triples and home runs so that is all nice and normal for the stand-out catcher/outfielder. It isn’t until you slide your finger over to the RBI and slugging percentage columns that you see something that isn’t so normal. Carter has always been able to knock runs in and that is evidenced by her sitting in sixth place on FSU’s all-time list for RBIs but she is in the midst of a monster season that is even uncharacteristic for her and at her current pace it might even be uncharacteristic for her All-Star father Gary Carter. Carter is leading the team with 21 RBIs in just 30 games and she has already equaled her total RBIs from her freshman season when she played in 49 games and made 46 starts. At her current pace, she will tie the single season record of 49 set in 1992 by Penny Siqueiros. Carter is on a torrid pace and if FSU plays as many games as it did last year she could break that record. That would easily make her the Seminoles’ all-time RBI leader for a career.


THE PRESSURE IS ON


When the pressure is on with two outs and runners on base, which Seminole hitter would you want up to bat? Brandi Stuart leads the team with four home runs and has as many clutch hits over the last three years as any other Seminole so she would be a good choice. Kimmy Carter and her team-leading 21 RBIs would have to be near the top of your list. But a strong case could be made that if you have runners on base and two outs, you want senior Monique Marier up to bat. The junior college transfer is leading the team with eight two-out RBIs. She is one ahead of Brandi Stuart whose two-out grand slam versus Pitt didn’t hurt her standing. Carter is third with six while sophomores Jessica van der Linden and Elisa Velasco aren’t far behind with five.


SHE IS A WINNER


Not only is senior Kimmy Carter driving in a lot of runs, she is driving them in at the right time. Carter has factored in to the winning run for FSU in nine of the teams 17 wins this season. She has scored the winning run twice and driven in the game-winner on eight occasions. Her eight game-winning RBIs are more than double those of Brandi Stuart who is in second with an impressive three game-winners. Carter is coming through in the clutch when the Seminoles need a big hit just as a senior captain should.


THE SKY IS THE LIMIT


Wednesday’s game versus the University of Pittsburgh was a big one for sophomore Skyla Cox. The Marietta, GA native made the first start of her Seminole career as the designated player in the 7-0 win over the Panthers. Although Cox was second to Jessica van der Linden in games played as a freshman with 45, she never got a start before Wednesday.


FLYING OUT OF THE PARK


The Seminoles’ bats limped in to the Troy Cox Classic. The team was hitting a scant .248 coming in to the tourney but they seemed to have found their stroke in the cool dessert air. FSU left New Mexico with a batting average of .264 and a large part of that hike came against the Dayton Flyers. In just two games, the Seminoles hit .404 against Dayton and slugged .632 as a team. Senior Kimmy Carter led the offensive assault by going a perfect 4-for-4 with three runs scored, a double, a home run and three RBIs. She slugged an amazing 2.000 in the two games and she recorded eight total bases. The Seminole offense set six season-highs versus the Flyers including runs scored (12), hits (12), RBIs (7), home runs (2) and total bases (19).


On the flip side, the Seminole pitching staff totally dominated the Flyers. All three members of FSU’s staff got the opportunity to pitch versus Dayton and they held the Flyers to an unbelievable .027 batting average, which was 377 percentage points lower that the Seminoles average in the two games. Florida State pitchers allowed just one hit in the two shutouts and walked just two batters while striking out 23. In FSU’s 12-0, five-inning win, Leslie Malerich and freshman Casey Hunter combined to K 15 of the 18 Dayton batters they faced. They allowed just on ball to even get to the infielders as they walked two and gave up only one hit.


WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?


It was hard to ask anything more of Jessica van der Linden than what she did in two losses to Texas Tech at the Troy Cox Classic last weekend. The sophomore dominated the eventual champions on the mound and at the plate. Van der Linden hit .571 with two doubles and she slugged .857 against the Red Raiders. She was on base almost 63% of the time and she scored two runs. She then started the would-be championship game on Sunday, which was her first start since her perfect game versus Dayton. The Cerritos, CA native pitched brilliantly in holding the Red Raiders without a hit for 5 1/3 innings increasing her streak to 13 innings with out allowing a hit. She seemed to be in line for her seventh win of the season before her defense let her down. After playing flawlessly behind her during her perfect outing, Seminole fielders committed six errors which resulted in eight unearned runs and squashed a 5-1 FSU lead in the bottom of the fifth and left van der Linden with nothing to show for her work.


SLAMMIN’


After not launching a single grand slam in 116 games dating back to middle of the 2000 season, FSU has had a plethora in just the last two weeks. Before the 2002 season, the last grand slam an FSU batter hit was April 5, 2000 when Brandi Stuart’s capped a comeback win over the rival Gators in Tallahassee. The streak was broken by an unlikely source out at the Troy Cox Classic Tournament when first baseman Beth Wade, who was hitting .059, blasted a grand slam versus Dayton sending the first pitch she saw over the left field fence. It was not only the first homer of her career but it was also her first-ever RBI. FSU didn’t have to wait another 116 games to get its next slam as Stuart launched the second of her career just four games after Wade’s. The HR moved Stuart into 5th all-time on FSU’s home run list.


BRANDI’S WORLD


Junior All-American Brandi Stuart is on the verge of re-writing the FSU record books and she still has two seasons left. The newly elected co-captain is coming off her best season ever and has a chance to own almost every offensive record in Seminole softball history.


After a stellar rookie campaign, Stuart improved in almost every category during the 2001 campaign. She raised her batting average 12 percentage points from .349 to .361, scored 10 more runs (49 versus 39), doubled her doubles (from 6 to 12) and hit more than twice as many homeruns (5 compared to 2). She equaled her RBI total of 36 and raised her slugging percentage from .442 to .515, an increase of 73 percentage points. She also cut down on her strikeouts by almost 38% (from 34 to 21). Stuart also was more patient at the plate garnering 11 more walks in 2001 (28 versus 17).


Another area of Stuart’s game that is often overlooked is her ability to steal bases. In two seasons, she has amassed 72 swipes. That is just 25 behind All-American Serita Brooks’ total from her two years at Florida State and she is considered by many to be one of the top base-stealers in Seminole history. Brooks currently holds three different NCAA records for stolen bases.


At her current pace, Stuart will finish in the top two for runs scored, first in doubles, fifth in triples, third in steals and first in RBIs amongst FSU’s all-time leaders. She would single-handedly wipe away almost 20 years of history. That’s impressive.


ALWAYS REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME


Freshman Casey Hunter recorded the first two wins of her Seminole career at the Seminole Classic Tournament. The Millstadt, IL native threw 117 pitches in a complete game win over Syracuse picking up the Seminoles after they dropped the day’s first game versus Georgia. The game also marked the first start at catcher in 2002 for sophomore Julie Jordan. Jordan seems to have fully recovered from a back injury that sidelined her for 53 games last season and she is also finding her stroke at the plate. She is hitting .273 and has scored a run in four starts.


Hunter picked up her second win of the tournament on the final day. She started FSU’s last game against St. John’s pitching three innings of shutout ball before running into trouble in the fourth, which led to another first of sorts. Senior All-American Leslie Malerich came in to garner the save, which was her first in more than a year.


Hunter had another first in her career in Florida State’s 7-0 win over Pittsburgh. The freshman came in and pitched three solid innings of relief and picked up the first save of her young career. She hasn’t allowed a run in her last two appearances and in those two games she has a strike out to ball ratio of 9 to 4 compared to 10 to 7 in her first three appearances of the season.


SHE GOT IT! 1,125 WINS


There is no doubting what head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf has accomplished in her 23 seasons at Florida State. The one and only coach in Seminole softball history has won two slowpitch national titles, taken FSU to 14 NCAA Regionals and five Women’s College World Series, won eight ACC Titles, coached 21 All-Americans, been named ACC Coach of the Year four times and never had a single losing season in 23 years. While every one of those feats is impressive, none can match the record she is about to set.


She now owns the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) record for career victories with 1,125 and did it in almost five fewer years than former record holder Judi Garman of Cal St. Fullerton. Graf entered the 2002 season with 1113 wins of which 894 have come during fastpitch competition. She also appears in the top 10 of every NCAA coaching record and is in the top 4 in five of those six categories.


IMPRESSIVE COMPANY


Is this a coincidence or what? Just as Dr. JoAnne Graf makes softball history this season, she will have the opportunity to face as many as three other coaches that appear on the NFCA top 10 All-Time wins list.


After facing USC coach Joyce Compton and her 804 wins in the Seminole Challenge, coach Graf and the Seminoles welcomed another coaching legend. Georgia coach Lu-Harris-Champer is currently the seventh-winningest active coach by percentage and sits just four spots behind coach Graf on that list. Graf had a career winning percentage of .765 entering the season while Champer stood at .735


Coach Graf will also face Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso, who is fourth on the NCAA’s Winningest Active Coaches list (by percentage), when FSU travels to one of the nation’s toughest tournaments at the vaunted Kia Classic. Depending how things go at the Kia, Graf could also run into Arizona coach Mike Candrea (No. 2) and Fresno’s Margie Wright (No. 6) who both appear on that same list.

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