May 13, 2004 - by
Seminoles Sweep Top Honors At 2004 ACC Softball Awards Banquet

May 13, 2004


ACC Banquet Photos
Tallahassee, FL –
For the second time in school history, the Seminole softball team swept top honors at the ACC Softball Banquet. Dr. JoAnne Graf was named ACC Coach of the Year, Veronica Wootson was named ACC Rookie of the Year and Jessica van der Linden was named ACC Player of the Year becoming the first player in ACC history to take home the conference’s top prize twice in her career. The fourth-ranked Seminoles also placed a league-high six players on the 15-member All-ACC Team. Joining Wootson, and van der Linden were repeat winners Casey Hunter and Elisa Vasquez and two first time honorees in Natasha Jacob and senior Beth Wade.
“This is quite an honor for our program and means a lot to the girls who put in so much time and effort,” said Graf. “The ACC is a great conference and it is getting better every year so to have six of our players included on the all-conference team and to have both our players win rookie and player of the year means a lot to all of us involved with Florida State softball.”


With van der Linden, Graf and Wootson sweeping all three major awards at the 2004 softball banquet, FSU can lay claim to the rare triple for the second time in school history. Florida State is the only school in conference history to sweep the three major awards on two occasions. North Carolina has accomplished the feat once when they won all three trophies in 2000. The last time FSU pulled off the triple was 2001 when Leslie Malerich was named player of the year, Jessica van der Linden won rookie of the year and coach Graf took home her fourth coach of the year title.


For van der Linden, the back-to-back ACC Player of the Year trophies represent another milestone in her already storied career. The senior All-America leads the team with 18 game-winning RBIs and between game-winning hits and wins on the mound, she has accounted for 31 of FSU’s 54 wins this season. She is currently second in the nation in ERA, sixth in strikeouts and 17th in wins and is half of the No. 1 pitching staff in the NCAA. Earlier this week van der Linden was named a top three finalist for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year bringing her one step closer to winning softball’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Inside the circle she has recorded wins over No. 8 Washington, No. 20 Oklahoma, No. 24 Texas A&M, No. 7 Michigan, No. 15 Fresno State and No. 16 Auburn on top of recording game-winning RBIs versus No. 20 Oklahoma, No. 24 Texas A&M, No. 15 Fresno State and No. 21 Florida.


This year van der Linden has set a new single season record at FSU with 320 strikeouts and her 832 career strikeouts put her just three away from a new career record at FSU. No player in the nation has a higher batting average and lower ERA than van der Linden and she has already established new career records for RBIs, doubles and walks at the plate. van der Linden is a NFCA and USA Softball National Player of the Week, a five-time ACC Player of the Week and she was named the MVP of the FSU Invitational Tournament and named to the all-tournament team at the prestigious NFCA Leadoff Classic as well as at the Seminole Challenge Tournament.


“I am almost speechless. I am so excited,” said van der Linden. “To receive this recognition is amazing but it has so much to do with my teammates and coaching staff. Without them I wouldn’t be getting this award. It means so much to me knowing that nobody has ever accomplished this and I want to thank the ACC coaches for voting for me. It is a truly an honor.”


When van der Linden was named 2004 ACC Player of the Year, it was the sixth time a Seminole has won that award and it has been won by five different players. That’s pretty good but nothing compared to what head coach Graf did. When the Tribe coach was named back-to-back ACC Coach of the Year, it marked the sixth time in 13 years that she has won the award. Graf is the only ACC coach to ever win the award in consecutive years and she has now done that twice in her career. The Seminole boss has taken home the coach of the year trophy three times in the last four years. The only other coach in ACC history to even win the award on more than one occasion is North Carolina’s Donna Papa.


“This really belongs to the players,” said Graf. “They are the ones that put the work in every day and I can only go as far as they will take me. I am having a great time this year and with this group of players and it is an honor to be named the coach of the year in a great conference like the ACC.”


As dominant as FSU has been in its 13 years of ACC softball, the one award that has been the most elusive for a Seminole to attain is ACC Rookie of the Year. Coming into 2004, only three Seminoles have won the award in school history. While winning 25% of the rookie of the year awards is nothing to scoff at, FSU has captured 46% of player and coach of the year honors and 69% of the ACC Tournament MVP honors so the percentage of rookie awards is a little behind the rest. That is why Wootson’s accomplishment Thursday night was so special. The freshman captured the ACC Rookie of the Year award this season and became the first Seminole to do that since van der Linden in 2001.


Wootson has been the catalyst at the top of the order that makes the 14th-ranked FSU offense run (14th in scoring and 21st in batting average). The California native is just ten runs away from breaking the single season record held by All-American and Florida State Hall of Famer Shamalene Wilson. She is 11th in the nation in runs scored and 18th in triples and has set new rookie records for runs, total bases and home runs. Wootson is just 21 total bases away from setting a new FSU single season record in that category as well. When the freshman gets on base she comes around to score a run over 68% of the time. She also leads FSU in hits, slugging percentage (from the leadoff spot), runs, triples, and total bases and she is second on the team in home runs and steals.


“Oh my, gosh this is so exciting for me,” said Wootson. “This was a goal of mine for the year and I am glad I accomplished it. It means a lot that the other coaches in the conference noticed that I was working hard and contributing to the success of my team. It is also a reflection of a great group of players that surround me.”


On top of sweeping all three major awards at Thursday night’s ACC banquet the Seminoles left the Florida State University Center ballroom with more All-ACC selections (6) than any other team as well. This is the fourth year in a row that FSU has led the conference in All-ACC picks and the eighth time overall in 13 seasons. Florida State leads the ACC all-time with 57 All-ACC players and this is the most All-ACC selections for FSU since 1995 when the Tribe set a conference record with eight members of the all-conference team. van der Linden (4), Hunter (2) and Vasquez (2) are all repeat selections while Jacob, Wade and Wootson made the squad for the first time ever. van der Linden completes her career as a four-time All-ACC selection and she joins Brandi Stuart as the only Seminole to ever garner All-ACC honors all four years at FSU.


For Wade the honor comes in her final season at Florida State and after three years of starting at first base. Wade is in the midst of her best season ever. She has improved her numbers in almost every offensive category in 2004 and is even fielding at the highest level of her career. Her batting average is up almost 60 points from 2003, she has scored twice as many runs, has 18 more hits than her previous career high, she has double her double and triple production, hit twice as many homers this season than she had in her career and is just seven RBIs away from equaling her career total in just one season. The Georgia native is also FSU’s leading home run threat, as Wade is just three home runs away from setting a new single season record. She is in the top four on the team for batting average, slugging percentage, hits, RBIs, doubles, triples and total bases and also among the top 10 on base percentage, runs scored and walks.


“It feels really good to finally win one of these. It has been a long trip but I am glad it ended here. This is a great feeling,” said Wade. “It is a perfect way to end things on a personal note but there is still a lot we want to accomplish as a team.”


Another first time winner, Natasha Jacob has blossomed in her second year as a starter for Florida State in left field. She is second behind Jessica van der Linden for the team lead in batting average, first on the team in triples and steals, second in on base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, total bases and walks. The Texas native leads FSU with more than twice as many sacs as anyone else and she is 18th in the nation in triples. After a freshman season where she did not live up to her lofty goals, Jacob has set new career highs in 11 offensive categories. She led the team with a .429 batting average, a .571 slugging percentage and was third on the squad with five RBIs in ACC play. She was also second in the ACC in triples, second in steals, fifth in batting average, sixth in on base percentage, ninth in hits and ninth in runs scored.


“I didn’t expect this and like everyone else am I honored and excited,” said Jacob. “I have worked hard all year to improve my game and was hoping it paid off. The way this team is succeeding, all the work we have put in individually and as a collective is worth it.”


Two other Seminoles received back-to-back All-ACC selections. Vasquez and Hunter both won their first awards at this time last year and they were so honored once again.


Hunter has blossomed into one of the most dominant pitchers in the ACC and in the nation. The Illinois native had a 21-game winning streak during the season and is currently third in the nation in ERA and sixth in the nation in wins. Along with van der Linden, Hunter is half of the No. 1 pitching staff in the NCAA.


This year Hunter became just the sixth 30 game winner in FSU history and she recorded wins against (ranking at time of the game) No. 15 Texas, No. 20 South Carolina, No. 23 Arizona State and (current rankings) No. 20 Notre Dame, No. 23 Georgia Tech and No. 21 Florida. She issued three or less walks in 28 of her 33 starts and was dominant in ACC games where she went a perfect 6-0 with a 0.00 ERA. She has five complete game shutouts, 39 strikeouts and just four walks while not allowing a single run in conference. She ranks first in the ACC in wins, second in ERA, second in innings pitched, second in starts, third in shutouts, third in complete games, third in opponent batting average and fifth in strikeouts. Entering the 2004 postseason Hunter has gone 51.1 innings with out allowing an earned run and she has only allowed two earned runs in her last 143.1 innings. Before her current 51inning streak she had an even more impressive run where she went 86 innings without allowing an earned run. In her first 10 appearances of 2004, Hunter didn’t allow an earned run in just for of those games. Since then she has appeared in 26 games and has not allowed an earned run in 23 of those appearances. With her 0.52 ERA, Hunter is now the first FSU pitcher since Toni Gutierrez in 1992 to put together back-to-back sub 1.00 ERA seasons.


“I was thrilled to be honored by the coaches in the conference for the second year in a row,” said Hunter. “It is a big accomplishment for me. Coming to a D1 school and then being named one of the top pitchers in the league in back-to-back years is something I am very proud of.”


For Vasquez, she has been named an All-ACC catcher both years since taking over the starting role. She is FSU’s leader behind the plate and a top RBI producer for Florida State for the second straight year. Vasquez is having the first perfect season of her career behind the plate on top of being one of only six Seminoles to record 40 or more hits this season. She hit .308 in ACC games with two doubles and four RBIs and was ninth in the ACC in triples. She works in a battery with Hunter who is having her best season ever. The California native has not made an error in 295 chances and has 278 putouts and 17 assists. She has also thrown out 10 of the 26 base runners that have tried to steal on her. In her final year Vasquez is just one RBI away from back-to-back 30 RBI seasons.


“I did not expect to hear my name this year. It was a great surprise,” said Vasquez. “It feels great to win this my senior year and it makes this final weekend of conference play even more special to me.”


The fourth-ranked Seminoles (54-9) open ACC play at 5:00 p.m. Friday, May 14 at the Seminole Softball Complex. The Tribe is the No. 1 seed in the tournament and will face the winner of the game between NC State and Georgia Tech who open the tournament at 11:00 a.m. For more information on the ACC Championships please visit the official website of the Florida State athletic department at www.seminoles.com.

2004 All-ACC Softball Team

Liz Bartle, Junior, Georgia Tech Heather Field, Senior, Virginia Casey Hunter, Junior, Florida State Natasha Jacob, Sophomore, Florida State Tara Knudsen, Senior, Georgia Tech Sara Larquier, Sophomore, Virginia Keri Lounge, Freshman, Maryland Hannah Owings, Senior, Virginia Emily Price, Senior, North Carolina Jessica Sallinger, Junior, Georgia Tech Dionne Streete, Senior, North Carolina Jessica van der Linden, Senior, Florida State Elisa Vasquez, Senior, Florida State Beth Wade, Senior, Florida State Veronica Wootson, Freshman, Florida State

Player of the Year Jessica van der Linden, Florida State

Freshman of the Year Veronica Wootson, Florida State

Coach of the Year Dr. JoAnne Graf, Florida State

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