March 31, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – In one of its biggest conference series of the season, the No. 22 Florida State University softball team hosts No. 23 North Carolina for a three-game set that begins with a doubleheader on Sunday, April 1, at noon on ESPN3.com. The Monday finale starts at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPNU at JoAnne Graf Field.
Aside from the two rivals on the playing field, a plethora of gameday promotions highlight what should be an entertaining series. Monday’s evening tilt is Military Appreciation Day, as FSU will honor all veterans with specially-made uniforms symbolizing the different branches of the military. Air Force veteran Tom Marcum, a Valdosta, Ga., native who avidly promotes the Wounded Warrior Project, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Also highlighting the promotions schedule for Monday’s nationally-televised affair is an incentive for all FSU baseball fans. The first 200 fans who attend Monday’s 7 p.m. first pitch will receive a free ticket to the fourth-ranked FSU baseball team’s home game against rival Miami that is scheduled for Saturday, April 21, at 6 p.m.
“We expect this series with UNC to be a tremendous atmosphere, especially with the national exposure we’re receiving for our Monday game on ESPNU and our Sunday games on ESPN3,” head coach Lonni Alameda said. “With the way our team has played this season and some of the great promotions we have, this is an opportunity for a lot of our fans and for the people of Tallahassee to see how fast and fun our game is. This certainly will be a difficult series with UNC.”
On the call for the ESPNU contest will be play-by-play commentator Justin Kutcher and color analyst Michele Smith.
The 23rd-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels (23-8, 2-1) have been a very difficult opponent to handle this season. UNC boasts one of the top pitchers in the ACC in sophomore Lori Spingola, who holds a 17-5 record and leads the conference in wins. The Atlanta, Ga., native is coming off a one-hit shutout on Wednesday, March 28, versus Campbell as UNC won 9-0.
UNC junior Haleigh Dickey was named the ACC Softball Player of the Week after hitting her first career grand slam in a nonconference victory over South Carolina. Dickey is atop the conference rankings in doubles this season.
The road opponent in this rivalry has had the upper hand over the last several years. In the last seven regular-season series played between both teams, the road team has won six of them. UNC has won the series in its last three trips to Tallahassee in 2006, 2008 and 2010, while FSU was swept last year in Chapel Hill but won the series there in 2005, 2007 and 2009.
Last season, UNC swept FSU in Chapel Hill during the regular season, but the Seminoles responded by defeating the Tar Heels in the ACC title game by a 4-1 score to capture their 11th conference championship.
The Seminoles (31-5, 6-0) are off to a 6-0 start in ACC play with three-game sweeps over N.C. State and Virginia. It is their best start to conference play since the 2003 season when they finished 8-0 in the ACC.
Although the sampling size is rather small, FSU’s pitching has completely dominated in all six conference games. FSU’s four talented pitchers have combined for a 0.35 ERA in six ACC games, putting together four shutouts and two games in which the opposition has scored one run apiece.
Since FSU’s loss at nationally-ranked USF on March 18, the Seminoles have ridden an eight-game winning streak with their offense being a big contributing factor. FSU’s team batting average in that time span has risen by 21 points to .276. Over the course of their eight-game win streak, FSU has batted .344 as a unit.
Tiffani Brown has led the everyday starters by going 13-for-29 during the streak, and Maddie O’Brien has batted .435 and poured in 16 RBIs. Also contributing to FSU’s enhance offensive production has been junior left fielder Kirstin Austin, who has been batting in the No. 9 spot and has gone 7-for-17 with one home run.
In addition to the games this weekend streaming on ESPN3 and airing on ESPNU, fans can keep up by following CBS GameTracker off Seminoles.com. In-game tweets will also be provided at FSU softball’s official Twitter handle – @FSU_Softball. All FSU softball regular-season games are free admission.