March 14, 2004
Tallahassee, FL –
Coming into Sunday’s Florida State Invitational Tournament championship game, No. 4 FSU (29-3) had a lot going against them. The Tribe hadn’t won their signature tournament since 1998 and they hadn’t beat Michigan, their opponent, in seven straight games. Neither trend had a chance against Jessica van der Linden (14-2) though. The senior All-American dominated the nation’s 11th-ranked team holding Michigan (17-6) to just two hits in the 1-0 win. The shutout was her tenth in 15 starts and the hurler has now gone 22 innings without allowing a run.
The Tribe won the game in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the sixth. With the score tied 0-0 and the bases loaded, Graf gave freshman Veronica Wootson the green light to swipe home. The freshman broke as soon as the ball left the catcher’s hand and slid in under the tag with the winning run.
“I thought Veronica had a chance to beat the play at home. They weren’t really expecting it and she got a great jump,” said head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “It was a risk but I have confidence in Veronica’s ability and I rolled the dice.
“This was a great win for the team. We got another victory over a highly ranked opponent and also won our big tournament, which is important. Jessica did a great job on the hill and our defense kept us in the game.”
In the home half of the first, Florida State tried to take an early lead on Wolverine starter Jennie Ritter (6-3). van der Linden started it off with a walk before Lesley Palmer laced a double into the gap in left field. The double was the junior’s fifth extra base hit of the weekend. The Tribe was unable to cash in though as Ritter got out of the jam.
After setting down 12 straight Seminoles since the threat in the first, Ritter surrendered back-to-back base hits to open the home half of the sixth. Veronica Wootson and Natasha Jacob each reached on one out singles. After a ground out, Michigan intentionally walked Palmer to load the bases. Senior Beth Wade quickly fell behind 0-2 to Ritter. The first baseman then took two outside pitches for balls. On the second pitch, as soon as the ball left the UM catcher’s hand, Wootson broke for home and beat the throw back to the plate. The stolen base put FSU in front 1-0.
Michigan attempted a comeback in the seventh with the tournament title on the line. Nicole Motycka opened the inning with a double off the wall in left center. Monica Schock sacrificed the designated player to third before an infield pop up gave FSU two away in the inning. Then in typical van der Linden fashion, the first team All-American ended the game with a called strike three giving her five K’s for the game.
The Seminoles were scheduled to play Texas A&M in the tournament final but the Aggies had travel restrictions that caused them to forfeit the championship game. Under tournament rules, FSU was declared the champion.
Florida State returns to action versus Troy State Tuesday, March 16. The doubleheader is slated to begin at 4:00 p.m. and is a make-up for the doubleheader that was rained out February 24. The twin bill will be the first ever FSU softball event broadcast live over the internet. There is no charge for the radio broadcast and the link to listen to the game is available at www.seminoles.com.