February 5, 1999
The #21 Florida State Lady Seminole Softball team will open its 1999 season with a double-header at Georgia Southern on Saturday, February 6. The ladies return seven starters and 11 letterwinners from the 1998 season and lost only three players. FSU returns six seniors, including Dana Bailey, who led the team last year in batting average (.342) and stolen bases (27); Corrie Williams who led the team in RBI’s (40) and had three homeruns; and Danielle Cox, who was one of two players to appear and start in all 72 games last season and recorded 21 steals and 29 runs. The Lady Seminoles welcome eight newcomers, comprised of six freshmen, one sophomore and one junior.
36- the number of wins from 1,000
Dr. JoAnne Graf enters her 21st season as the Head Coach at FSU and holds a 964-260-5 career record and is only 36 wins away from the 1,000 mark. In those 964 wins, Dr. Graf has led the Lady Seminoles to five College World Series appearances, 13 NCAA Regional appearances, six ACC Championships and 12 seasons of 50+ wins, including two seasons of 60+ wins. Through her coaching, Dr. Graf has produced 11 All-Americans, including three first team selections.
In 1999, expect to see a whole lot of familiar faces on the softball field for Florida State University, because the Lady Seminoles return seven starters, and are senior-laden and ready to put their years of experience to good use.
“One of our biggest strengths is going to be our experience,” Head Coach Dr. JoAnne Graf said. “We’ve got a lot of seniors and most of our starters back from last year. These kids have already been in the biggest games that they can play in, with the exception of the national championship game. They’ve been to NCAA Regionals, in ACC championship games and played some of the top teams in the country and beaten them.”
Anchoring the corps of seniors are captains Tami Post and Jesse McGregor, veteran starters at third base and shortstop, respectively. But Post and McGregor are just two of six seniors who combined, have 14 years of starting experience.
“Our seniors aren’t very loud and vocal, but they are very assertive in their own way,” Graf said. “This is probably one of the best groups that we’ve had as far as academic ability, on-the-field ability and character ability. They are just a very classy group of seniors and they work hard. I don’t know that there is one person who you could pinpoint as the “leader,” but as a group, they are pretty solid.”
Overall, the team is comprised of six seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen, including eight newcomers. While Graf will have the luxury of seasoned players in 1999, this season will also have do be one of great learning and development for the young players who will have the responsibility of replacing these veterans next year.
“The newcomers offer a lot of enthusiasm and willingness to learn, but naturally, they all want the opportunity to contribute right away,” Graf said. “They all realize their roles, but they are good enough competitors that they keep fighting to beat out someone else. It is healthy competition. They push the older players a bit and I think that’s good. You can’t ever be complacent, especially, if you want to keep being the best.”
With the return of two solid veterans and the addition of a highly-touted newcomer, this group of pitchers has the opportunity to be Florida State’s most dominant of recent years. All-Southeast Region second team choice Jennifer White and the 1998 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player Stacy Venable combined for 45 of FSU’s 51 victories last season and have loads of experience. Freshman Leslie Malerich possesses great power and will be a valuable addition to the rotation.
“Obviously pitching is the cornerstone upon which you have to build your team,” Graf said. “We have our two back from last year in Stacy Venable and Jen White and the addition of Leslie Malerich gives us that little extra security in case we have somebody get hurt. Our pitching is very, very solid with good depth and good experience.”
White, although just a sophomore, has experience beyond her years after making a major impact as a rookie. White was the squad’s number one pitcher from the get-go and led the nation in victories with 26 before suffering a rib injury that cost her six weeks of action. She wasn’t able to return to the starting rotation until NCAA regional play. Now healthy, White should be at top form in 1999.
“Jen is a finesse-pitcher,” Graf said. “She just had a great freshman year and earned a lot of respect from people around the country.”
Venable rose to the occasion in 1998, after White went down with an injury. The senior led FSU to another ACC Championship title with three straight victories, including two shutouts. For the season, Venable was 19-8 overall. Venable underwent shoulder surgery in October, but should be ready to go full speed come spring.
“Stacy, a senior on the mound, is very experienced and gained a lot of confidence in herself last year, coming into the ACC Tournament and having to throw every game,” Graf said. “She also earned a lot of respect from her teammates.”
Malerich was the state of Indiana softball strikeout leader in 1996, 1997 and 1998 and was selected a two-time 1st team all-state honoree.
Not many question marks when it comes to the Florida State infield as only the catcher position will need to be filled with a new player. For the second straight season, senior Corrie Williams will occupy first base while sophomore Christy Cerecedes will handle the duties at second base. Williams earned All-Southeast Region first team honors after leading the team with 40 RBIs and she ranked second on the team in batting with a .318 average. Junior Becky Wallace and sophomore Kelly Miller will backup Williams at first.
“Last year was a big turnaround year for Corrie,” Graf said. “She got a great deal more playing time, because she was producing and the more playing time she got, the more confident she became in herself. Defensively, our infield has a lot of confidence in her. She’s just a solid player and is very consistent.”
Cerecedes had a solid rookie season as she started all 72 games and was second on the team with 63 hits on her way to earning second team All-Southeast Region accolades. She will be backed-up by freshman Dana Vickery, who will rotate between a couple of positions.
“Christy was the only newcomer to the infield last season and she really stepped up and gained confidence as the season progressed and really had a solid year,” Graf said.
Both shortstop Jesse McGregor and third baseman Tami Post, who both started all 72 games in 1998, will be entering their fourth straight seasons at their respective positions. McGregor earned All-ACC honors and was named to the ACC All-Tournament Team after batting a team-leading .625. Post was as solid as ever defensively at the corner.
“Jesse has improved every year,” Graf said. “Her defense has gotten better and better. She has worked on her range and her arm has become consistent while her hitting has become more disciplined as well.
“Tami is the best defensive player that I’ve seen for a very long time. The biggest thing for Tami is to get her bat turned around. We had to DH for her quite a bit last year, but she has worked very hard over the summer.”
Newcomers Becky Brock and Jackie Hirschfeld will backup McGregor and Post, respectively, and gain experience at the infield positions.
Junior Teresa Edenfield and newcomer Andi Lyons will battle for the starting catcher position. Edenfield proved to be very valuable as a designated hitter last season and has improved defensively. Lyons, a transfer from St. Petersburg Junior College, already has collegiate experience and should improve as she gets more opportunities to get into some game situations. Freshman Kimmy Carter could see some action at catcher as well.
The outfield is more of the same story for Florida State: solid and seniors. Dana Bailey returns for her third season at center while Danielle Cox, a newcomer to the outfield last season, will once again occupy left field. Right field has been pegged the “newcomer spot” by Coach Graf as the position is up for grabs. Newcomers Kimmy Carter, Tanya Mitchell, Felicia Williams and Dana Vickery will all vie for that spot.
Bailey is as aggressive and valuable at the plate as she is in the outfield. A speedy base runner, Bailey not only led the team in stolen bases with 27, but in hits with 69 and a .342 batting average. She had a banner season in 1998, earning All-Southeast Region first team honors as well as All-ACC and ACC All-Tournament Team honors.
“Dana dives for the ball better than any outfielder we have,” Graf said. “She gets a good jump on the ball and reacts quickly and correctly and doesn’t make many mistakes. She’s going to be just dynamic to watch.”
Although a senior, Cox is in only her second year at Florida State, but did not miss a game all of last season. Among the team leaders in hits with 53, Cox also ranked second on the squad with 21 stolen bases. Over the summer, Cox was named a Women’s Major ASA first team All-American and broke 1 22-year batting record at the national tournament, batting .688.
“Danielle put it all together and improved a lot this summer when she broke an ASA batting record,” Graf said. “She gained a lot of confidence and has even improved her speed. She’s very aggressive and ready to run this year.”
“Dana and Danielle give us a tremendous amount of speed at the top of our line up and can really set the table for our three, four and five hitters. If those two can get on base a lot, it is going to be the key to our offense.”
A LOOK BACK AT 1998
The 1998 squad finished the season 51-21 overall and were ranked 17th in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Top 25 Final Poll on May 28th. Their wins included victories over #2 Fresno State and #4 Washington and an 18 game winning streak, which began during the Florida State Classic. FSU also won the 1998 ACC Championship and traveled to Stillwater, Oklahoma for their 12th NCAA Regional appearance. The Lady Seminoles were the #3 seed, fell to Oklahoma State 0-4 and were then eliminated by #1 seed Stanford 0-1 in nine innings.
Florida State received many honors throughout the season,including nine ACC Players of the Week and five players on the ACC All-Tournament team. Stacy Venable was named the ACC Tournament MVP as Jennifer White garnered the same honors at the FSU Invitational earlier in the season. White joined Corrie Williams, Dana Bailey, Christy Cerecedes and Kristy Hull on the Louisville Slugger All-Region team
Cox Makes FSU History
Senior Danielle Cox has left her mark on FSU softball history as she became the first Seminole softball player to be selected for the Coca-Cola USA Softball National Team Festival in Fresno, California. Cox is among 50 of the nation’s finest women’s fast pitch softball players, which also includes members of the 1998 World Championship team, chosen to participate in the festival June 8-14. Cox will compete for one of the five remaining spots on the 1999 Softball Women’s National Team, that will compete in the 1999 Pan-American Games. She earned ASA All-American honors this summer and broke the Women’s Major ASA 22-year old batting record with her .688 average at the national tournament.