May 19, 2004
Tallahassee, FL –
After sweeping through the ACC awards banquet last week, the honors kept rolling in for Florida State softball players Wednesday afternoon. Six Seminoles were named NFCA all-southeastern region including a school record four first team selections. Seniors Elisa Vasquez and Jessica van der Linden, junior Casey Hunter and freshman Veronica Wootson all made first team while junior Lesley Palmer and sophomore Natasha Jacob were named to the second team. The four first team selections and six overall selections equal the most in school history.
“It is really nice to see our players receive these honors from other coaches. They have all worked very hard and deserve the recognition,” said Dr. JoAnne Graf whose team will open NCAA Region 4 play tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. versus Long Island. “The southeastern region is tough and includes great schools including some form the ACC, SEC, Conference USA and A-Sun. I am proud of our players and their accomplishments.”
For van der Linden, this is her third straight year as an all-region selection and her second consecutive first team all-region honor as a utility player. The 2003 first team NFCA All-American is looking to become the first two-time, first team All-America in FSU history.
van der Linden leads the team with 18 game-winning RBIs and between game-winning hits and wins on the mound, she has accounted for 32 of FSU’s 57 wins this season. She is currently fourth in the nation in ERA, fifth in strikeouts and 19th in wins and is half of the No. 1 pitching staff in the NCAA. The Cerritos, CA native is a top three finalist for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. On the hill, 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. She also has game-winning RBIs versus No. 20 Oklahoma, No. 24 Texas A&M, No. 15 Fresno State and No. 21 Florida. No player in the nation has a higher batting average and lower ERA than van der Linden. This year she has set a new single season record at FSU with 328 strikeouts and a new career record with 840 K’s. She has also established new career records for RBIs, doubles and walks at the plate. An NFCA and USA Softball National Player of the Week, the five-time ACC Player of the Week is the first-ever two-time ACC Player of the Year in conference history. van der Linden 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. She fields 1.000 at pitcher and in center field and has led FSU to its highest ranking in 21 years at No. 2 in the nation.
This is the second consecutive season that Vasquez has been named the region’s top catcher. Last season she parlayed her first team southeastern region honors into a third team All-American award. She is FSU’s leader behind the plate and a top RBI producer for FSU for the second straight year. Vasquez finished her career as a two-time All-ACC catcher and is having the first perfect season of her career behind the plate. She is one of only five Seminoles to record 45 or more hits this season. The Hesperia, CA native works in a battery with Casey Hunter who is having her best season ever and is now catching Jessica van der Linden as well with Lesley Palmer acting as FSU’s DP. The senior has not made an error in 321 chances and has 304 putouts and 17 assists. She has thrown out 10 of the 28 base runners that have tried to steal on her. With her RBI at the ACC Tournament, Vasquez has now recorded back-to-back 30 RBI seasons.
Hunter and Wootson are making her first ever, first team all-region appearances. Hunter is one of just two pitchers in the southeastern region to be named first team. Hunter had a 21-game winning streak during the season and is currently second in the nation in ERA and sixth in the nation in wins. She is half of the No. 1 pitching staff in the NCAA as well. She became just the sixth 30 game winner in FSU history this season and 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 (three times) and No. 21 Florida. She has issued three or less walks in 30 of her 35 starts and went a perfect 6-0 with a 0.00 ERA in ACC games. In conference play she has five complete game shutouts, 39 strikeouts and just four walks while not allowing a single run. Hunter is 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. She has allowed just three earned runs in her last 155.1 innings. She has had streaks of 51innings and 86 innings without allowing an earned run this year. 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 28 games and has not allowed an earned run in 24 of those appearances. The junior has never given up a triple in her career and that spans 1777 at bats. Hunter is now the first FSU pitcher since Toni Gutierrez in 1992 to put together back-to-back sub 1.00 ERA seasons.
Wootson is just the fifth Florida State freshman to ever be named a first team all-region selection and just the fourth Seminole to ever win ACC Rookie of the Year honors. The Californian was the sparkplug at the top of the order that makes the 14th-ranked FSU offense run (14th in scoring and 16th in batting average). She enters the NCAA Regional just nine runs away from breaking the single season record held by All-American and Florida State Hall of Famer Shamalene Wilson. Wootson is currently 15th in the nation in runs scored and she has set new rookie records for runs, total bases and home runs. The second baseman is just 19 total bases away from setting a new FSU single season record in that category as well. When Wootson gets on base she comes around to score a run over 62% of the time while leading FSU in hits, runs, triples, and total bases. She is second on the team in batting average, slugging percentage, home runs and steals.
Palmer’s inclusion on the second team is pretty special considering she missed three weeks and came back to play on a torn ACL. She homered versus No. 12 Auburn in only her third game back. And despite the missed games still leads FSU with 11 doubles and is second on the team with seven home runs. Her .531 slugging percentage is second amongst FSU’s starters and she is sixth in the ACC in doubles and eighth in slugging percentage. Despite missing 12 starts, Palmer has still set new career highs for at bats, runs, hits, doubles and RBIs. She has tied career highs for home runs and steals and is one walk shy of tying a career high in that category as well.
Jacob has had a breakout season that has not only landed her on the all-region second team but also garnered her the first all-ACC honors of her career. She has blossomed in her second year as a starter for Florida State in left field. The Coppell, TX native is second behind 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. She leads FSU with more than twice as many sacs as anyone else. Jacob has set new career highs in 11 offensive categories. She led the team with a .429 batting average, .571 slugging percentage and was third on the squad with five RBIs in ACC play. Overall, she was 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.
No. 4 Florida State and its six all-region players will open NCAA Tournament play Thursday, May 20 at 5:30 p.m. The Tribe will face Northeast Conference champion Long Island University (27-26). For information on the Region 4 Tournament or the 2004 Seminole softball team, please log on to the official athletic website for Florida State university at www.seminoles.com.