Feb. 11, 1998
There’s no star power hitter, no ace on the mound, no standout speedster on the base paths, rather, the 1998 Florida State softball team will feature that old fashioned thing called teamwork. Head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf will put every one of her 19 years of coaching experience to work as she prepares a young, but talented group of athletes for major Division I softball competition.
“I think we have probably more balance offensively, but we are young,” Graf said. “We replaced a lot of very good players that we lost last year, so it’s not really a rebuilding year, but it is one that the kids are going to have to adjust and learn what they can and can’t do and what they still have to work on. There is no one dominant player right now, but hopefully one or two will step forward as the season comes along.”
Although a notably younger Florida State team, the Tribe will not be without its senior leadership. Returning starters Kristy Hull and Misty Molin will guide the squad while a host of juniors and sophomores and a group of highly-touted newcomers will help to create a unique Florida State team that has Coach Graf excited about the prospects.
“With young kids, it’s kind of nice because they do want to work hard and work their way into a starting position,” Graf said. “I think the competition for playing time will be tough this year and that’s going to be a good thing. Youthful exuberance is sometimes pretty nice. All our players are competitors and they are all very good ball players, so I’m excited about what this season holds.”
Freshman Jennifer White will likely be the Lady Seminoles number one pitcher this spring, followed by sole returnee Stacy Venable and newly reassigned Corrie Williams, who has played primarily first base her first two seasons at FSU. White, a two-time high school All-American, gained valuable experience in fall competition. Venable went 11-9 with a 2.21 ERA in 23 appearances in her first season on the mound for Florida State while Williams, who pitched in high school and in summer league ball, threw for the first time in collegiate action during the fall.
“It’s a young pitching staff,” Graf said. “We’re going to see a little more finesse in our pitchers than we have in the past. I think Jennifer White is going to really develop into a strong, strong pitcher as the season progresses. Stacy learned a lot about Division I pitching last year and Corey is pretty calm on the mound. These three will be pretty good as far as keeping a balance in the pitching department.”
Both White and Williams will also have an opportunity to contribute offensively as both are capable of hitting for themselves in the starting lineup.
First base represents versatility as Florida State has a great deal of depth at the position. Freshman Kelly Miller looks to have the edge as the starter, followed by sophomore Becky Wallace. FSU will also have the flexibility of putting either Corrie Williams or last year’s starter Misty Molin at that corner.
“We have a number of people who can play first base very well,” Graf said. “It will likely depend on who’s hitting well, but any one of those players are capable of successfully handling the duties at first base.”
Another newcomer, freshman Christy Cerecedes, will take over the duties at second base for the graduated Windy Weltz who assumed the position for the past three seasons. Returnee Sarah King will back up Cerecedes.
“Right now, Christy is a little bit ahead in the battle for starting rights just because of offense,” Graf said. “It’s kind of a new position for her because she has basically played outfield and third base throughout her career, but she is a very smart ball player and picked up things real quickly in the fall.”
Junior Jesse McGregor returns to take the reigns at shortstop for the third straight season. Returning sophomore Teresa Edenfield will also see action at the position.
“Jesse had a great season last year and showed a lot of improvement,” Graf said, so we expect her to once again be the starter. Teresa had a great fall. We had her play a number of positions and her bat started coming , so I think she’s going to earn herself an opportunity to get some at bats pretty early in the season.”
Like second base, third base will be occupied by a seasoned veteran as Tami Post enters her third season at the position. Freshman Lisa Hall will provide depth to the position.
“Tami has been a starter at third base since she was a freshman and is pretty solid at that position, but it will be good to have Lisa ready to handle the duties if necessary.”
Senior Kristy Hull is as solid as it gets when it comes to the catching duties. After sharing the starting duties the past two seasons, Hull enters as the squad’s number one catcher. She will be assisted by freshman Jennifer Brown.
“Kristy Hull will probably catch about two-thirds of the games this season,” Graf said. “She is obviously very solid behind the plate, but she is much more. She is kind of your “coach’s ballplayer” because she knows the game, pays attention, and will get down and get dirty because she loves the game. Jennifer was out a lot of the fall with injuries so she missed a lot of valuable time, but once she picks up our system she’ll be a solid contributor. I have confidence in both of these players as catchers.”
Junior Dana Bailey, who returns for her second season in center field, will provide the stability to a solid outfield that has a bit of a new look. Junior newcomer Danielle Cox will likely undertake the starting responsibilities in left field while veterans Misty Molin and Kristy Hull will rotate in right field.
“All four of these players are very good hitters and excellent, excellent defensive players,” Graf said. “We may be a little short in depth but high in quality in the outfield, so I’m real excited about that. We can mix any of those players in any position, so even if we happen to get an injury, we won’t drop off talent-wise.”
About the Atlantic Coast Conference
This season will represent the seventh season that the Atlantic Coast Conference has sponsored softball. Along with FSU, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia currently field teams and competition between the schools seems to get more heated each season.
‘I think the ACC has made a commitment to softball,” Graf said. “It’s one of the fastest growing sports and now it’s an Olympic sport. It’s also on television a lot now and has become a potential revenue sport. I think too that we have been challenged by the SEC with nearly every school in the conference adding the sport.”
After two seasons away from the friendly confines of Lady Seminole Field, the ACC Tournament will once again be held in Tallahassee.
“It will be good to have the ACC Tournament back at home,” Graf said. “We’ve done as well in the tournament away as we have at home, but it will be good for our fans to see it here because I think it’s going to be a very competitive conference tournament this year as it was last year.”
While Florida State played the majority of its games away last season, it’s time for those teams to take a trip to Tallahassee in 1998. With the recent surge of new teams in the south, the FSU schedule will once again feature some new rivalries.
“There are now over 60 teams in the south region alone, which has enabled us to begin some new rivalries and we began many of them last year,” Graf said. “Auburn, Alabama and Florida, along with others, will all be coming to our place this season and we’ll be playing many of our traditional rivals like South Carolina, Arizona and Fresno State in tournaments.”
The Lady Seminoles will once again compete in the Arizona State Tournament in Tempe, Ariz., the NFCA Classic in Columbus, Ga., the South Florida Classic in Tampa and have added the Buzz Classic, hosted by Georgia Tech to its slate.
“We have a lot more home games this year which will be good as it will let the kids stay in classes a bit more,” Graf said. But it’s still a very competitive schedule and we’re going to be facing a lot of the top teams in the country again this year.”