Dec. 11, 2003
Tallahassee, FL –
The new National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) softball league, an official development partner with Major League Baseball, held its draft this past week and two current Seminole players were selected. Elisa Vasquez, a third team National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American, was picked 31st overall by the Houston, TX team and first team NFCA All-American Jessica van der Linden was selected by the Arizona Heat. Two-time NFCA All-American and former Seminole Brandi Stuart has also signed to play with league and will play with the Akron Racers.
The five-year-old Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL), the only professional fastpitch softball league in the country, restructured under a new name, National Pro Fastpitch, and will begin official league play in the summer of 2004. In conjunction with the announcement regarding the launch of National Pro Fastpitch, Major League Baseball announced a developmental partnership with National Pro Fastpitch as part of The Commissioner’s Initiative on Women and Baseball. National Pro Fastpitch will be Major League Baseball’s exclusive development partner in the category of women’s professional fastpitch softball.
“The revival of the pro league is very exciting and hopefully this time it will really take off,” said FSU head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “I think under the new plan the league has a better chance. We are excited that we have some players that are a part of the revival. We have had a lot of FSU alums play in the old league.”
Vasquez burst onto the national scene in 2003 as Florida State’s starting catcher. The Hesperia, CA native hit .346 and led the team in triples (4) and RBIs (46). She was named to the All-ACC team and the ACC All-Tournament team on top of her Easton First Team All-American selection. She fielded .992 behind the plate and threw out 42% of would-be base stealers. Her 14 multi-RBI games and 10 game-winning RBIs also led the team.
“I am excited for Elisa (Vasquez) to be going to Houston,” said Graf. “Her abilities fit their needs and she will probably go in as their number two catcher, which is a good spot for her to start. She will provide some relief off the bench and provide some good DH power. She is interested in playing pro ball and this will be a good way for her to continue her career.”
Van der Linden, a top 10 finalist for USA Softball National Player of the Year honors in 2003, would have been selected much higher in the draft but she doesn’t plan on playing this summer due to her impending marriage to FSU middle linebacker Michael Boulware. The senior had one of the most remarkable seasons in the nation last year as no player in the country had a higher batting average and lower ERA than the pitcher/outfielder. Last year she became just the third junior 1st Team NFCA All-American in FSU history. The Cerritos, CA native was also named the 2003 ACC Player of the Year. She had one of the most remarkable regular seasons in team history hitting .439, slugging .583, recording 12 doubles, four triples and 33 RBIs. She also posted an on base percentage of .571. Inside the circle, the southpaw won 12 straight decisions to end the season and had a 47-inning scoreless streak at one point. She ranked sixth in the nation in strikeouts and 16th in ERA. She went 18-5 with a 1.07 ERA.
“Jessica does not plan to play this year but could possibly change her mind at some point,” said Graf. “I am excited that the league felt enough of her ability to draft her despite knowing she probably wasn’t going to participate. That says a lot about her talent. She is an awesome all-around athlete that can play at the level and will probably do so in the future.”
Stuart is the only FSU player to garner All-ACC honors four straight years and she also became the first Seminole ever to register 30 or more steals in four consecutive seasons. In 2003, she established career records for home runs, RBIs, walks, games played, games started and consecutive starts. She finished the regular season leading FSU in home runs, slugging percentage, runs scored, total bases and steals and was second on the squad in six other offensive categories. She also finished the season ranked eighth in the nation in steals.
“Brandi Stuart will play for Akron and should be a starter for that club,” said Graf. “She is one of the premiere players and hopefully she will get rejuvenated by the process and re-consider accepting an invitation to tryout for the US Olympic team. She will be a real asset to them.”
Florida State softball opens the 2004 season February 6 at the Seminole Classic versus Minnesota and Florida A&M. The Tribe will be seeking their 17th NCAA Regional appearance in the last 19 years this season and will focus on returning to the Women’s College World Series for the seventh time in school history. The Seminoles will also look to defend their ACC Championship as they welcome a sixth team into the ACC with the addition of NC State.
For more information on the 2004 Seminole softball team, please log on to the official website for Florida State athletics at www.seminoles.com.