May 11, 2004
Oklahoma City, OK –
Fresh off a weekend that saw Jessica van der Linden set a new single season strikeout record and move within three K’s of a new career strikeout record, the senior All-America received more good news Tuesday. van der Linden was named one of three finalists For USA Softball’s Collegiate Player Of The Year. She has been a top 10 finalist the last two seasons but this is the first time she has made it into the final group and is just one step away from winning college softball’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
van der Linden joins Mississippi State’s Iyhia McMichael and Arizona’s Alicia Hollowell as finalists for the award. The initial list of 25 finalists was announced April 7 with that list being narrowed down to 10 on April 30. This award is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country.
“It feels great to be on this impressive list. It is truly an honor,” van der Linden said. “I want to thank USA Softball for this honor and I just feel so privileged to be on a list with these players. I have never focused on individual honors but winning the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award would be truly special for me. I want to thank my teammates and coaches because none of this would have been possible without them.”
van der Linden, who was a top 10 finalist in 2003, has scored more runs, hit more home runs, knocked in more RBIs and fielded better in 2004 than she did in 2003. What she has done inside the circle is even more amazing. Her ERA in 2004 is down from 1.07 in 2003 to 0.57, which is the second lowest in the nation. She has six more wins, seven more complete games, twice as many shutouts (8 vs. 16 in 2004), she has allowed 11 fewer hits in 20 more innings pitched, she has allowed 10 fewer runs, 11 fewer earned runs, she has walked seven fewer batters and recorded 74 more strikeouts. Last year batters hit .154 against her, this year they are hitting .125. Last season van der Linden pitched 14 games in which she didn’t allow an earned run, this year she has done that 25 times. Last year she did not issue a walk in six games, this year she has done that 10 times. She is one of just two pitchers in the nation in the top five for strikeouts and ERA and no other player has a higher batting average and lower ERA than van der Linden for the second straight year.
This season she has set career records at FSU for doubles, walks and RBIs. She is three strikeouts away from breaking the FSU career record in that category as well. That is a record that has stood since 1988. With 320 strikeouts on the year, she has set a new single season record in that category. van der Linden. Jessica is also closing in on the single season RBI record, as she is just seven away from breaking the mark of 53. She has thrown two perfect games in her career, including one this season, and has a school record nine no-hitters including four this season.
Of FSU’s 54 wins, van der Linden has won 31 of the 54 games with either a game-winning RBI or from inside the circle. She is 24-6 on the mound and has a team-leading 18 game-winning RBI’s. Ten of her 18 game-winning RBIs have come in games she was the winning pitcher. van der Linden has accounted for 58% of the team’s wins. Her 18 game winning hits are more than three times as many as anyone else on the team and are just 10 behind the total for the rest of the team combined. 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. At the plate she has game-winning No. 20 Oklahoma, No. 24 Texas A&M, No. 15 Fresno State and No. 21 Florida.
“It is an honor that USA Softball thinks that highly of Jessica’s performance this year that they have made her a top three finalist for their collegiate player of the year award,” Florida State head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf said. “It is a credit to Jessica’s work ethic and desire all year long that she has achieved this goal. She is a special player and person and we are all extremely proud of her and her accomplishments.”
Three finalists will be announced May 11. The winner of the 2004 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award will be announced May 26 at the opening ceremonies of the NCAA College World Series in Oklahoma City, OK. The winner will be recognized and presented with the Player of the Year trophy during the ASA National Council Meeting in Mobile, Alabama, in November.