May 29, 2004
Oklahoma City, OK –
So far the 2004 World Series has been the Jessica van der Linden show as far as Florida State goes, but the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finally got some help Saturday in an elimination game versus No. 7 Washington (40-19) at the 2004 WCWS. While van der Linden (29-8) went 2-for-3 at the plate and shutout Washington for just the fourth time all year, it was Tatiana George’s two-run home run in the top of the fourth inning that won the game for No. 4 FSU (62-11). The Seminoles advance to the quarterfinals where they will face No. 3 LSU (55-11) tonight at 8:30 p.m. CT.
“We played a great game,” said Dr. JoAnne Graf. “This was an elimination game, and we weren’t quite ready to go home yet. I thought it was a great performance by Jess (van der Linden). They have a scary hitting lineup. They have hitters all the way up and down their lineup. Any one of their kids can put it out of the park. They did a good job attacking, we did a good job defending and pitching. It was a great game.”
Coming into the Washington game, George hadn’t recorded a home run since April 18 but a line-up change moved the shortstop up from sixth to fifth. The move paid off in a big way for coach Graf as George’s hit was just the second by a Seminole not named van der Linden at the WCWS.
“We’ve been struggling the last couple of weekends with our four-through-eight hitters,” said Graf. “We just wanted to shake it up a bit, and mix it up. Tatiana (George) was kind of stroking the ball and hitting it pretty solid, so we wanted to move her up and some other people down. I think everybody did their job that inning.”
“One of my main goals starting today was to just be patient, let the ball get there, and just see it,” said George. “I wasn’t expecting a home run, but it was nice to make solid contact finally.”
Speaking of van der Linden, the senior was huge once again for Florida State as she recorded her 20th shutout of the season, which is tied for second-most in FSU history. She struck out 10 batters and has now registered double digit K’s in 19 games this season. In her 14 innings this season against Washington, van der Linden has 24 K’s and just three walks and is 2-0.
“Today was more indicative of the level she (van der Linden) pitched at regionals,” said Graf. “Against Cal she struggled a little bit. You get kind of spoiled sometimes by great players that you get used to them playing at an excellent level all the time. I think Jess (van der Linden) has done a super job to bounce back from the Cal game.”
The Seminoles did put a runner on base in the first when van der Linden was plunked by UW ace Ashley Boek (29-13) but the Tribe couldn’t advance her. Washington got its first hit of the game in the home half of the first when Aimee Minor doubled to the gap in left center. Sarah Hyatt followed with a single and Kristin Rivera was intentionally walked to load the bases. van der Linden fought back to get the second out with her first K of the game and then ended the threat with her 377th strikeout of the season.
“We got a couple of pop-ups to Tat (Tatiana George),” said van der Linden. “My defense played well behind me, and I was very excited to get out of it (the first). I definitely don’t have my ‘A’ game with me right now. But it’s coming.”
Washington got its third hit of the game in the second and then sacrificed the runner over to second base. The three hits were more than the Huskies recorded in all seven innings the last time the teams met. An attempted sac put runners on the corners when van der Linden looked to third to get the lead runner and couldn’t get to first in time. The fielder’s choice put UW in business again but another strikeout and a pop to short ended the second with van der Linden keeping the shutout alive but living dangerously.
Boek set FSU down 1-2-3 in the top of the third and Washington put another runner on in the home half with a walk to All-America Kristen Rivera. Unlike the first two innings, UW couldn’t move her off first as the Huskies stranded their sixth runner of the game and van der Linden continued to keep her Seminoles in the game.
The two-time first team All-America opened the fourth with a bloop single into right for FSU’s first hit of the day against Boek. Lesley Palmer sacrificed van der Linden to second and then George took Rivera over the fence down the left field line putting the Tribe up 2-0. The homer was her sixth of the year and drove in her 25th and 26th runs as the junior tied her single season RBI record. Beth Wade followed with a single up the middle as the middle of the FSU order showed signs of breaking out of its 0-18 slump.
Washington looked to answer back in the bottom of the fourth as the Huskies led off with an infield single to short. A sacrifice moved Amanda Oleson to second with just one away before van der Linden got the second out as Rita Roach watched strike three. She then finished the inning with her fifth K of the game.
LaShaun Davis drew a one-out walk in the fifth but Washington turned a great double play to end the top of the inning and stay within striking distance. The Huskies sent their 2-3-4 hitters up in the bottom half of the fifth and van der Linden started the frame off with her sixth strikeout of the game. She then got a fly out to right field and the inning seemed to end on a ground out to third but an overthrow put a runner on second with still two away in the fifth.
Washington entered the sixth trailing 2-0 and was 0-13 on the season when trailing in the sixth inning. van der Linden tried to make the mountain a little harder to climb as she sent a one-out single up the middle moving her to 2-for-2 on the day and 4-for-5 at the WCWS. The Seminoles were unable to increase the lead though as FSU moved six outs from advancing in the 2004 WCWS.
The Huskies first two hitters in the sixth went down on a ground out to third and on their eighth K of the game. van der Linden then grazed the jersey of Courtney Jeffries putting a base runner on for the sixth straight inning but another great play by Kim Hoffer ended the inning.
van der Linden started the bottom of the seventh in familiar fashion as she fanned her ninth batter of the game as UW sent the top of the order to the plate. She then got her 10th K off the game when Minor watched strike three and a ground out to short put a close to the four-hit gem.
Florida State’s next game versus Louisiana State will be shown live on ESPN and live stats can be accessed at the official website for NCAA Championships at ncaasports.com.
For more information on the 2004 FSU softball team or the 2004 WCWS, including tickets, please log on to the official athletic website of Florida State University at www.seminoles.com.