May 21, 2004
Seminole senior Jessica van der Linden continues to make her case to become the next USA Softball Player of the Year. The 2003 All-American went 2-for-3 at the plate, drove in her 19th game-winning RBI of the year and shutout a Cal State Northridge team (34-18) that had been shutout just twice all season. The senior leader struck out 12 and walked just two as she picked up her 26th win in leading FSU (59-9) to a 1-0 victory at the 2004 NCAA Region No. 4 tournament.
van der Linden was simply tough as nails despite three errors behind her including two in the seventh inning that loaded the bases for CSUN. The Cerritos, CA native struck out her 11th batter of the game with runners on second and third and then got leadoff hitter Laura Hovestreydt watching strike three to keep FSU in the winner’s bracket and set up a showdown with No. 2 seed Oregon Saturday at noon.
“I think she (van der Linden) has a lot of guts. Jessica has been a fighter her whole career at Florida State,” said head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “She is leaving it all on the field. Jess gave it everything she had. It was an outstanding performance today against a great hitting team. Cal State Northridge is a great hitting team. It was an exceptional performance.
“We (these two teams) played about as good a softball game as anyone will ever see. Both teams played well, both teams played with a lot of heart. One hit by either team would have made a difference. We saw no quit in either team. Cal State Northridge did a great job and I felt our kids did a great job. Exceptional, exceptional ball game. I think Cal State Northridge will hang around in this tournament for awhile.”
The Seminole offense worked to perfection in the top of the first versus Matador starter Kia Fennell (18-10). Veronica Wootson drew a walk and was moved to second by Natasha Jacob on a sac bunt, her team-leading 18th of the year. Then van der Linden came up and did what she has done more than 50 times this season. The ACC Player of the Year drove in a run with a single to left center. The hit drove Wootson home from third after the freshman moved up on a passed ball and the RBI was the 52nd of the year for van der Linden who is now one away from tying the single season school record.
After delivering at the plate in the top of the first, van der Linden worked her magic in the bottom of the first inning. Two illegal pitch calls on strikes seemed to throw the All-American off at first as she lost the first batter and eventually loaded the bases with one out on an error and a hit by pitch. The senior came back huge and struck out her second and third batters of the inning as Cal State Northridge couldn’t cash in and left the bases full in the first.
“The first thing was Jess (van der Linden) getting out of the first inning without giving up a run. If you have to pick a single thing that won a ball game, I think that was it,” said Graf. “If they score two to three runs and we only score one, they win. I think she did a great job, maintained her composure and got out of that inning with no runs scored.”
The Matadors looked to even the game in the bottom of the fifth. Fennell started the inning by reaching on a leadoff walk before an infield fly gave the Tribe its first out of the frame. Cal State Northridge then put pinch hitter Monique Lovell in the game. The senior sent an infield shot to second where Tatiana George scooped up the ball, tagged second and then completed the double play with a strike to Beth Wade at first to end the inning.
The DP seemed to spark the offense as Wootson started the inning by smashing a liner to first that was snared before back-to-back hits by Jacob and van der Linden put FSU back in business. A walk to Lesley Palmer then loaded the bases but Elisa Vasquez’s pop out and Tatiana George’s ground out ended the threat and kept CSUN alive in a 1-0 game.
The Seminoles looked to get an insurance run in the top of the seventh as they once again put runners on second and third but Fennell worked her way out of another jam. The CSUN hurler once again bent but didn’t break as FSU stranded its sixth and seventh runners of the day.
“Our kids were trying a little too hard. We talked about it in the locker room; you can’t make something happen that isn’t there,” said Graf. “Instead of trying to hit a sac fly, we were trying to hit it out of the park. We just have to try to make contact with the ball and try and get that one run home at least. Another run would have been huge. It could have made the difference. That is just something that we need to improve on.”
The Matadors put the tying run on base with one out in the seventh as Fennell came up looking to help her own cause. The hurler looked as if she had hit into a double play but a booted ball at short put runners on first and second with still just one away. van der Linden’s 11th K of the game brought FSU within one out of advancing in the winner’s bracket. The All-American came within one strike of closing the game before another error cost the Tribe and loaded the bases. The hurler once again came within one strike of closing out the Matadors and this time she took care of business herself as she ended the game with her 12th K.
“I think our team just has it in the back of our head about the 7th inning. We are just so excited about trying to win the game ourselves, or to try and help our pitchers out, because they are throwing their heart out and we are trying too hard to be right there with them,” said George. “We got out of that because Jess came up big.”
Florida State is next in action at the 2004 NCAA Tournament Tallahassee Regional versus Oregon Saturday. The Seminoles and Ducks (41-19) will meet at 12:00 p.m. in a winner’s bracket game with a berth in the regional championship game on the line. FSU has not beaten UO since 1996 and the last time the teams played in Tallahassee, Oregon won 3-1.
For more information on the 2004 FSU softball team or the 2004 NCAA Tallahassee Regional, including tickets, please log on to the official athletic website of Florida State University at www.seminoles.com.