Feb. 12, 2003
Tallahassee, FL –
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
For the second week in a row, FSU softball will host a tournament, this time the Sunshine State Games. The smaller field includes the Seminoles, Iowa State (2-4) and Middle Tennessee (0-0). The Tribe played three games versus the Blue Raiders and Cyclones last year and posted a perfect 3-0 record. All of those games were played in the Florida State Invitational Tournament. The Sunshine State Games will have each team playing one another twice over two days. Every squad will play the other teams once Friday and then do it over again on Saturday. The winner of the round robin will be crowned tournament champion.
BLOWING BY THE CYCLONES
The Seminoles have never lost to Iowa State in five meetings dating back to the 1994 season. The Tribe has outscored the Cyclones 22-2 and has shutout ISU in four consecutive meetings. FSU currently has a 30 inning scoreless streak going against Iowa State entering the teams 2003 series. While Iowa State is 2-4 on the season, they are coming into Tallahassee on a very high note after shutting down one of the most prolific offensive teams in D1 softball year in and year out. In its last outing, Iowa State shutout No. 10 Cal State Fullerton 1-0 handing the Titans their first loss of the year to an unranked opponent.
WE PLAYED ONCE, JUST ONCE
It is hard to imagine in 19 years of fastpitch competition that the Seminoles and Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders have only crossed paths once but that is the case and that first meeting didn’t even take place until last year. The Blue Raiders gave FSU everything they could handle in 2003, as the Tribe needed a comeback in the ninth and a bases loaded walk in the 10th to down Middle Tennessee 2-1.
PICKS TO CLICK
If you are looking for a couple of Seminoles who could be in for a big weekend at the Sunshine State Games, look no further than junior teammates Elisa Vasquez and Jessica van der Linden. The two Californians combined to go 7 for 14 with four RBIs, a run and a triple in four games versus Iowa State and Middle Tennessee and van der Linden threw her second career no-hitter versus the Cyclones as a freshman. Against MTSU, Vasquez had the biggest hit of the game as the Seminoles were down to their last out in the bottom of the ninth before her RBI triple evened the game and allowed FSU to go on to a win in the 10th.
FSU will meet cross-town rival FAMU for the second time in just over a week Tuesday. This will be the 80th meeting between the teams with Florida State leading the all-time series 74-5. The Seminoles have won eight straight over the Rattlerettes and 15 of the last 16 dating back to 2000. Last season FSU compiled a perfect 4-0 record over FAMU outscoring their cross-town rival 33-7 and they got off on the same foot in 2003 with a 13-2 win at the Seminole Classic.
In the last two meetings, FSU has scored 31 runs against Florida A&M. In the series finale last season, FSU defeated FAMU 18-3 marking the most runs scored by a Florida State team in school history. The Tribe scored in every inning of the five-inning game while putting a 10 spot on the scoreboard in the third inning. The Seminoles also pounded out a season-high 16 hits, with three going for extra bases. FSU also set season-highs in RBIs and total bases with 14 and 22 respectively.
In the team’s only meeting this year, Florida A&M self-destructed as they committed five errors, uncorked four wild pitches and catcher Ruby Nugent was charged with three passed balls. Jessica van der Linden went 3-for-3 and scored three runs while allowing just one hit inside the circle in four innings of work. Brandi Stuart, Lesley Palmer and Tatiana George combined for four of Florida State’s nine hits in the five-inning game.
GETTING OUT OF THE GATE
Just as was the case last year, FSU is doing most of its damage in the first, second and third innings this season. The Tribe has outscored opponents 21-3 in those three frames and in seven of eight games this year FSU has taken an early lead. In fact the Seminoles have scored in either the first or second inning in every game in 2003 and only once (Georgia) did FSU fail to score first. Even more impressively, the Tribe has trailed in just seven of 56 innings this season and if you take out the game versus Georgia, FSU has only been behind for a total of an inning and a half all year.
HEY NOW, YOU’RE AN ALL-STAR
It didn’t take long for 1st Team All-American Brandi Stuart to pick up right where she left off in 2002. The all-everything second baseman put together a stellar first week as she led FSU in runs (6), total bases (11), hits (7) and stolen bases (3) while hitting .389 and extending her 2003 hit streak to eight games. In six games last week, Stuart had a double and a home run, she slugged .611, drew six walks and was on base 56% of the time. As she always does, Stuart also came up big in FSU’s biggest games. Her two RBIs both came in games versus the Tribe’s best competition. Against Seminole Classic champion Oregon, Stuart’s two-out double put FSU in the lead 1-0 in the bottom of the first. Then against No. 17 Georgia, after Florida State fell behind in the first inning for the first time all year, Stuart led off the second by blasting FSU’s first homer of the season over the center field wall. She also matched a career high with her three runs scored versus Florida A&M. Overall, she hit above .330 in every game but one last week and averaged a hit, a run and a walk per game during the six game stretch.
IS IT A SIGN?
It is safe to say that the Seminole coaches aren’t pleased with a 5-3 start because, like any coach, the FSU staff hates to lose but it is hardly time to panic just eight games into the season. If you need a clear example of that, just look back to 2002. Last year the FSU softball team started out 5-3 also and still made it to the semi-finals of the College World Series. On top of that, that team didn’t win a home tournament all year during the regular season so don’t read too much into the fact that a good Oregon team came in to Tallahassee and took the Seminole Classic title.
THIS IS HER YEAR
Junior Jessica van der Linden has had a standout career at FSU already and her ACC Rookie of the Year selection in 2001 and her inclusion as one of the 50 best softball players in conference history evidence that but 2003 may be her best season yet. The pitcher and outfielder has been just dominant at the plate early on. The California native is leading the team in average (.562), hits (9), slugging (.625), walks (12) and on base percentage (.767) . Her 10 total bases and eight runs both rank second on the team. If van der Linden is able to continue that type of productivity, she will join fellow Cerritos resident Brandi Stuart on to the NFCA All-American team this year.
NICE TO MEET YA
Redshirt sophomore Lesley Palmer had a breakout weekend at the Seminole Classic Tournament. The junior college transfer didn’t arrive on the FSU campus until classes started in the spring and then didn’t practice the first couple of weeks while all of her paperwork was being
worked out. She is starting to get back into playing rhythm and it showed this past weekend. The third baseman hit .400, scored three runs, smashed three doubles, slugged .700, drew eight walks and posted an on base percentage of .667. Palmer is being asked to fill the power hitting role that fellow Lake City player Monique Marier filled so well in her two years in Tallahassee. In Marier’s first eight games as a Seminole, she also got off to a very impressive start but also had the benefit of being on campus for fall practice and getting more at bats in those games. Marier hit .421, scored three runs, had eight hits, two doubles, a triple and a home run, five RBIs, slugged .789, walked twice and was on base 46% of the time in her first eight games. The numbers are very comparable and if Palmer is able to pick up some of the RBIs and extra base hits lost due to Marier’s graduation, the Seminoles will be in great shape.
JUST MISSING THAT ONE BIG HIT
In many ways, Florida State is playing as well as ever to start a season. Four regular starters are hitting over .300, the team has an amazing .413 on base percentage, the squad is averaging almost seven walks a game and the Tribe is scoring over five runs per contest. If you had to look for a key area to improve, it would have to be timely hitting. So far in eight games this season, FSU has stranded 77 base runners. That’s almost 10 per game compared to 2002 when the Seminoles averaged leaving over six runners on base each contest. The Tribe has scored 41 runs but has only 25 RBIs. That’s 1.64 runs per each RBI compared to last year when that number was 1.22 runs per each RBI. Part of the reason is that teams aren’t letting 1st Team All-American Brandi Stuart and All-ACC outfielder Jessica van der Linden beat them. The two have combined for 188 career RBIs and neither player has ever driven in less than 35 runs in a season. So far in 2003, the two have just four RBIs but have been walked 20 times, which is a clear indication opponents are daring somebody else to step up and drive in runs for the Seminoles.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
Another area that is probably giving the Seminole coaches a few sleepless nights is the 2003 squad’s performance in close games. This year the Tribe is 1-3 in one-run and two-run games and 1-1 in extra innings. Last season the Seminoles were 29-16 in those situations. Winning the close games is always a key to a team’s success and as FSU’s four new starters get more accustomed to pressure situations, the Seminoles should see those numbers improve.
CATCH US IF YOU CAN
Through eight games this season, the Seminoles have shown their speed on the bases averaging almost three stolen bases a game. They have swiped 21 of 22 bases so far this year and although very early they are currently on pace to break the team record of 160 stolen bases set back in 1996. That year the Tribe averaged 2.2 stolen bases a game. Brandi Stuart leads the way for Florida State in the stolen base category going a perfect 5-for-5.
THAT’S BRIESKE BABY
Tuesday, February 4 was a day of firsts for freshman Carly Brieske. The Safety Harbor, FL native got her first collegiate at-bat in the first game of the doubleheader against Auburn and came through with an RBI double. She then made a huge statement in game two versus the Tigers as she started in right field for her first time in her FSU career. Brieske drove in all three runs and helped the Seminoles come from behind in the 10th inning to down Auburn 3-2. In the second inning, after third baseman Lesley Palmer doubled to right center and was sacrificed to third by Beth Wade, Brieske hit a sac-fly to right field to score Palmer and give Florida State the early lead. Then in the tenth with runners on first and second and the Seminoles down 2-1, Brieske sent Tiger pitcher Kristen Keyes delivery to right center driving in two more runs and giving Florida State the extra inning, come from behind victory. With her three RBI night against Auburn, Brieske is now the clubhouse leader with four RBIs on the season.
HUNTING THE OPPONENT
Sophomore Casey Hunter has gotten off to wonderful start for FSU accounting for all three victories for the Tribe so far this season. She has seen action in 15 innings of work giving up only three earned runs. Hunter has held opponents to a batting average of .189, while compiling a team-high 22 strikeouts. After allowing two hits to the Auburn Tigers in the first inning of the twin bill, Hunter settled down and didn’t give up another hit in shutting out the Tigers, 8-0. The shut out was the first of Hunter’s FSU career. In the second game against Auburn, Hunter came in relief of starter Jessica van der Linden to pick up her second victory of the night. She pitched two strong innings allowing just one run and striking out four Auburn batters.
CALIFORNIA, CITY OF CERRITOS
Senior Brandi Stuart and junior Jessica van der Linden, former Cerritos High teammates, both had monster seasons for FSU in 2002. The two combined to hit .363 and slug .553. Together they accounted for 153 hits, 23 doubles, 12 triples, 11 homeruns, 80 RBIs, 233 total bases and 86 walks. No tandem in FSU history has ever combined for more total bases, walks and slugged for a higher percentage than Stuart and van der Linden did in 2002. On top of that only two pair of FSU players in the program’s 24-year history has ever combined for more RBIs than Stuart and van der Linden. Only one pair of players has ever scored more combined runs, only one pair of players has ever accounted for more doubles and only one pair of players has ever hit more home runs. So far this Season the combo are off to an even better start combining to hit .450 and slug .575. They are tied for the team lead in hits with nine a piece, while accumulating over 34 percent of the total bases tallied this season. Together they have also drawn 20 walks, with van der Linden collecting 12 and Stuart with eight.
SAME BRANDI, NEW YEAR
NFCA 1st Team All-American Brandi Stuart continued to do exactly what she has done her whole career opening day. The senior, who has registered nine hits and has a .375 batting average, which is the second-best on the team, was huge against Georgia Southern. Against the Eagles she scored more than a third (3) of FSU’s runs in the doubleheader, she had an RBI, drew two walks and went a perfect 4-for-4 in steals.
JESS WHAT YOU’D EXPECT
Just like Brandi Stuart, junior Jessica van der Linden seems to be picking up right where she left off in 2002 but has been even more spectacular at the plate. The junior numbers so far in 2003 are staggering. She is leading the team in six different offensive categories already as she is batting .562, slugging .625,on base 77% of the time and has nine hits. Those numbers are truly remarkable but they only tell part of the story. Van der Linden is hitting .500 with runners on base, .667 with the bases empty, 1.000 as a leadoff hitter, .667 with runners in scoring position, .500 with a runner on third and less than two outs, .400 with two outs and is advancing runners successfully 46% of the time. There is not one statistical category in which she is hitting below .400. Keeping those numbers all season is virtually impossible but few doubt that van der Linden has everything it takes to be FSU’s next All-American.
EIGHT IS NOT ENOUGH
Senior Brandi Stuart is being counted on in 2003 to lead a Seminole club with only one four-year senior. Despite having a lot of pressure on her shoulders, the 1st Team NFCA All-American doesn’t seem to be letting it get to her. Stuart has hit safely in all eight games this season and is the only Seminole to accomplish that feat. She has already matched her season long eight game hitting streak from 2002.
THAT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN
One of the strangest quirks early this season has to do with home runs. In 2003, FSU has hit one homer and has given up just one homer but the weird thing is that the Tribe lost the game in which Brandi Stuart homered and won the game their opponent went yard. Last season Florida State was 18-4 when they homered in a game and was even 8-6 when their opponents hit an HR. You have to believe things will even out over time but right now that is one of the strangest stats of the season.