February 10, 2004 - by
WEEKLY RELEASE: Graf Looks For Win No. 1000 When Softball Travels To Mercer Wednesday

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Feb. 10, 2004

The Seminoles and Bears have played 23 times and FSU has yet to loss to Mercer. FSU has recorded shutouts in 14 of the meetings including last year’s 11-0 win. The last time FSU traveled to Macon, the Bears played the Tribe very close falling 2-0 and 2-1. Overall, the Bears have used home field to their advantage despite not being able to come up with a win as of yet. In 13 home games, FSU has outscored Mercer 88-6 and posted 10 of their 14 shutouts. In Macon, the games are generally much tighter with FSU holding a 52-10 edge in scoring and having recorded just four shutouts in 10 tries.

Florida State’s trip to Mercer could be a very memorable one for head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. The living legend is just one win away from joining the 1,000-win club for NCAA fast pitch wins. She would be only the second Division I coach to reach that milestone and just the third coach overall in NCAA history to record 1,000 victories. Reaching that milestone would erase any doubts that Graf is the greatest DI softball coach in the history of the game. No other coach with 1000 wins in any division has a higher winning percentage than Graf and no coach has more NFCA wins (slow pitch and fast pitch combined) than Graf’s 1218, almost 100 more than her next competitor. In 20 years at FSU Graf has never had a losing season and her teams have advanced to 16 NCAA Tournaments despite the fact that many came as at-large bids due to no conference affiliations. She currently ranks in the top four of every Division I ranking for coaches and is coming of her induction into the NFCA Hall of Fame.

Senior All-American Elisa Vasquez exploded on to the college softball scene last year. The Part-time catcher as a sophomore took over the starting job upon Kimmy Carter’s graduation and there were questions as to whether she could replace the seniors RBI production. Carter was coming off a year that saw her set the single season record for RBIs with 53. Although nobody expected Vasquez to match that record, coaches just hoped she could be productive at the plate. They got that and more as she knocked in 46 runs, the fourth-highest single season total in FSU history. While that was an amazing accomplishment, if Vasquez keeps going at her current pace, she’ll have 53 RBIs half way through the season. The Californian knocked in seven RBIs in her 12 at bats through the first four games of the season at that pace 100 is not out of reach. Obviously after just four games you can’t make that kind of projection but she is off to a much quicker start than 2003. Last year she had seven RBIs through 12 games and it was a slow start that prevented her from breaking the single season record. In 2003, Vasquez didn’t record her 20th RBI until the 32nd game of the season. It has been a whole different story in the last 21 games dating back to 2003, where she has recorded 40 RBIs in that stretch. The difference in Vasquez’s game is how much she craves driving in runs. She is a great hitter and her .333 average with nobody on base attests to that but with runners on it’s a whole different story. In RBI situations Vasquez’s average doubles to .666. Last season she also thrived with runners on as she hit 100 points higher in those situations.

Repeating as a first team All-American is a tall task. In fact no player in Florida State history has ever done that. Only four Seminoles have ever repeated as an All-American no matter what the team so reigning NFCA first team All-American Jessica van der Linden has her work cut out. The senior definitely looked up to the task on opening weekend though. Inside the circle she was just dominant. The lefty didn’t allow a single run in 14 innings marking the first time she shutout her first two opponents of the season since her freshman year in 2001. The hurler also fanned more than half the batters she faced striking out 25 of 48. She also issued just three walks. The wins gave her 49 for her career and raised her career shutout total to 21. She is now one victory away from becoming just the 11th FSU pitcher to ever win 50 games in her career. Jess might have trouble matching her stats at the plate though and not just because the numbers were so good in 2003. When you are a first team All-American it is hard to sneak up on anybody and that was evidenced by the six free passes teams issued van der Linden at the Seminole Classic (Feb. 6-8). Despite squads doing everything they could to avoid giving her anything to hit, van der Linden still managed to bat .429 for the weekend, score five runs and add to her career record for doubles with two more (42). She knocked in two more RBIs as well and slugged a healthy .714. She struck out just one time and led the team with a phenomenal .692 on base percentage. The most amazing thing about her career that people don’t often realize is that she NEVER comes off the field. When she isn’t pitching she is staring in the FSU outfield and if she is pitching the second game of the day, which she usually does, she is warming up in the pen when she’s not batting or playing defense. She is a remarkable athlete and an amazing softball player.

Veronica Wootson had a lot of pressure on her opening weekend. Not only was the true freshman being asked to fill the shoes of two-time All-American Brandi Stuart at second base but she also had the added pressure of being a top recruit on a nationally ranked program. She handled all that pressure immaculately and happened to have the best debut by a true freshman in a decade. The Californian finished the Seminole Classic tournament (Feb 6-8) second on the team in average (.455), first in runs (5), second in hits (5), first in triples (1), third in slugging (.636), second in walks (3) and second in on base percentage (.571). She scored, had a hit and drew a walk in three of the four games. She swiped two bases, drew three walks and fanned just once. Not a bad debut for the rookie.

Sophomore Carly Brieske showed she was a clutch hitter in 2003 when she registered two walk-off RBIs and two other game-winning RBIs in her rookie season. That kind of clutch hitting opened the door for her to start this season and she did in all four games at the Seminole Classic (Feb. 6-8). After going hitless in her first five at bats in Florida State’s first two games, the outfielder proceeded to garner hits in five of her next nine at bats. She drove in five runs and also hit the first home run of her short career. Overall, Brieske knocked in five runs in the tournament, which is already half the RBIs she accounted for in 75 bats last season as a rookie.

Speaking of breakout seasons. Junior Casey Hunter had a breakout season of her own in 2003 as the hurler finished fourth in the nation in ERA in her first season as a starter. Putting that type of season together again will be tough but Hunter is off to a good start at 2-0 after the first weekend of action. In the season opener Hunter gave up three runs in the first inning and then went on to retire 12 of the final 13 batters she faced. To put in perspective just how amazing Hunter’s 2003 campaign was, the Illinois hurler allowed three earned runs in a game just once in 38 appearances.

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