Feb. 16, 2004
When the NCAA added new equipment standards to slow down the increasing rate of home runs in college softball it didn’t figure to hurt FSU that much. The Tribe are not traditionally a long ball team so no big deal. Looking at FSU’s first eight games you’d think the NCAA might have livened the ball and bats, not deadened them. The Seminoles have hit seven homers already in just eight games. Last season FSU didn’t hit its seventh HR until the 29th game of the season. In 2002, it took 19 games to reach that number and in 2001 31 games. Those were not light hitting teams either. Three of FSU’s five all-time best home run hitting teams are the 2001, 2002 and 2003 squads. The 2002 team currently holds the single season record with 33 round-trippers. With seven homers already, the Seminoles have either equaled or bested the 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 teams for home runs hit IN AN ENTIRE SEASON. The home runs are coming from unexpected places as well. Of the six players that have gone deep in 2004, two had never hit a homer at FSU in their career and the other three had combined for 13 homers in nine years. That means this group is already half way towards their combined HR total from entire careers in just eight games. They had a total of 13 home runs in their previous 649 games and now have seven in 44.
Coach Graf thought this squad would be a great hitting team and so far she has been correct and not just because of the home runs. The team is hitting .320 overall and is slugging .500 as a group. While they have a long way to go, only three teams in FSU history have ever finished a season hitting above .300 and no team has ever posted a higher team batting average at the end of the year than .316 (1995). Only two players that have started and batted are hitting below .296 and six of FSU’s nine everyday starters are hitting .300 or above. The Tribe’s four doubles in one game versus Southern Miss were the most in a game since 2001 when they hit five against Florida A&M. In fact, FSU had seven extra base hits in that game, which is just another sign of how good this team is at the plate.
SEVEN IS HEAVEN
There is no doubt the 2004 Seminoles are going to be a great offensive team and they have already shown signs of that just eight games into the season (see “Ding Dong” note). The line-up is stacked from top to bottom and on the bench and that is illustrated by the Tribe winning its first eight games by an average of six runs per contest. What may separate the 2004 squad is clutch hitting. In eight games, this team has already amassed 46 RBIs, that’s an astounding 5.75 per game. The best RBI producing teams in school history never averaged more than four per contest. The reason for the RBIs is the Tribe’s clutch hitting. With runners on base FSU is batting .345 and with runners in scoring position the team is hitting .329. In pinch hitting situations, maybe one of the most difficult hitting situations in the game, the Seminoles are batting .600. Even with two outs in an inning the Tribe is hitting above .300.
Sophomore Carly Brieske is one of the great stories early on in the 2004 season. The Safety Harbor, FL native came to FSU as a walk-on but she is playing like an All-American early in the season. She showed a knack for the RBI as a pinch hitter and part-time starter in 2003 but she was never able to play regularly enough to really get into a groove hitting. That isn’t the case in 2004. Brieske leads the team in homers (2) and her .364 average and .636 slugging percentage are third on the team only behind 2003 All-Americans Jessica van der Linden and Elisa Vasquez. She is tied with Vasquez for the team lead in RBIs (9) and is second on the squad with eight base hits. The outfielder is also showing that she can be counted on to deliver in clutch situations. Of players with more than one at bat, Brieske leads the team with runners on base, hitting .533 and with runners in scoring position, hitting .600. She is excelling in every area at the plate. She’s hitting .545 with two outs and is advancing runners and reaching base as a leadoff hitter 75% of the time.
SHE DIDN’T MISS VERSUS SOUTHERN MISS
In FSU’s doubleheader with S. Mississippi, Jessica van der Linden had an amazing day at the plate. The senior slugger went 4-for-5 with five runs scored, two doubles, a home run, four RBIs, nine total bases and a 1.800 slugging percentage. She was also on base almost 86% of the time. It was the best doubleheader as far as hitting is concerned in the Cerritos, CA native’s four-year career. When you combine batting average, runs scored, RBIs and extra base hits, no other double header can compare to the performance versus Southern Miss. The five runs scored and one home run were the most ever for her in a twin bill and she tied career highs for doubles and walks.
FRICKE & FRACK
Don’t know the name Katie Fricke, well just wait and you will. The FSU newcomer hasn’t had that many opportunities in her first season as a Seminole but boy has she made her chances count. The junior college transfer is doing everything in her power to warrant more PT. In just three at bats in 2004, Fricke has two hits, a home run, two runs scored, three RBIs, a walk and a sac fly. In her first ever plate appearance she drew a walk and came around to score versus FAMU. A few days later she got to hit against Mercer and recorded a single. In the night cap of the Mercer twin bill, she plated the first run of her career on a sacrifice fly. Then she topped it all off in just her fourth trip to the plate by blasting a two-run homer in a 9-1 win over Southern Miss. No current Seminole has ever homered earlier in her rookie year than Fricke did this season. The Virginia native is now just one of 14 Seminoles in the last decade to record a home run in her rookie season in Tallahassee.
On top of leading the team in almost every possible hitting and pitching category, Jessica van der Linden is attempting to set yet another personal best. After opening the season 0-for-1 with two walks and two runs scored, van der Linden has hit safely in FSU’s last seven games. Her career best hitting streak is nine games and that was as a sophomore in 2002. Considering that van der Linden has recorded a hit in five of six games all-time against Georgia Southern, the super senior may just match her career long hit streak against the Eagles Tuesday.
TOUGH TO SCORE
Jessica van der Linden has dedicated herself to being the best she can be inside the circle in 2004 and the results are showing. The southpaw started the season by going 21.1 innings without allowing a run and she still hasn’t surrendered an RBI as of yet as the only run she has allowed came home as the result of a double steal. She has already notched her 50th career win, just the 10th Seminole to ever do that, and she is striking out almost two batters per inning so far. It is easy to see why she has allowed just one run and no RBIs considering opposing batters are 0-for-23 versus van der Linden with runners on base. She is averaging an amazing 13.28 strikeouts per game and her strikeout to walk ratio is a phenomenal 10.8 to 1.
Florida State holds a 25-2 lead in the all-time series with Georgia Southern but don’t let the record fool you. After a 15-0 start, the Eagles have won two of the last 10 and defeated FSU the last time the teams met (took game two of a doubleheader, see note below). The Seminole staff, Jessica van der Linden and Casey Hunter, each gave up two runs to GSU when the teams met in Statesboro, GA last season and four of FSU’s top five hitters in that 2003 double header are no longer on the 2004 team. On the positive side, the Tribe pitchers did hold Georgia Southern to a .068 batting average in the two games last year. The Eagles have never won a game in Tallahassee (0-14) and have been outscored 80-7 when playing at Florida State. At home, FSU has shutout GSU in eight of the 14 meetings and they have allowed the Eagles to score more than one run on just one occasion. This should be a good series for reigning ACC Player of the Week Jessica van der Linden. The senior is 8-for-15 (.533) all-time against GSU with three runs, a double, three RBI and five walks in six games.
13 IN A ROW
With back-to-back doubleheader sweeps over Mercer and Southern Miss last week, the Seminoles raised their streak to 13 consecutive doubleheader sweeps. The last time the Seminoles failed to sweep a twin bill was the season opener in 2003 versus Georgia Southern. That day FSU took the first game but surrendered two runs in the bottom of the seventh in the get away game to loss 2-1. On the other hand, it has now been 47 consecutive doubleheaders since a team swept Florida State. The last team to sweep a doubleheader versus the Seminoles was Virginia in 1998, more than four years ago.
NO HITS FOR YOU
Casey Hunter won’t argue if you suggest she has pitched better games than her second-ever no hitter against Southern Miss. The junior started the day by hitting the first batter she saw on the first pitch she threw. She then walked another hitter and uncorked a wild pitch resulting in a run. Despite the rocky start, her second no-no was a testament to how tough Hunter is. Every game this season she has allowed a run in the first inning yet she has bounced back to gain a victory in every one of those outings. Opponents are hitting just .094 off of her and her ERA has dropped from 4.20 to 1.40 in her last three starts. The no hitter versus Southern Miss illustrated how mentally tough the junior has become.
OH WHAT A RELIEF IT IS
Jessica van der Linden simply awesome in game two of the Mercer twin bill in relief of freshman Amy Harrison. The Tribe coaches tried to get the young pitcher some experience but after giving up a two-run HR to tie the game, they brought van der Linden in from the outfield to take over. On a 45 degree night, van der Linden took the hill with no warm-up and struck out 10 of the 11 batters she faced as FSU cruised to an 8-2 win. After giving up a base hit to the first batter she faced, she struck out 10 of the next 14 batters she faced and allowed just two base runners who reached when they were hit by a pitch.
When it comes to two-baggers, Jessica van der Linden will leave her mark on the Seminole program. The Tribe’s leader in doubles for three straight years is back at it again. She has four doubles already this season and is looking to break the single season record of 16 set back in 1995 by Cindy Lawton. Van der Linden has knocked in 14 as a freshman and sophomore but saw that number fall to 12 last year. She is already five ahead of her nearest competitor for career doubles with 44 as she is the first FSU player to ever record 40 doubles in a career. Despite leading FSU in doubles all three years, van der Linden has never gotten off to such a hot start when it comes to doubles. Through eight games in her first four seasons combined she had four total doubles.
TRIPLE NO THREAT
Last year the Seminole pitching staff didn’t allow a triple in 1337 at bats and they seem to picking right back up with that streak in 2004. Through 174 at bats this year the staff still hasn’t yielded a triple. In fact, it has been 1786 at bats since a Seminole pitcher has allowed a triple. That streak dates back to 2002 and even encompasses four games at the College World Series. The last time a team hit the Seminoles up for a triple was North Carolina, May 11 in the ACC Championship final.
DID THAT AGAIN
The Seminoles are playing long ball in 2004 and that was never more evident than in game two of their doubleheader with Southern Miss. Three different Seminoles homered in that game as FSU run-ruled the Golden Eagles 9-1 in five innings. Three homers in a game by one team is a lot but it doesn’t seem like that big a deal for FSU. In the Tribe’s last 13 games, they have hit three HR’s in a contest twice and they have homered two or more times in a game four times. Dating back to last season, FSU has muscled 17 balls out of the park in its last 21 games. Not bad for a team that hit just 22 home runs total from 1996-1999.
CAN’T COME HOME
Nothing personal but if you are a former Tallahassee high school pitcher looking to return home and make a big splash in your debut versus FSU, think again. Last season, Virginia’s Erin Horn returned home to face FSU and left with an ERA of 14.70 in two starts and three appearances. In almost seven innings FSU touched Horn for 16 hits, 19 runs, 14 earned runs, two doubles, a triple and a home run. The Tribe batted .421 against her. This year it was Lincoln’s Jessica Saunier’s turn. The former Lincoln standout came home with Southern Mississippi and the Seminoles did treat her any better. Saunier pitched four innings and left town with a 5.25 ERA. She gave up four hits and three runs and walked seven FSU batters. Overall, the Tribe hit .333 against her as a team.