May 19, 2002
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
Win three games in one afternoon and you get to go to the Women’s College World Series. That was the daunting task facing the 21st-ranked Seminole softball team (53-18-0) when they arrived at the park on Sunday and they did just that. Florida State completed its improbable run to the school’s sixth World Series by downing No. 5 seed Georgia Tech 6-1 in the final game at the 2002 NCAA Region 8 tournament. The win was FSU’s second of the day over the Yellow Jackets (53-18).
Florida State was once again led by NCAA Regional Most Valuable Player Leslie Malerich (33-12). The senior All-American picked up her third consecutive win on the day en route to MVP honors. She threw 320 pitches and allowed just two earned runs while posting a 0.67 ERA in going 3-0.
Just as they did in the first game, FSU jumped on top of Tech and freshman ace Jessica Sallinger 28-9). After the starter got the first out in the bottom of the first, Kimmy Carter singled to center field. Jessica van der Linden ripped a triple to center field, her fifth of the year, scoring Carter and putting the Tribe up 1-0. After the Jackets intentionally walked Stuart and she stole her 53rd base of the season, Sallinger came back to get the next two batters to limit the damage.
The Seminoles looked to build on their lead in the second as they singled and drew two walks. With two outs, van der Linden came to the plate. The sophomore, who was 1-for-3 against Sallinger in the first game, lofted a bloop double along the left field line that scored Tatiana George and Shundra Colzie to give FSU a 3-0 lead. The three runs were as many as FSU scored in nine innings in the previous game. The Garnet and Gold looked to add even more as the Jackets intentionally walked Brandi Stuart for the second time to once again load the bases. Elisa Velasco then chased an outside fastball for the third strike and third out of the inning. The three earned runs were the most given up by Sallinger since April 20, 2002.
As the game entered the bottom of the fourth, FSU once again looked to build on their 3-0 lead. Shundra Colzie led the inning off with a bunt single and Carter sacrificed her over to second bringing up van der Linden for an opportunity at her fourth RBI of the game. Sallinger retired the sophomore for the first time in the game and Tech went on to intentionally walk Stuart for the third time. Florida State couldn’t capitalize though as Sallinger retired the side and ended the threat.
After pounding out 15 hits in a 3-2 loss to FSU in the early game, Georgia Tech didn’t get its first hit of the championship game off Malerich until there were two outs in the third inning. Another Yellow Jacket didn’t reach base until an error with two outs in fourth allowed Soraya Reddick to get on base. The Jackets were able to touch Malerich up for a run in the fifth as Sara Wissman sent a solo shot over the fence in right to bring the Jackets within two runs at 3-1. After a Tasha Waugh double, van der Linden came in to relieve Malerich. The senior All-American pitched 21 consecutive innings Sunday and allowed just two earned runs and left the game with a chance to move to 3-0 on the day. Van der Linden closed the door on Tech sending the game to the bottom of the fifth with the Tribe holding on to a 3-1 lead.
In the sixth, Monique Marier started things off with a single up the middle and pinch runner Skyla Cox came in to run at first. After Beth Wade drew a walk, pinch hitter Jackie Hirschfeld reached on an error to load the bases with just one out in the frame. After Sallinger induced a pop out, the team’s RBI leader Carter laced a triple to deep left field clearing the bases and extending FSU to a 6-1 lead with Tech down to just six outs. The three RBIs moved Carter into first place all-time in FSU history with 133 in her four-year career and ended any hope the Jackets had of advancing to the school’s first-ever WCWS.
Florida State opens up World Series play Thursday, May 23 at 10:00 a.m. versus No. 1 seed UCLA. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and Tallahassee viewers can watch on Comcast channel 30. For more information on Seminole softball and the 2002 NCAA Tallahassee Regional, please visit the official website of the Florida State Athletic Department at www.seminoles.com. The regional’s official website contains game stories, box scores, photos, live stats, links to buy tickets and much more.
FSU ON THE ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM