March 7, 2002
The next two weeks will present the 22nd-ranked Seminoles with their biggest challenges of the 2002 season. Between this weekend’s Seminole Invitational and next week’s Kia Classic, FSU could face as many as 10 Top 20 teams including #2 Arizona, #4 Nebraska, #7 Arizona State, #8 Michigan and #10 Fresno State. The Seminoles are already scheduled to hook up with #9 Oklahoma and #11 Cal State Fullerton next weekend.
FSU is coming off of an impressive week in which it won its first tournament title of the year and fared very well against three major opponents. FSU arguably had its biggest win of the season over perennial power Texas and also used a late-inning rally to down Big 12 member Kansas. Despite a 2-0 loss to #22 Mississippi State, things went pretty well for the Tribe last week.
This week, FSU will look to re-capture the Seminole Invitational title as the team plays its last home tournament of the year. The Garnet and Gold have not won the prestigious tournament since 1998 and that is their only title in the last eight years of Seminole Invitational play.
Another highlight this week will be FSU’s first Sunshine game of the year Monday versus Southern Illinois.
THIS WEEKEND'S SCHEDULE
FRIDAY Florida State vs. Middle Tennessee (4:00 p.m. at the Seminole Softball Complex)
Florida State vs. Iowa State (6:00 p.m. at the Seminole Softball Complex)
SATURDAY Florida State vs. Auburn (12:00 p.m. at New Messer Park)
Pool play begins Saturday at 3:00 p.m.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS
MIDDLE TENNESSEE (7-6-0): The Blue Raiders, members of the Sun Belt conference, split a doubleheader with Lipscomb in their last action before heading to Tallahassee. This is the first-ever invite for the Lady Raiders to the Seminole Invitational and the teams have never played before but there is one common thread. Middle Tennessee has already played as many games versus ACC teams as has FSU. The Seminoles got an early win over Maryland in the Seminole Classic while Middle Tennessee downed Virginia 4-1 at the Tennessee Tech Tournament. Jennifer Martinez is leading the Raiders at the plate with a .447 average and her 15 RBIs are more than double of anyone else on the squad. She is also MT’s ace on the mound. The senior has a 6-1 record with a miniscule ERA of 0.59. Florida State and Middle Tennessee have never faced one another.
IOWA STATE (3-2-0): The Cyclones blow into Tallahassee on a two-game win streak but without playing a game since February 24. ISU was scheduled to play at the Southeast Missouri Tournament last weekend but the tournament was scrapped due to weather. Sophomore Erica Martinez is dominating at the plate this season with a .417 average and an amazing .917 slugging percentage. Two of her five hits this season have been home runs and she now has 14 in her career. Sophomore Jen Bice is ISU’s leading hurler with a 2-1 record and a 1.97 ERA. The Cyclones already have a 10-1 win this season over Seminole Invitational participant Providence. Florida State leads the all-time series with Iowa State 4-0.
AUBURN (16-4-0): The Tigers are off to a great start and have won three of their last four as they head to Tallahassee. Auburn has already faced some very tough teams and have held their own against the nation’s best. AU has played No. 2 Arizona, No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 13 Florida Atlantic already this season. The Tigers lost all three games but there is no shame in losing 4-0 to the defending National Champions in their backyard with ace Jennie Finch on the mound. The Tigers also lost to No. 9 Oklahoma by four runs (6-2) but three AU errors led to five unearned runs, which opened the door for the Sooners. Auburn has a win over Seminole Invitational participant Southeastern Louisiana (2-1 in eight innings) and went 3-0 over Mercer by a combined score of 17-7. The Seminoles downed the Bears in two games 2-1 and 2-0. Florida State leads the all-time series with Auburn 4-1-1.
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (8-4-0): This will be FSU’s first Sunshine Network game of the season and both of these teams will be coming off of Seminole Invitational play. The Salukis have played two doubleheaders versus FSU opponents already this season. SIU split with a Mississippi State team that beat the Seminoles 2-0 last week and lost 2-0 and 1-0 to No. 13 FAU who downed the Tribe 4-2 a few weeks ago. Saluki starter Amy Harre has allowed just one earned run in 37 innings and has an amazing 0.19 ERA. On the flip side, SIU is hitting just .212 as a team with Elissa Hopkins leading the way with a .308 average and a .654 slugging percentage. Florida State leads the all-time series with SIU 4-2.
After not launching a single grand slam in 116 games dating back to middle of the 2000 season, FSU has had a plethora in just the last two weeks. Before the 2002 season, the last grand slam an FSU batter hit was April 5, 2000 when Brandi Stuart’s capped a comeback win over the rival Gators in Tallahassee. The streak was broken by an unlikely source out at the Troy Cox Classic Tournament when first baseman Beth Wade, who was hitting .059, blasted a grand slam versus Dayton sending the first pitch she saw over the left field fence. It was not only the first homer of her career but it was also her first-ever RBI. FSU didn’t have to wait another 116 games to get its next slam as Stuart launched the second of her career just four games after Wade’s. The HR moved Stuart into 5th all-time on FSU’s home run list.
Although she has been pitching well all season, fans at the Seminole Softball Complex were delighted to see the return of the dominating Leslie Malerich they were all used to during her previous three seasons. After somewhat of a slow start compared to the standard she has set, the senior All-American has been on fire as of late. In her last seven appearances, Malerich has not allowed a single earned run in 37 innings of work and she has allowed just two earned runs in the last 45.1 innings. She has gone 6-1 over that stretch and she has a strikeout to walk ratio of 4.3:1. She has sliced her ERA from 2.41 after the fifth game of the season to 1.04 after the Pitt game. After issuing 17 walks in her first five appearances, she has only walked 14 in her last 10 outings. It has been seven games since she surrendered an extra base hit and over that stretch, opposing batters are hitting just .097 against her with runners on base.
THE PRESSURE IS ON
When the pressure is on with two outs and runners on base, which Seminole hitter would you want up to bat? Brandi Stuart leads the team with four home runs and has as many clutch hits over the last three years as any other Seminole so she would be a good choice. Kimmy Carter and her team-leading 20 RBIs would have to be near the top of your list. But a strong case could be made that if you have runners on base and two outs, you want senior Monique Marier up to bat. The junior college transfer is leading the team with eight two-out RBIs. She is one ahead of Stuart whose two-out grand slam versus Pitt didn’t hurt her standing. Carter is third with six while sophomore Jessica van der Linden isn’t far behind with five.
THE SKY IS THE LIMIT
Wednesday’s game versus the University of Pittsburgh was a big one for sophomore Skyla Cox. The Marietta, GA native made the first start of her Seminole career as the designated player in the 7-0 win over the Panthers. Although Cox was second to Jessica van der Linden in games played as a freshman with 45, she never got a start before Wednesday.
SHE IS A WINNER
Not only is senior Kimmy Carter driving in a lot of runs, she is driving them in at the right time. Carter has factored in to the winning run for FSU in nine of the teams 17 wins this season. She has scored the winning run twice and driven in the game-winner on seven occasions. Her seven game-winning RBIs are more than double those of Brandi Stuart who is in second with an impressive three game-winners. Carter is coming through in the clutch when the Seminoles need a big hit just as a senior captain should.
IT’S A DATE
Even though it has been a little over a week since head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf broke the NFCA’s All-Time wins record, there is still some business to take care of. The only coach in Seminole softball history, Graf broke the record while the team was in New Mexico. That hasn’t stopped FSU’s administration from celebrating the honor the right way. Florida State will have an on-field ceremony for coach Graf right before game one of FSU’s doubleheader with Maine March 20 at 5:00 p.m.
Senior Kimmy Carter is just 35 games away from entering the all-time games played list for FSU Softball. She has averaged 66 games per year in her three years with the team.
Carter is also 82 at bats away from becoming a career leader for Florida State in that category. She has averaged 180 at bats per season in her previous three years.
Carter and junior Brandi Stuart are both nearing career records for runs scored. Carter is 32 runs away after scoring 38 times in 2001. Stuart has two seasons to secure the 22 runs she needs to make it on to the list. At her current pace, Stuart will end up second all-time by the time her career is over with 178 runs.
Carter and Stuart should both find themselves on FSU’s career list for hits by the time the season is over. Carter needs just 36 this season after posting 64 her junior year. Stuart could end up as FSU’s All-Time hits leader when all is said and done. At her current pace she would finish her career with 304 hits, which is just six hits shy of No. 1 on the list.
Carter, Stuart, Jessica van der Linden and Monique Marier are also zeroing on the record for all-time doubles after the 2001 squad set a record with 93 last season. Carter is just one away from making it on the list and if she repeats her effort of nine from 2001 she will end up third on the all-time list. Marier and van der Linden each launched 14 last year (the second most in team history). Marier is just 7 away from reaching the all time list while van der Linden is 3 away. Van der Linden is on pace to shatter the record of 38 after her record freshman season. Stuart is also on pace to take over first after recording 18 doubles in just two seasons.
The same duo of Carter and Stuart are also nearing the triples record. Carter is two away and Stuart has two seasons to record seven.
Brandi Stuart amassed 81 steals in just two seasons. She is fifth on the all-time steals list and is projected to finish third all-time with 144 swipes.
Here they go again. Carter and Stuart are closing in on the all-time RBI record also. At her current pace, Carter could finish her career tied for fourth and moved into a tie for fifth place already with 20 this year. Stuart is just 11 away from making the RBI list and has posted 36 RBIs in back-to-back seasons. If she does that over the next two years, Stuart will end up FSU’s all-time RBI leader.
While Brandi Stuart and Kimmy Carter are in the midst of launching an offensive assault against the Florida State record book, Leslie Malerich is doing the same but from the mound. The senior All-American, barring unforeseen circumstances, will end up on every all-time list in the Florida State history. She already appears on three of the five lists and has a shot to end up No. 1 in most of the categories. Here is a look at where she currently stands:
Malerich is now FSU’s all-time leader in appearances after her start versus FAMU February 27th. She surpassed teammate Jen White-Stokes by making the 136th appearance of her career and now has 139.
She is currently second on the list with 762.2 innings pitched. She is just 35.1 innings away from tying Debbie DeJohn for first place. Malerich has never pitched less than 145 innings in a season so she will likely own that record also when the 2002 season is over.
This is the only all-time pitching record that the All-American hasn’t cracked in to yet but she will probably end up No. 1 after 2002. Malerich is just 9 wins away from becoming the winningest pitcher in FSU history and she has averaged 30 wins over the past two seasons.
This is one of just two categories Malerich probably won’t finish No. 1 but she will end up in the top four. She currently sits fourth on the list with 581 K’s but she is still 253 behind the all-time leader (Julie Larsen).
Malerich has already recorded 36 shutouts in her career and if she just makes her average of 11, she will become one of the career leaders in this category also. She could conceivably move up to third if she matches her career-high total of 16 shutouts set during her junior season.
Earned Run Average:
This might be the toughest category of all for the senior. Despite a sparkling 0.72 ERA last season, she still needs to drop her career ERA from 1.24 to 0.84 this season to get on this list.
SHE DOESN’T STOP
Although Brandi Stuart isn’t hitting .600 like she was through the season’s first six games, she is still one of the nation’s best players and last week, Stuart hit .444 with a double, a home run, four RBIs, two runs scored and a slugging percentage of .889. She also stole three more bases. Last season, one of the greatest base stealers in FSU history Serita Brooks had 11 steals through 24 games. Stuart has a whopping 22, double the amount of Brooks.
After weather forced the cancellation of games versus Cal State Fullerton and possible match-ups with Utah and Michigan at the Tallahassee Democrat/Seminole Invitational last season, FSU faces an ever more daunting schedule in 2002.
The Seminoles have already played more Top 25 teams in 24 games this season than they did all of last year. Florida State has already faced No. 12 Washington, No. 24 South Carolina, No. 13 Florida Atlantic and No. 20 Georgia. The Seminoles are scheduled to face No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 11 Cal State Fullerton at next week’s Kia Classic hosted by Cal State Fullerton. Depending on tournament play, FSU could also meet up with No. 2 Arizona, No. 12 Washington again, No. 9 Arizona State, No. 4 Nebraska, No. 8 Michigan, No. 10 Fresno State, and No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette. Nebraska and Michigan will be taking part in this weekend’s Seminole Invitational Tournament.
HONORS AND AWARDS
Jessica van der Linden had a dominating weekend for the Seminoles, which included her first career perfect game, a streak of 20 innings pitched without giving up an earned run, a 16 inning scoreless streak and a 13 inning hitless streak. At the plate, she was second on the team with a .471 average, led the team with a slugging percentage of .824 and she hit three doubles and a home run while recording three RBIs. In the seven inning win over Dayton, van der Linden was masterful in recording the fourth no-hitter of her young career. She matched a career high with 10 K’s versus New Mexico State in a 5-0 complete game win. She also allowed just two hits and walked just one batter. In the championship game versus Texas Tech, the Cerritos, CA native, coming off of a perfect game, held onto a no-hitter for 5 1/3 innings and did not allow a single earned run. She was equally as good at the plate this weekend in saving her two best games for the last day when the championship was on the line. Against Dayton and Texas Tech, she went 5-for-6, scored four runs, and had two RBIs, two doubles and a home run. In 17 at bats she struck out just one time and between pitching and playing in centerfield, she recorded 14 assists. On top of it all, she played all weekend while suffering through a bad case of the flu.
FLYING OUT OF THE PARK
The Seminoles’ bats limped in to the Troy Cox Classic. The team was hitting a scant .248 coming in to the tourney but they seemed to have found their stroke in the cool dessert air. FSU left New Mexico with a batting average of .264 and a large part of that hike came against the Dayton Flyers. In just two games, the Seminoles hit .404 against Dayton and slugged .632 as a team. Senior Kimmy Carter led the offensive assault by going a perfect 4-for-4 with three runs scored, a double, a home run and three RBIs. She slugged an amazing 2.000 in the two games and she recorded eight total bases. The Seminole offense set six season-highs versus the Flyers including runs scored (12), hits (12), RBIs (7), home runs (2) and total bases (19).
On the flip side, the Seminole pitching staff totally dominated the Flyers. All three members of FSU’s staff got the opportunity to pitch versus Dayton and they held the Flyers to an unbelievable .027 batting average, which was 377 percentage points lower that the Seminoles average in the two games. Florida State pitchers allowed just one hit in the two shutouts and walked just two batters while striking out 23. In FSU’s 12-0, five-inning win, Leslie Malerich and freshman Casey Hunter combined to K 15 of the 18 Dayton batters they faced. They allowed just on ball to even get to the infielders as they walked two and gave up only one hit.
THEY WEREN’T DONE YET
Although the numbers weren’t as impressive as they were against Dayton, it is surprising how well the Seminoles stacked up against the Red Raiders despite losing two extra inning games at the hands of Tech. The Seminoles out-hit the Red Raiders (.290 to .219), out-slugged them (.371 to .250), out-pitched them (0.43 ERA to 2.47) and held a slight advantage in on base percentage (.338 to .320). Florida State also struck out fewer times (8 to 14). If you are wondering why the Seminoles lost those two games, it was because they lead in one category you never want to have an advantage in and that’s errors. Florida State committed seven errors compared to just two for Texas Tech.
SHE’S BEEN WADE-ING FOR THAT
Everybody knew it was just a matter of time before starting first baseman Beth Wade got her bat going but she came into the Troy Cox Classic hosted by New Mexico State just 1-for-17 on the season. Over the weekend, the redshirt sophomore came to life offensively and hit .444, scored a run and knocked in four RBIs. In FSU’s 12-0 win over Dayton, Wade went 2-for-3, with a double, a homer and a run scored. In the third inning, she came up to bat with the bases loaded and no outs. Wade took the first pitch she saw and crushed a drive over the fence in left. It was her first-ever home run and FSU’s first grand slam since the 2000 season when Brandi Stuart launched one in the bottom of the seventh to beat the Florida Gators 6-3.
WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?
It was hard to ask anything more of Jessica van der Linden than what she did in two losses to Texas Tech at the Troy Cox Classic last weekend. The sophomore dominated the eventual champions on the mound and at the plate. Van der Linden hit .571 with two doubles and she slugged .857 against the Red Raiders. She was on base almost 63% of the time and she scored two runs. She then started the would-be championship game on Sunday, which was her first start since her perfect game versus Dayton. The Cerritos, CA native pitched brilliantly in holding the Red Raiders without a hit for 5 1/3 innings increasing her streak to 13 innings with out allowing a hit. She seemed to be in line for her seventh win of the season before her defense let her down. After playing flawlessly behind her during her perfect outing, Seminole fielders committed six errors which resulted in eight unearned runs and squashed a 5-1 FSU lead in the bottom of the fifth and left van der Linden with nothing to show for her work.
IS THAT NORMAL?
Senior Kimmy Carter is having a normal year in many ways. She normally starts every game and that hasn’t changed. She normally hits around .300 and she’s doing that once again. She also seems to be on pace to hit her career averages for doubles, triples and home runs so that is all nice and normal for the stand-out catcher/outfielder. It isn’t until you slide your finger over to the RBI and slugging percentage columns that you see something that isn’t so normal. Carter has always been able to knock runs in and that is evidenced by her sitting in sixth place on FSU’s all-time list for RBIs but she is in the midst of a monster season that is even uncharacteristic for her and at her current pace it might even be uncharacteristic for her All-Star father Gary Carter. Carter is leading the team with 17 RBIs in just 20 games and is just four away from surpassing her total RBIs from her freshman season when she played in 49 games and made 46 starts. At her current pace, she will shatter the single season record of 49 set in 1992 by Penny Siqueiros. Carter is on a torrid pace that will give her 59 RBIs for the season if FSU plays as many games as it did last year. That would easily make her the Seminoles’ all-time RBI leader for a career. Driving in runs is usually a lot easier when your slugging .436 as is Carter. Her slugging percentage is currently 49 percentage points higher than her career average and if she stays above the .400 mark, it will be the first time she has accomplished that feat since her freshman season when she slugged .405.
On the subject of RBIs, FSU’s top four hitters, Brandi Stuart, Jessica van der Linden, Kimmy Carter and Monique Marier, are responsible for driving in more than 75% of the team’s runs this season. This group has knocked in 49 of Florida State’s 65 RBIs. While the coaching staff would probably like to have a little more parity among the line-up as far as RBIs go, they must be happy to have these four producing like they have so far this season.
Although almost every program in the nation covets left-handed pitchers they are pretty rare. Florida State has its own left-handed ace in Jessica van der Linden and she is dominating teams but FSU doesn’t seem to mind facing southpaws and they have fared pretty well against the opposite arms this season. As a team, the Seminoles are batting .393 against left-handed pitchers, which is 136 percentage points higher than how they fare against righties. Only one FSU hitter who has faced a southpaw is hitting below .300. Kimmy Carter and Shandra Colzie are both hitting .500 in four at bats versus left-handers. Julie Jordan, Jessica van der Linden and Becky Brock are each perfect versus left-handed hurlers.
SHE GOT IT! 1,125 WINS
There is no doubting what head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf has accomplished in her 23 seasons at Florida State. The one and only coach in Seminole softball history has won two slowpitch national titles, taken FSU to 14 NCAA Regionals and five Women’s College World Series, won eight ACC Titles, coached 21 All-Americans, been named ACC Coach of the Year four times and never had a single losing season in 23 years. While every one of those feats is impressive, none can match the record she is about to set.
She now owns the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) record for career victories with 1,125 and did it in almost five fewer years than former record holder Judi Garman of Cal St. Fullerton. Graf entered the 2002 season with 1113 wins of which 894 have come during fastpitch competition. She also appears in the top 10 of every NCAA coaching record and is in the top 4 in five of those six categories.
Is this a coincidence or what? Just as Dr. JoAnne Graf makes softball history this season, she will have the opportunity to face as many as three other coaches that appear on the NFCA top 10 All-Time wins list.
After facing USC coach Joyce Compton and her 804 wins in the Seminole Challenge, coach Graf and the Seminoles welcomed another coaching legend. Georgia coach Lu-Harris-Champer is currently the seventh-winningest active coach by percentage and sits just four spots behind coach Graf on that list. Graf had a career winning percentage of .765 entering the season while Champer stood at .735
Coach Graf will also face Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso, who is fourth on the NCAA’s Winningest Active Coaches list (by percentage), when FSU travels to one of the nation’s toughest tournaments at the vaunted Kia Classic. Depending how things go at the Kia, Graf could also run into Arizona coach Mike Candrea (No. 2) and Fresno’s Margie Wright (No. 6) who both appear on that same list.
Junior All-American Brandi Stuart is on the verge of re-writing the FSU record books and she still has two seasons left. The newly elected co-captain is coming off her best season ever and has a chance to own almost every offensive record in Seminole softball history.
After a stellar rookie campaign, Stuart improved in almost every category during the 2001 campaign. She raised her batting average 12 percentage points from .349 to .361, scored 10 more runs (49 versus 39), doubled her doubles (from 6 to 12) and hit more than twice as many homeruns (5 compared to 2). She equaled her RBI total of 36 and raised her slugging percentage from .442 to .515, an increase of 73 percentage points. She also cut down on her strikeouts by almost 38% (from 34 to 21). Stuart also was more patient at the plate garnering 11 more walks in 2001 (28 versus 17).
Another area of Stuart’s game that is often overlooked is her ability to steal bases. In two seasons, she has amassed 72 swipes. That is just 25 behind All-American Serita Brooks’ total from her two years at Florida State and she is considered by many to be one of the top base-stealers in Seminole history. Brooks currently holds three different NCAA records for stolen bases.
At her current pace, Stuart will finish in the top two for runs scored, first in doubles, fifth in triples, third in steals and first in RBIs amongst FSU’s all-time leaders. She would single-handedly wipe away almost 20 years of history. That’s impressive.
ALWAYS REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME
Freshman Casey Hunter recorded the first two wins of her Seminole career at the Seminole Classic Tournament. The Millstadt, IL native threw 117 pitches in a complete game win over Syracuse picking up the Seminoles after they dropped the day’s first game versus Georgia. The game also marked the first start at catcher in 2002 for sophomore Julie Jordan. Jordan seems to have fully recovered from a back injury that sidelined her for 53 games last season and she is also finding her stroke at the plate. She is hitting .273 and has scored a run in four starts.
Hunter picked up her second win of the tournament on the final day. She started FSU’s last game against St. John’s pitching three innings of shutout ball before running into trouble in the fourth, which led to another first of sorts. Senior All-American Leslie Malerich came in to garner the save, which was her first in more than a year.