February 25, 2004 - by
FSU And Half Of The Nation’s Top 25 Teams At NFCA Leadoff Classic This Weekend

Feb. 25, 2004

Complete Game Notes In PDF

When it comes to winning awards from the ACC, the Seminole softball team takes the cake and it seems to be no different in 2004. For the third week in a row FSU took home ACC Player of the Week honors when Jessica van der Linden was named back-to-back ACC POW. The senior All-American came into 2004 as the reigning ACC Player of the Year but had won player of the week honors just twice in her career. She has now equaled that total in two weeks. Florida State has won every ACC Player of the Week award so far in 2004. The Seminoles have a long history when it comes to conference honors. Last season the Tribe took home coach and player of the year honors and an ACC Tournament MVP award on top of five of the 12 All-ACC honors. It was the seventh time in 12 years that FSU led the conference in All-ACC selections and FSU has nearly double the All-ACC selections of any school in the conference. The Seminoles also placed 24 players on the ACC’s 50th Anniversary squad, almost half of the 52-player squad.

Jessica van der Linden will go down as one of the greatest players to ever wear the Garnet and Gold. In addition to her amazing credentials on the field, she is one of just five players to ever be named a first team All-American. Her legacy is secure. She is already the greatest doubles hitter in FSU history but she will probably be remembered as the best all-around player to ever play in Tallahassee. While that is probably true, it shouldn’t obscure just how good the Cerritos, CA native is on the hill. For the first time in at least a decade (complete set of box scores not available after 1995), van der Linden pitched two no-hitters in a week. Amazing when you consider that FSU pitchers threw either one or zero no hitters in a complete season in 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2002. In fact, van der Linden’s two no-hitters in a week were either more than or equal to the amount of no-nos thrown in the entire season in eight of the last ten years and the only two years FSU pitchers had more than two no hitters were 2001 and 2004 when van der Linden threw five herself. Combined with Casey Hunter’s no-hitter February 18, the Seminole staff fired three no-hitters in an eight day span last week. The only time this past decade before 2004 that a Seminole team threw three or more no-nos in an entire year was 2001 and the Tribe eclipsed that in an eight day span. Van der Linden now has seven career no-hitters, which is more than FSU totaled in the six years (1995-2000) before she arrived on campus. Of the 16 no-hitters thrown the last decade van der Linden has almost half of them (7) and the current FSU staff (van der Linden and Hunter) has nine of those 16 (56%).


3/28/96 Florida A&M 13-0 Zenger 3/25/97 Maryland 3-0 Venable 4/6/97 Virginia 8-0 Fuentes 3/12/99 Toledo 9-1 Malerich 2/9/00 Florida A&M 9-0 Malerich 3/15/00 Princeton 2-0 Malerich 2/17/01 Charleston 8-0 van der Linden 3/16/01 Iowa State 6-0 van der Linden 4/17/01 Florida A&M 12-0 van der Linden 4/21/01 East Carolina 9-0 White-Stokes 2/23/02 Dayton 5-0 van der Linden 2/18/03 Florida A&M 5-0 Hunter 3/8/03 Winthrop 1-0 van der Linden 2/15/04 Southern Miss 5-1 Hunter 2/17/04 Ga Southern 4-0 van der Linden 2/22/04 Florida A&M 8-0 van der Linden

Two-time ACC Player of the Week Jessica van der Linden is in a class all by herself and the stats so far in 2004 prove that. Of the 11 major offensive categories, van der Linden is either in first alone or tied for first in eight. If possible, she is even more impressive in the circle where she is either leading or tied for the team lead in six of eight categories. That means van der Linden is sitting in first in 14 of 19 major statistical categories, which means she occupies the top spot in 74% of the major hitting and pitching categories. Even more amazing is the statistical lead she has in some categories. The senior is more than 100 percentage points ahead of the player in second for batting, slugging and on base percentage. Considering no player in America hit for a higher average and had a lower ERA than van der Linden in 2003, the senior looks like she could claim that honor again in 2004.

Van der Linden leading the team in:

Runs Scored
Total Bases
OB Pct
Strike Outs

Florida State will face its stiffest competition of the early season this weekend at the NFCA Leadoff Classic. The Tribe will open with Army who is coming off a 20-27 season and hasn’t played since losing in the Patriot League Championship game in 2003. The Seminoles will then play No. 15 Texas and No. 4 Washington the next two days. These are the first two ranked squads FSU will face in 2004. The Tribe was slated to play No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 20 South Carolina but those games were canceled due to weather. FSU doesn’t have the greatest history against either Texas or Washington going 1-3 versus the Horns and 2-4 versus the Huskies. The last time FSU played either team was in 2002 when the Tribe went 1-1 against each school. That was also the same season FSU went to its sixth World Series.

Texas is playing with out US National Team pitcher Cat Osterman and is coming off a semifinal appearance at the 2003 Women’s College World Series (WCWS). UT is 8-4 heading into a mid-week doubleheader with Texas State. Florida State and Texas have a common bond with two former Seminoles on the Horn’s staff. Head coach Connie Clark spent six years as Dr. JoAnne Graf’s assistant in Tallahassee helping lead FSU to four WCWS appearances. Her current assistant, Marla Looper, was an All-American at FSU in 1993 and still appears in the FSU record book with a career 0.78 ERA.

The Huskies are 11-2 and have already beat two ranked teams in Texas (14-4) and Texas A&M (4-2). They are hitting .314 as a team and have a miniscule ERA of 1.05. Washington holds a 4-2 edge in the series but FSU did win the last meeting in 2002. The Tribe defeated the Huskies 3-2 in Fullerton at the Kia Klassic. The Tribe has struggled traditionally versus the Pac 10 going 7-39 all-time. Last year the Seminoles went 0-4 versus the powerhouse conference. The last time FSU beat a Pac 10 team was in the 2002 WCWS when the eighth seeded Seminoles upset No. 1 seed UCLA in the opening round game of the WCWS. The Seminole staff also has a connection with the Washington program. Florida State pitching coach Eve Gaw was an All-American at UW and she still holds numerous records in the Washington record books.

When you have played fastpitch softball for 20 years like FSU has, you have seen almost everybody there is to see. Since 1984, FSU has played games against 169 different softball teams. Most came against universities but that includes the odd game against the Italian National Team or the Mississippi College of Women. But when FSU opens the NFCA Leadoff Classic against Army Friday night, it will be the first meeting ever between the programs. Florida State is 131-34-4 all time in the first meeting with a team. That is a winning percentage of .786. This is also the first service academy the Seminole softball team has ever faced.

The Leadoff Classic is one of the nation’s premier tournaments and that is easy to see when you look down the roster of attendees. Twelve of the nation’s top 25 teams will be in Columbus, GA and half of the 2004 WCWS field will also be involved. It has always been a tournament that attracted the country’s best and if you haven’t succeeded in the NCAA Tournament, it is tough to get into the invitation only event. FSU is 13-16 all-time at the tournament and only seven college softball teams in America have played as may games at the NFCA Leadoff Classic as Florida State. Last year the tournament was shortened due to rain and FSU left Columbus with a 1-2 record versus three ranked squads. The Seminoles opened up with an 8-1 win over No. 20 Pacific and then lost 2-0 to No. 18 Oregon State and 2-1 to eventual champion and 25th ranked UMass.

The Seminoles are still off to a torrid pace at the plate although the team batting average did slip below .300 for the first time this season (.298). Five Seminole starters are currently batting above .330 and four of the five are slugging .600 or above. Jessica van der Linden, Elisa Vasquez, Tatiana George, Carly Brieske and Beth Wade are hitting a combined .375 and slugging .632. They have 39 RBIs, 11 doubles, four triples and every one of those players has homered this season. Without those five players, the Seminoles would be batting just .234 on the year and slugging only .316. Every single player in the fab five is also getting on base over 42% of the time they step in to the batter’s box.

When FSU’s 11-game winning streak came to an end in Jacksonville last week, the loss took some people by surprise. The Dolphins were in the midst of a six game losing streak and were below .500 on the season but that didn’t stop the second year program from upsetting its second top 25 team of the year. The Tribe did play without two starters (Tatiana George and Elisa Vasquez) who were out due to injuries and the team’s other All-American Jessica van der Linden was pitching and hitting with a hurt left hand, which tends to bother southpaws like van der Linden. The Seminoles weren’t the only ranked team though that fell at the hands of an unranked foe. It seemed like the upset bug was going around all over the country last week. Top 25 teams lost 11 games to unranked teams as parity continues to grow in college sports.

Sam Houston State 3 No. 4 Oklahoma 1
Northwestern 4 No. 8 Stanford 2
Florida 3 No. 12 Nebraska 1
Houston 3 No. 15 Texas A&M 0
Illinois 5 No. 15 Texas A&M 0
Illinois 4 No. 15 Texas A&M 3
Baylor 2 No. 17 Fullerton 1
Syracuse 6 No. 17 Fullerton 3
Costal Carolina 2 No. 24 Oregon State 1
Boston College 4 No. 24 Oregon State 2

While FSU’s season opening win streak finally came to an end, Jessica van der Linden has continued to stem roll towards the single season strikeout record. The senior now has 80 K’s in 41.1 innings after picking up 37 more strikeouts in three starts and 18.2 innings last week. The last two seasons van der Linden has pitched 175 innings. If she reaches that number this year and keeps up her pace of two K’s per inning, she would obliterate the single season record at FSU by almost 50 K’s. This strikeout surge is unprecedented in the All-Americans career. In 2003 it took her 64 innings to reach 80K’s. In 2002 it took her 77.1 innings and as a freshman she needed 87.1 innings. That year, 2001, van der Linden totaled 91 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched. If she continues to play like she has been, van der Linden will surpass those 91 K’s this weekend in Columbus. She has not had fewer than eight strikeouts in any appearance this season and in four of her seven appearances van der Linden has recorded double digit strikeouts.


2001	87.1
2002	77.1
2003	64
2004	41.1

It is no wonder that Jessica van der Linden, Elisa Vasquez and Carly Brieske are leading the team in RBIs. The Tribe’s top three run producers have combined to drive in 31 runs this season and each is in double digits already. When you look at what they are doing with runners on base, it is easy to see why each player is leading the squad. Van der Linden is hitting .615 this season with runners in scoring position and .600 with runners on base. Brieske, in the midst of a break out campaign, is batting .533 with runners in scoring position and .455 when she has a teammate on base. Vasquez is performing in the clutch as well, hitting .375 with runners in scoring position. Overall, these three are hitting .500 combined when there are Seminoles in scoring position. Through 13 games last season, no Seminole had more than seven RBIs and the top three run producers had 20 RBIs together compared to 31 for this year’s top three. The same goes for 2002 where no player had broken into double digit RBIs through 13 games. The last time a Seminole accumulated 10 RBIs through 13 games was 2001 when two players, Brandi Stuart and Kimmy Carter each did it. That year no other player was even above six so having three Seminoles in double digits already is pretty special.

As mentioned in the note “Timely Hitting”, Seminole sophomore Carly Brieske is having a breakout season so far. The outfielder has already surpassed her RBI total from her freshman year in 40 fewer at bats and she is just five hits away from equaling a career high in that category as well. Brieske has recorded the first home run and triple of her career in 2004 and she is slugging almost 350 percentage points higher this season compared to last. While all those numbers are pretty amazing, there is one stat that stands out compared to all the others and that is when it comes to clutch hitting. This season FSU has recorded 25 of its 62 RBIs with two outs in an inning and Brieske has 10 of those her self. No other Seminole has more than four. Brieske has single-handedly accounted for 40% of FSU’s two-out RBIs. In general, Brieske is probably only behind Jessica van der Linden as a clutch hitter. No player has had more at bats with two outs in an inning and that is a good thing for FSU as Brieske is batting .421 in those situations. Last season only six Seminoles had more than 10 two-out RBIs in 57 games. Fans in Tallahassee are watching a star be born in Brieske.

                     Brieske       van der Linden
Scoring Position      .533             .615
Runners On Base       .455             .600
Two-Out Hitting       .421             .600
Two-Out RBIs            10               4
RBIs                    11              10

On top of some great hitting in clutch situations, one of the reasons FSU is scoring so many runs is because of the unsung players who are setting the table for players like Jessica van der Linden, Carly Brieske and Elisa Vasquez. As a team, FSU is putting the leadoff hitter on base 50% of the time. Only two starters are reaching base when they lead off less than 42% of the time and both are freshmen. When you start off an inning with a runner on, it makes life a lot easier for everyone involved. Nobody has been getting on base more to start an inning than sophomore Natasha Jacob. The speedy outfielder is reaching base more than 85% of the time she starts an inning. In fact, five everyday starters are reaching base as lead off hitters over 63% of the time and three over 71% of the time.

The Tribe will definitely be challenged this weekend at the Leadoff Classic especially playing two top 20 teams in less than 24 hours but as big of a challenge as the opposition will put up, FSU has another area of concern. Florida State’s success at neutral sites has declined each of the last three years. In 2001 the Seminoles were a stellar 20-5 at neutral sites. In 2002 that number dipped to 23-13, which is still very good. Last year though the Seminoles were just 6-6. This will be the first time in 2004 that FSU has played at a neutral site and it is one of just two times this season that the Tribe will play at a neutral field. The other time will be in another big time tournament in Fullerton at the Kia Klassic. One of the reasons the Seminoles have seen their record slide as of late is that they have been invited back to tournaments like the NFCA and KIA, which wasn’t the case in 2001. When you only play at two neutral fields and each time you are playing mostly top 25 teams, the winning percentage always has a chance to suffer.

While Jessica van der Linden is getting a lot of the pub as far as strikeouts are concerned, there is one specific area that fellow mound mate Casey Hunter is excelling. Of Hunter’s 46 K’s, 17 have been called third strikes. That is almost 37% of her strikeouts that have come with the batter watching the pitch. Compared to van der Linden who has 11 backwards K’s, which is less than 14% of her strikeouts. Last season, 48 of Hunter’s 233 strikeouts were called third strikes, which was just over 20%. She has almost doubled that percentage in 2004. She is also holding batters to a career low and team leading .105 average and has set a new career best by winning her first six starts of the season.

One of the reasons Casey Hunter’s numbers are up a little bit from an amazing sophomore season is her rocky and uncharacteristic first outing of the year. The junior allowed a rare three earned runs in an 11-3 win and all those runs came in her first inning of the season. If you remove that game, Hunter’s numbers are every bit as good as they were in 2003. Since the season opener, Hunter has gone 5-0 with an ERA of 0.64 in her last five appearances. She has also allowed just three earned runs in 37 innings. Most amazingly, after striking out six batters and walking three in the opener, Hunter has walked just two since to go with 40 K’s, a ratio of 20 to 1. In that span she allowed just one extra base hit and 11 singles.

Veronica Wootson, like most freshmen, is continuing to adjust to the college game. The lightning quick second baseman has seen her average hit as high as .600 and then fall back down closer to earth at .286. Considering the fact she is just 13 games into her career, Wootson is doing some amazing things. The California native has recorded hits in nine of 13 games this year and has scored a run in 8 of 13 contests. She is second on the team with 11 runs scored, in the top five for total bases, first in stolen bases and triples. Right now she is using her speed an athletic ability as she learns the game but what has been most impressive has been her consistency. There really isn’t one area that she is struggling at. Her .976 fielding percentage is the best at second base in five years, she is hitting above .260 in every conceivable hitting situation and she is even second on the team with 12 hits. It is quite a start for a freshman who is trying to fill the shoes of one of FSU’s all-time greats in Brandi Stuart.

While everyone knows softball games aren’t divided into halves, a case can be made that FSU is definitely a second half team. From the third inning on, FSU looks like a different team from a statistical standpoint. In the first two innings of games, Florida State is hitting .216 as a team and has scored 20 runs. Once the Seminoles start to make it through the batting order again in the third and later, the sparks really starts to fly. From the third inning on the Seminoles hit .335 and in the third inning alone they have scored as many runs as the first and second combined. The Seminoles batting average rises every inning from the third through the sixth and in the seventh inning they are still hitting .350. While the second half of games are hard on opposing pitchers, they are no better for opposing hitters. The Seminole staff also picks it up in the middle innings. Tribe opponents have scored just two earned runs in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings this year as the FSU staff has posted a 0.27 ERA in those key innings. So while the batters are piling runs on the opponent the Seminole staff is doing equally well keeping the runs off the board.

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