February 26, 2003 - by
GAMEDAY CENTRAL: FSU Faces Off With Mercer Tonight

Feb. 26, 2003

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Those used to watching Seminole softball via Live Stats are in for a treat. Starting with the Mercer doubleheader, all FSU softball home games will now be shown via OCSN’s new state of the art Game Tracker. The links to the Game Tracker are on the front page of seminoles.com and each game has its own link. Check it out and enjoy the newest live stats technology.


FSU will try to remain undefeated against Mercer when they meet for a doubleheader Wednesday. The Seminoles have outscored the Bears 129-16 in 22 games since 1993, and Mercer has scored only one run against FSU in the last two years. Last season, the Seminoles defeated the Bears twice at Bear Field in Macon, Georgia. In the first game, Brandi Stuart went 2-for-3 and homered to center field in the second inning. After stealing second and third in the sixth inning, Shandra Colzie scored on a sacrifice fly by Kimmy Carter and the Seminoles went on to win 2-0. In the second game of the doubleheader, Mercer committed two errors and finished with only two hits but managed to score one run before falling 2-1. Colzie went 1-for-2 with a walk and scored Florida State’s only two runs. Jessica van der Linden pitched all seven innings.


FSU will face Mississippi State for just the eighth time in school history Friday. Florida State leads the all-time series 4-3, but the Bulldogs have defeated the Seminoles in their last three meetings while shutting FSU out in their last two. The Bulldogs handed the Seminoles their only loss in last year’s Sunshine Classic, winning 2-0. After a Florida State error put runners on second and third in the first inning, Jennifer Nelson scored on a sacrifice fly by Blaire Brown. Mississippi State scored again in the fourth inning when Brooke Best doubled, allowing Jennifer Jessup to score from second. Florida State’s Jessica van der Linden went 2-for-3 and allowed only one earned run. The last time the Seminoles beat the Bulldogs was in 1986.


FSU will meet Pittsburgh in the 2003 Seminole Challenge this weekend. The teams met for the first time ever in March of 2002 when the Seminoles defeated the Panthers 7-0 in Tallahassee. Brandi Stuart scored the first run in the second inning after advancing to third on a wild pitch. She would then lead the Seminoles to victory going 3-for-3, including a grand slam to right field in the third inning. Jessica van der Linden went 1-for-2 with a walk and scored 2 runs. Leslie Malerich pitched four good innings and Casey Hunter was credited with the save.


Any time you play a Top 25 team, especially one from the Pac-10, you have your work cut out for you. That was the case for FSU in a 2-0 loss to Oregon State at the 2003 NFCA Leadoff Classic. The loss was a tough one since the game was so close and because it ended three big Seminole streaks. The Beavers victory halted FSU’s seven game winning streak, ended Brandi Stuart’s 14-game hitting streak and a brought to an end a shutout streak that dated back to the 2003 College World Series. Prior to the Oregon State game, FSU had not been shutout since the second game of the 2002 WCWS when national champion Cal and Jocelyn Forest beat the Tribe 1-0.


Pitcher Casey Hunter continues to impress in her first year as a starter for FSU. The Illinois native is basically a freshman in terms of actual playing experience but she is getting better appearance-by-appearance. The best example of that is looking at what she did last week in starts versus Florida A&M, No. 25 Pacific and No. 18 UMass. She no hit the Lady Rattlers, two-hit Pacific and then allowed just one hit versus UMass. In those three games she struck out 34 batters including a career-high 15 against the Tigers. Hunter reached double digit strikeouts in two of her three starts, at one point she had allowed just one run in 18 innings and for the week she allowed just three hits in more than 22 innings including three games versus Top 25 teams. She posted a near perfect ERA of 0.62 and also held opposing batters to a rock bottom batting average of .045. She held opposing batters to just one hit in 14 opportunities with runners on base and right-handed batters batted just .043 of the Seminole hurler.


It isn’t so much weird as it is good pitching that sophomore Casey Hunter threw a no-hitter, a one-hitter and a two-hitter within six days of each other but what is weird are the dates of those games. Hunter’s two-hitter versus Pacific marked the second consecutive season an FSU pitcher threw a two-hitter on February 23 and her February 22 one-hitter against UMass came exactly one year after Leslie Malerich threw a one-hitter February 22, 2002 at the Troy Cox Classic.


Although the Seminoles went 1-2 at the NFCA Leadoff Classic, there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the three games. Florida State won its first game of the 2003 season against a ranked team and they did it in convincing fashion. The Tribe came from 1-0 down to score eight runs in the final four innings to beat then-No. 18 Pacific 8-1. You also had the play of Casey Hunter who struck out 24 batters, posted an ERA of 0.89 and allowed just three hits in almost 16 innings of work. Even the Seminoles two losses weren’t so bad. They lost a 2-0 game and a 2-1 game to ranked opponents without two of the team’s top four hitters. Elisa Vasquez (who had an injured thumb) and Lesley Palmer (who missed the weekend in an excused absence) had combined to drive in 13 of FSU’s 51 RBIs, combined to hit .340, slug .566 and were responsible for nine of FSU’s 20 extra base hits but neither played in Columbus. It would have been fun to see how the Seminoles would have done with a full compliment of players.


The game plan seemed to be the same for FSU every time out this season. Score early, score often and then cruise to the finish line. Entering the 2003 NFCA Leadoff Classic, the Tribe had scored 42 runs in the first four inning of games compared to 28 in the last three. In Columbus, GA, FSU didn’t score once in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd innings and only scored one run in the first four innings. On the other hand, the Tribe posted eight runs in the final three innings of those games.


The list of candidates for clutch hitter coming into the 2003 season was a long one. You had a reigning 1st Team All-American in Brandi Stuart, a member of the ACC’s 50th Anniversary team in Jessica van der Linden, Shundra Colzie who homered off Jennie Finch in the College World Series and Tatiana George who was one of FSU’s best hitters before a late season injury in 2002. While all of those players are getting their fair share of clutch hits, none can hold a candle to Carly Brieske. The freshman outfielder is the only player to have more than one game-winning RBI this season as she leads the team with three game-winning hits. She has already registered a walk-off, two run single in the 10th versus Auburn, an RBI single to win the game in the sixth versus Iowa State and then pushed across the eventual game-winning run in the Tribe’s 8-1 win over Pacific.


No Seminole has righted herself as much as senior Shandra Colzie has over the last couple weeks. After reaching a season-low average of .077 after the February 7 game versus FAMU, Colzie has raised her average 233 percentage points in just the last nine games and she has been red-hot of late and especially over the last five. Since a pinch-hit appearance versus Iowa State February 15, Colzie has hit .545 (6 for 11), scored three runs, knocked in an RBI, stolen a base and struck out just one time.


It wasn’t realistic to think FSU would keep its lofty .300 team batting average entering a tournament with 19 ranked teams and while the average did dip a little, the Tribe is still hitting the ball amazingly well. Entering Wednesday’s DH with Mercer, FSU was batting .291 as a team, slugging .357 and had an on base percentage of .424. Six Seminole starters are still hitting over .300 and seven have batting averages at .297 or better. Three starters are slugging .489 or higher and six starters have an on base percentage of .400 or better.


One of the biggest surprises in 2003 has been the stellar play FSU has been getting behind the plate this year. Everyone knew Elisa Vasquez and BillieAnne Gay were talented but replacing one of the all-time greats in Kimmy Carter seemed to be one of the biggest challenges facing this year’s squad. The two catchers have made the transition seamlessly. They are throwing out 48% of would-be base stealers highlighted by Gay’s 4 for 4 performance at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in throwing out base stealers. Carter threw out 31% of would-be base stealers her senior year. Gay and Vasquez are fielding .986 and .987 compared to Carter who fielded .988. The two are even hitting like old number 8 as they have a combined average of .283, a combined slugging percentage of .396 and they have driven in 10 runs already this season. Through 16 games last year, Carter was hitting .267, slugging .400, and had driven in 11 RBIs.

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