April 9, 2003 - by
GAMEDAY CENTRAL: FSU Goes For 12 In A Row Versus UCF Tonight

April 9, 2003

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If you don’t remember FSU and UCF playing in the past, there is a good reason for that. The Golden Knights are fielding a softball team for just the second year ever. The Seminoles and Golden Knights will meet for just the second time in program history Wednesday. Last season, FSU defeated the Knights 10-2 at the Buzz Classic in Marietta, GA. Tatiana George had one of her best games as a Seminole versus UCF as she went 3 for 3 with three RBIs and a home run. Brandi Stuart torched the Knights going 3 for 4 with three RBIs and a solo HR of her own. Nine FSU players recorded at least one hit in the game as the Tribe pounded out 13 hits and five RBIs in five innings against sophomore Pysha Simmons. Jessica van der Linden limited UCF to just two hits in the meeting.


Florida State and Furman will meet for the first time since 2000 when the Tribe heads to South Carolina for a doubleheader with the Lady Paladins Saturday. The Seminoles lead the all-time series 8-1 with their only loss coming in 1986 when Furman downed FSU 1-0. Florida State has outscored the Paladins 42-5 while posting six shutouts. Furman enters its mid-week twin bill with Charlotte with a record of 18-17.


With back-to-back, shutout sweeps versus Elon and North Carolina last week, the 16th-ranked Seminoles increased their season-long win streak to 11 games. Florida State is now just one win away from tying the 10th longest winning streak in team history and they will go for that mark Wednesday night at home versus UCF. If the Tribe were able to sweep, the 13-game win streak would be FSU’s longest since 1988. What is so special about the current run is that nine of the 11 wins have come away from home. In this year’s other two streaks, six and seven game win streaks, nine of the 13 wins came in the friendly confines of the Seminole Softball Complex. When the team travels to Furman Saturday they could be looking to tie the 1987, 1989 and 1993 teams with a 15-game win streak. . The 2003 group is nowhere near the Tribe’s record winning streak of 32 games set in 1985. In the last 20 years, FSU softball teams have put together winning streaks of 10 or more games in 16 of those seasons and overall they have 24 10+ game winning streaks. Last year’s longest run was 10 games and in 2001, FSU had an 11 game winning streak. The Tribe has also swept five straight doubleheaders after splitting their season-opener with Georgia Southern.


Florida State’s two wins over North Carolina bolstered the team’s winning streak to 11 games and improved FSU’s ACC record to 4-0. On top of being the eighth and ninth straight ACC wins over UNC it was also the Tribe’s 16th straight regular season conference win dating back to a 2-1 loss to Georgia Tech in 2001. The Seminoles went 6-0 in the ACC last year and after the loss to the Jackets in 2001, FSU won six straight games as they entered 2003 on a 12-game ACC win streak. To put in perspective just how amazing that is, FSU’s 16 straight ACC wins are more than the all-time ACC wins for two conference coaches (Sprangel, UVA and Madden, GAT) who have a combined 10 years on the job and just three wins shy of the 19 all-time ACC wins Maryland’s LaMandre has in her career.


Seminole junior Jessica van der Linden is well on her way to becoming FSU’s 21st NFCA All-American. She is currently hitting .452 and slugging .558. She has scored 26 runs, hit nine doubles and a triple and has 21 RBIs. Van der Linden has drawn 34 walks compared to just 10 strikeouts. Her on base percentage is .586 and she is a perfect 8 for 8 on steal attempts. In 41 chances in center field and inside the circle she is fielding 1.000. She also has four game-winning RBIs this season. The Cerritos, CA native leads the team in average, doubles, hits, walks and on base percentage. She is also second on the team in runs scored, total bases and slugging percentage. Her batting average is currently 20 percentage points higher than the all-time highest single-season batting average ever at FSU. What she is doing in clutch situations is awesome as well. She is hitting .420 with runners on base, .400 with the bases loaded, .489 with runners in scoring position, .500 with a runner on third and less than two outs and .484 with two outs in an inning. She has nine two out RBIs this year and she is advancing runners successfully 64% of the time. Compared to the numbers Brandi Stuart put up through 39 games in her 1st Team All-American season last year, van der Linden is hitting 62 percentage points higher, has more hits, more doubles, the same amount of RBIs, almost twice as many walks, half as many strike outs and an on base percentage over 110 percentage points higher.

Inside the circle she has been dominant despite playing every inning of every game this season when she isn’t pitching. Jessica is currently 10-4 with a 1.19 ERA. She has 10 complete games and three shutouts. She has thrown two one-hitters and a no hitter in 17 starts and 118 innings pitched. Jessica has allowed just 20 earned runs and has struck out 167 batters while issuing just 32 walks, which is a strikeout to walk ratio of over 5 to 1. She has struck out double digit batters in her last five starts and in eight of her last nine starts. Van der Linden is also in the midst of a streak of 23 straight scoreless innings. She is now just nine strikeouts away from breaking her single season record set in 2002. Teams are also hitting just .129 against Jessica with runners on base and she is currently averaging almost 10 Ks per game.


Jessica van der Linden continues to dominate for Florida State and that was the case again last week in a four-game sweep through North Carolina including two wins over ACC rival UNC that resulted in her selection as the ACC’s Player of the Week. The All-America candidate went 2-0 in the circle with a 0.00 ERA, as she didn’t allow a single run in either outing. In 14 innings, she struck out 25 batters and issued just two walks. She didn’t allow an extra base hit and held opposing batters to a .128 average. In a key conference game versus the Heels, the junior had a perfect game going into the seventh inning and allowed just one hit. She also struck out double digit batters in both games and has now fanned 10 or more batters in five straight games and in eight of her last nine starts. At the plate, van der Linden had the game-winning RBI in three of FSU’s four wins and had five RBIs in the four wins. She hit .417, scored two runs, hit her ninth double of the year, slugged .500, had an on base percentage of .429 and put up a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in the circle and in center field. After scoring a run and knocking in a run in FSU’s game one win over Elon, the junior had a monster game two. Not only did she strike out 12 and not allow a run, she went 3 for 4 at the plate with two RBIs, a run scored and a double. Her first inning RBI single plated the game-winning run. Van der Linden had the only RBI in FSU’s 1-0 win over UNC in Chapel Hill versus Tar Heel ace Crystal Cox as she went 1 for 2 in the game. In a scoreless game, van der Linden’s sacrifice fly put FSU up in a game they went on to win 1-0. She pitched an absolute gem in game two of FSU’s sweep. The Cerritos, CA native didn’t allow a hit or a walk through 6.1 innings against a Carolina team that hadn’t been shutout since March 8 before the twin bill against FSU. She also plated her third straight game-winning RBI on a bases loaded walk in the third inning.


On top of all the amazing things Jessica van der Linden is doing this year one of the most uncharacteristic stats has been her unbelievable penchant for striking out batters as of late. In her first seven starts she was 3-3 with 51 strikeouts and 15 walks. As soon as the calendar changed to March, the junior completely turned things around inside the circle. Since then she has gone 7-1, posted an ERA of 0.60, held opposing batters to a .126 average and struck out 116 batters while issuing just 17 walks. Over that span she is averaging almost 12 Ks per outing and has a strikeout to walk ratio of almost 7 to 1. Van der Linden has fanned double digit batters in five straight games and in eight of her last nine starts and she is now just nine Ks away from establishing a new personal season high for strikeouts in 13 less appearances. One of the hi-lites of the streak was her performance at the Buzz Classic where she pitched 17 innings and struck out 30 batters including a career-high 18 versus 2002 NCAA Tournament team Boston University. She has now won seven of her last eight decisions with the only loss coming to No. 1 Arizona.


Jessica van der Linden isn’t the only Seminole pitcher who is on a roll as of late. The entire staff is in the midst of its best stretch of the season after posting a 0.00 ERA for a week for the first time in 2002 versus Elon and UNC. Casey Hunter has won seven straight decisions and at one point she won four straight games and even freshman Julie Hauck got into the act as she pitched two innings of perfect scoreless relief against Elon. After four consecutive shutouts in North Carolina last weekend, the Seminole pitching staff has now gone 33 straight innings without allowing a run. While that is short of the team’s record 124 scoreless innings in 1993, it is the longest streak since the 2001 staff went 40 innings without allowing a run. If the Tribe can shutout UCF in game one Wednesday, they will equal that mark. The next longest streak took place in 1994 when that team went more than 60 innings without allowing a run. Amazingly, the Seminole pitching staff has allowed three or less runs in 37 of FSU’s 39 games this year.


Freshman and Texas native Natasha Jacob may still be adjusting to Division I pitching at the plate but she is in full swing when it comes to her play in left field. The Coppell native has been stellar in left as she is errorless in 25 chances this year and has dazzled fans with spectacular diving catches. Now she is starting to show off her gun also. This month alone she has turned two double plays on fly balls to left where she has gunned out a runner trying to tag up and go home. The first instance was a key play in extra innings versus Penn State and the second came at Elon. Jacob ended game one on a double play with a perfect strike to the plate. She is now responsible for two of the six double plays the Tribe has turned this year.


On top of winning four road games, two conference tilts and throwing four consecutive shutouts, one of the best sites from last weekend was the return of Lesley Palmer’s bat. The redshirt sophomore has been through a lot in a short amount of time. After taking a year off from softball to work on academics, she came to FSU in the spring and then had to jump right into a starting position at third. Just as she was getting on track, she lost a family member and took some time off. It is easy to understand why she may have been struggling at the plate at times but she looked a lot like her old self in North Carolina versus Elon and the Tar Heels. Palmer hit .444, slugged .788, recorded four hits, knocked in two RBIs and launched her third homerun of the year on the four-game road swing. The Seminoles will need Palmers bat down the stretch so they are hoping her performances are a sign of things to come.


Florida State is off to a 4-0 start in ACC action so far this season. The Tribe has smacked a homerun and ripped seven doubles in the midst of dropping 25 hits over a four game span. While only giving up four runs in those four games, the Seminoles have more than tripled their opponents’ score by putting up a total of 14 runs. On the defensive side, 10 of 13 Seminoles are boasting a perfect fielding percentage of .1000 and a team fielding percentage of .976 with only three errors on the stat sheet. Behind the plate, BillieAnne Gay and Elisa Vasquez have combined to throw out four of six would be base stealers allowing a stolen base only .33 percent of the time.

Jessica van der Linden has led the way in ACC play so far as she continues her stellar junior season for the Seminoles. With four games under her belt, she leads the team in batting average (.364), doubles (2), RBIs (4) and slugging percentage (.545). She is tied for the lead in hits (4) and second on the team in on base percentage (.467). She has started two games on the mound throwing a complete game shutout for the win and in 16.1 innings of work, van der Linden has only allowed two runs for a team-low 0.43 ERA. She has struck out almost half of the hitters she has faced (24 of 53) while giving up a total of only six hits resulting in her opposition batting a minute .113 average at the plate. Sophomore pitcher Casey Hunter has been every bit as good also. In three appearances, Hunter has a perfect 3-0 record with one shutout and two complete games. She struck out 16 batters in 14.2 innings pitched allowing only two runs and posting a .48 ERA. Out of the 10 hits she allowed, only one went for extra bases.

Beth Wade is second on the team in batting average (.333) with four hits and a double in four ACC games. She is third on the team behind Stuart and van der Linden with five total bases with a slugging percentage of .417 and an on base percentage of .357. Brandi Stuart has gone deep for the Tribe’s only home run and she also added three RBIs and slugged .438, which are both second to van der Linden. Natasha Jacob is leading the team with three runs scored in four games against ACC competition. Carly Brieske is third on the team at the plate with a .286 batting average while only seeing action in two of the four ACC games. In those two games, she has scored two runs with a double and two RBIs. Her .429 slugging percentage and her .375 on base percentage both rank third on the team leader board. Tatiana George accounted for a run and two hits, with one being a double. She ranks first in walks (6) and on base percentage (.533). George is tied for third with two RBIs.

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