April 15, 2003 - by
GAMEDAY CENTRAL: No. 14 FSU Softball Faces FAMU Tonight

April 15, 2003

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Florida State and Florida A&M complete their four-game series Tuesday night at the Seminole Softball Complex. The last time the team’s met at FSU, the Seminoles won 13-2 at the Seminole Classic Tournament. The Tribe is 3-0 against the Lady Rattlers this year and have now won 10 straight games from FAMU. The Seminoles have an 11-game home winning streak going against the Lady Rattlers and have out scored FAMU 91-15 during that run. Junior catcher Elisa Vasquez has feasted on Florida A&M pitching this year hitting .800 with two RBIs. Jessica van der Linden isn’t far behind with a .538 average and a .667 slugging percentage. The team as a whole is hitting .333 in three games. The Lady Rattler hitters have had some success despite being no hit by Casey Hunter. FSU’s staff ERA against FAMU is almost twice the current season ERA (1.47 compared to 0.87). On the positive side, the staff has registered 33 Ks and walked just seven batters.


Lost in the midst of FSU’s 15 game winning streak and seventh straight doubleheader sweep, was Dr. JoAnne Graf passing yet another milestone. With FSU’s 2-0 win over UCF, Graf hit the 1,200-win mark in her career and she is now the only coach in collegiate softball history to amass that many victories. In her 25th year at the helm of the FSU softball program, Graf is guaranteed her 25th straight winning season in 2003 and she is now just 17 wins away from becoming only the second coach in NCAA softball history with 1,000 fastpitch wins. No coach in NCAA softball history has more wins at one school than Graf’s 983 fastpitch wins at Florida State and she has even raised her incredible career winning percentage this year to .763.


With four wins last week, the Florida State softball win streak is now up to 15 games. The streak is the seventh longest in school history and the longest since the 1998 team won 18 consecutive games. The Tribe will have an opportunity to match that streak this week with three home games versus Florida A&M and Jacksonville. During this streak, FSU has outscored its opponents 73-12, won four games at home, four games at neutral sites and seven games on the road. Florida State has registered 122 hits during the run and allowed just 43. The biggest reason for the Tribe’s recent success though has to be pitching. Over the last 15 games, the FSU staff has an ERA of just 0.44, has shutout seven of its last eight opponents and held the opposition to three hits or less 10 times. Casey Hunter has won nine straight decisions while Jessica van der Linden has won six in a row. The two pitchers have combined for 143 strikeouts and just 27 walks while van der Linden is in the midst of a 34 inning scoreless streak and has allowed only three earned runs in her last 55 innings. During this run catchers Elisa Vasquez and BillieAnne Gay have also combined to gun down 7 of 10 would be base stealers.


All-American Brandi Stuart has done so many amazing things in her four years at FSU and her assault on the Seminole record book has been going on all season. Now she is on the verge of another astounding accomplishment. With one more steal, Stuart will reach 30 swipes this year making her the first Seminole in program history to steal 30 or more bases in four straight seasons. The senior currently has 155 steals, which is the third most in school history. Second on the list is Florida State Hall of Fame member and three-time All-American Shamalene Wilson. Although Wilson stole six more bases than Stuart in her career, she only surpassed 30 steals in a season twice in her four-year career (25-28-39-69). Missy Calkins is the all-time stolen base leader at FSU and she has a comfortable 30 base lead on Stuart but with 26 steals as a sophomore (44-26-54-61) even she wasn’t able to match Stuart’s feat.


The 2003 Seminole pitching staff has been phenomenal this season. The staff has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 40 of 44 games this season and has allowed no earned runs on 20 occasions. As impressive as that is, the staff is closing in on an even more impressive mark. With seven more Ks, the 2003 staff will reach 400 strikeouts this season. Combined with the staff’s 0.87 ERA, they would be the first group to surpass 400 Ks and have a sub-1.00 ERA since the 1992 squad struck out 448 batters and registered a 0.60 ERA. If the squad reaches 400 strikeouts, it will mark the second straight season that the Seminole staff has done that. That has only happened on two other occasions. The first time was in 1984 and 1985 (441 & 517) and they did it again in 1991 and 1992 (508 & 448). Last year’s staff recorded 475 Ks but that was in 75 games, which averaged out to 6.3 Ks per game. This year’s team is averaging over nine Ks per game. If they are able to keep that pace up, the 2003 staff could become just the third group ever to break the 500-strikeout mark and the first to do so since 1991.


Sophomore Tatiana George had a spectacular week for Florida State as the Seminoles upped their longest winning streak since 1998 to 15 consecutive wins. The shortstop led FSU in seven offensive categories and was second in three others. Last week George hit .538, scored four runs, had five RBIs, a double, a triple, slugged .769, stole a base and posted an on base percentage of .571. After opening the week 2 for 6 with a walk in a sweep over UCF, George exploded on the road at Furman. In the first game versus the Lady Paladins, George went 2 for 3 with a run scored and an RBI. She also had a sac bunt that advanced the eventual game-winning run. Followed up that performance with a 3 for 4 day in game two that included a double, a triple, three runs scored and four RBIs. Sacrificed home the game winning run on a suicide squeeze bunt for her first RBI of the game. Then came up with the bases loaded and cleared the sacks in one swing with a triple that scored three runs. The sophomore has now knocked in half of her 16 RBIs this season in the last nine days.


During this 15 game winning streak for FSU, seven everyday starters are hitting over .300 but none other than freshman Natasha Jacob is leading the way. The left fielder is leading the team with a .371 batting average over the last 15 games. During that span she has scored seven runs, registered 13 hits, slugged .400 and recorded four sac hits. She has also posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in left field. Jacob has raised her average 50 percentage points during this run and since hitting a season-low .173 after the Oregon State game, Jacob has raised her batting average almost 90 percentage points.


Coming into 2003, one of the biggest concerns for FSU was the loss of two of its top RBI hitters from the 2002 season. With the graduation of Kimmy Carter and Monique Marier, the Tribe lost 94 RBIs. Thanks to Brandi Stuart, Jessica van der Linden and Elisa Vasquez, Florida State hasn’t missed a beat. The three have combined for 80 of FSU’s 160 RBIs in 2003 and they are one of the main reasons the team is averaging one run per game more than last year’s squad. Those kinds of numbers were expected from Stuart and van der Linden but Vasquez has really stepped up and filled in for the RBIs FSU lost. The Hesperia, CA native is currently leading the team with 28 and has already surpassed her career total through 43 games this season.

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