February 4, 2003 - by
GAMEDAY CENTRAL: No. 9 FSU Softball Faces Auburn Today At 4:00 p.m.

Feb. 4, 2003

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The 2003 Seminole softball team opens the home portion of its schedule today at 4:00 p.m. versus Auburn. The ninth-ranked Tribe split its first series of the year this past weekend at Georgia Southern and things won’t get any easier today. The Tigers are coming off an appearance in the 2002 NCAA Regionals and will provide the 2003 Seminoles with a good test early in the year.


A lot is going to be expected of sophomore Casey Hunter in 2003 and the Illinois native didn’t disappoint in her first outing of the year. Hunter, who made the first opening day start of her career, justified her coach’s faith by dominating Georgia Southern Saturday. The pitcher set a new career-high with 13 strikeouts and she didn’t allow a run through the first five innings of the game. She also issued just one walk as she improved her lifetime record to 5-0.


NFCA 1st Team All-American Brandi Stuart continued to do exactly what she has done her whole career opening day. The senior may have registered just two hits but her .333 batting average was the second-best on the team. Against the Eagles she scored more than a third (3) of FSU’s runs in the doubleheader, she had an RBI, drew two walks and went a perfect 4-for-4 in steals.


Junior Elisa Vasquez has waited patiently for her opportunity to step into FSU’s starting line-up as she sat behind All-Region catcher Kimmy Carter and this year she is getting that chance. While Vasquez will be expected to be solid defensively and help with a young pitching staff, nobody is expecting her to replace Carter’s career 136 RBIs and 54 from last seasons (both are FSU records). Not only was the Hesperia, CA stellar behind the plate, including picking off a runner and throwing out a would-be base stealer, she knocked in three RBIs to lead the team. If Vasquez can continue to knock in runs at that pace, the loss of Carter won’t seem nearly as tough to overcome.


Just like Brandi Stuart, junior Jessica van der Linden seems to be picking up right where she left off in 2002. The junior was her usual self at the plate and inside the circle as she led the team in average (.750), hits (3), slugging percentage (.750), walks (3) and on base percentage (.857). In the circle, van der Linden was the hard luck loser in FSU’s second game of the GSU twin bill. The Cerritos, CA native had a no-hitter through 4 2/3 innings and a shutout all the way into the seventh. Opposing hitters batted just .125 against her as she struck out eight hitters and didn’t issue a single walk.


While van der Linden was her average and spectacular self at the plate and in the circle, there was one area that the junior was anything but normal and that was on the base paths. Coming into the 2003 season, van der Linden had stolen just two bases in her career and attempted to swipe just five. Last season she went 0-for-2 in steal attempts. Saturday she matched her career total for steals as she went 2-for-2 against Georgia Southern. Overall, FSU went a perfect 12-for-12 in steal attempts in the doubleheader versus GSU.


Both Jessica van der Linden and Casey Hunter had strong outings opening day. In more than 13 innings, the two allowed just nine hits and one walk while combining to fan 21 batters. The Eagles hit just .205 against the two but even more impressive was how the pair handled lefties. Hunter and van der Linden held GSU lefties hitless in five tries.


No. 9 Florida State received four out of five first place votes and locked up the No. 1 spot in the ACC preseason poll released last week. Defending conference champion Georgia Tech received the other first place vote and came in second with 18 points, six behind FSU’s 24. North Carolina was the only other school to record double-digit points as they finished third with 14. Virginia was tabbed fourth and Maryland fifth.

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