February 21, 2002 - by
Graf Goes After No. 1125 This Weekend At Troy Cox Classic

Feb. 21, 2002

Las Cruces, NM –

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Florida State closed out the 2002 Seminole Classic by winning four straight games and moving coach JoAnne Graf within three victories of the NFCA’s All-Time wins record. The Seminoles reeled of victories versus Syracuse, Penn State, Maryland and St. Johns to finish runners-up in Classic play.

The highlight of the weekend for FSU was probably the late game come back over ACC-rival Maryland. The Terps took a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning. In the bottom half of the frame, FSU looked like it was on its way to a 1-2-3 inning when the first two batters were retired and junior Brandi Stuart was looking at a 3-2 count. After she fouled off about five consecutive pitches, the All-American sent a 230-foot shot over the center field wall to bring the Seminoles back to even. Jessica van der Linden then retired the side in order in the top half of the seventh setting the stage for some freshman heroics. With runners on second and third, freshman Tatiana George smashed a double to deep center over a drawn in outfield plating the winning run and giving the shortstop the first game-winning RBI of her 13-game career.

Florida State travels to Las Cruces, NM for the Troy Cox Classic this weekend.


DAYTON (0-0-0): The Flyers open up their 2002 campaign at the New Mexico State/Troy Cox Classic this weekend. Dayton is coming off of a 19-31 season and a fifth place finish in the Atlantic 10 conference. They lost only three starters off of last year’s squad. The Flyers are just one season removed from the most successful campaign in school history. Dayton posted the most wins in a season in 2000 as the squad went 35-23-1 and head coach Judi Eickemeyer earned her second A-10 Coach of the Year title. Florida State leads the all-time series with Dayton 1-0.

NEW MEXICO STATE (6-14-0): The Aggies are in the midst of a nine game losing streak, which included losses to 2001 National Champions Arizona (8-0) and to traditional powerhouses Nebraska (6-0) and Arizona State (8-0). NMSU is coming off of a 25-47 season in 2001 but finished third in the Sun Belt Conference (11-9). Junior catcher Christine Stephens is off to a great start hitting .339 with three home runs, seven doubles and is slugging .610. Her 13 RBIs also lead the team. Freshman Jodi Spino, listed at catcher also, is off to a great start as well. The Maple Valley, WA native is hitting .333 with five doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs while slugging .566. On the mound, Ryon Adams is leading the team in ERA (3.61), wins (4) and shutouts (1). Sophomore Anita Knight leads the team with 15 appearances but is just 2-10 so far this year. The team is batting .272 as a whole heading into Tuesday’s doubleheader at Texas Tech. Florida State leads the all-time series with New Mexico State 1-0.

TEXAS TECH (3-12-0): After opening the season 3-2, the Red Raiders have dropped 10 straight games and have a staff ERA of 7.61. Texas Tech has faced a tough schedule thus far, losing games to UCLA, Mississippi State, UMass, Arizona State, LSU and Alabama. Senior outfielder Eva Harshman is leading the club offensively with a .318 average and a .500 slugging percentage. She already has amassed three doubles, a triple, a home run and five RBIs this season. Sophomore Andrea Joachims and junior Kristi Robles are leading the team with eight RBIs apiece. No Red Raider hurler has an ERA under 6.00 at this point of the season. California native Kristina Blair leads the team with a 6.55 ERA and is 1-3 on the season. Florida State and Texas Tech have never faced one another.


According to the stats, a case can be made that junior Brandi Stuart should be hitting lead-off for FSU. She is currently hitting .750 when leading off an inning and is batting a whopping .688 with the bases empty. Add to that the fact that Stuart is already 15-for-15 in steals attempts and the numbers seem to lead to the prototypical lead-off hitter. The only problem is she also leads the team in slugging and home runs.


After weather forced the cancellation of games versus Cal State Fullerton and possible match-ups with Utah and Michigan at the Tallahassee Democrat/Seminole Invitational last season, FSU faces an ever more daunting schedule in 2002.

The Seminoles have already played more Top 25 teams in 13 games this season than they did all of last year. Florida State has already faced No. 9 Washington, No. 20 South Carolina, No. 21 Florida Atlantic and No. 23 Georgia. The Seminoles are scheduled to face No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 14 Cal State Fullerton and No. 24 Mississippi State. Depending on tournament play, FSU could also meet up with No. 3 Arizona, No. 6 Washington again, No. 8 Arizona State, No. 9 Nebraska, No. 10 Michigan, No. 13 Fresno State, No. 19 Notre Dame, No. 22 Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 25 UMass. FSU is also schedule to face three other teams receiving votes in this week’s poll. That is a total of 15 opponents from the nation’s Top 25.


Nobody is hitting better in clutch situations this season than Jessica van der Linden. She is leading the squad with a .417 batting average with runners in scoring position and is hitting a robust .667 with a runner on third and less than two outs in the inning. She is also one of the team’s top two-out hitters sporting an average of .308. Add that to the fact that she is advancing runners successfully over 57% of the time and you see what we mean. When you put that all together, combined with her average with the bases loaded, she is hitting .307 in clutch situations.


The Seminole Classic turned into a coming out party for freshman Tatiana George. The California native has been thrown into the fire since day one by having to reacquaint herself with the shortstop position while starting there against some of the nation’s best teams. On top of getting herself adjusted to one of the most demanding defensive positions, she had to hit some of DI softball’s top pitchers. The Fontana, CA native struggled a little at the plate despite the fact she came in as a highly-touted offensive player. George showed why she gained that reputation with her performance at the Classic.

Against ACC-rival Maryland, the right-handed shortstop doubled to left to start the third inning. She advanced to third on the next play but was unable to come home that inning. After Maryland took a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth, Brandi Stuart’s solo home run evened the game. The Seminoles staged a bottom of the seventh rally that brought George up with one out and runner’s on second and third. Knowing the game was on the line, Maryland drew in its outfield for a potential play at the plate. It wasn’t necessary as George rocketed a would-be triple into the gap in right center to score the winning run and end up with a double.

After getting robbed of a triple the night before, George made up for it the next day versus St. Johns. With runners on first and third and one out, George once again came up with a big hit when she laced a triple to right field scoring two runs for the first multi-RBI day of her Seminole career.


Coming into 2002, one of the main areas of concern for Florida State was replacing three infield starters and a center fielder. Due to the graduation of first baseman Robyn Gauger, shortstop Natalie Bennett, thrid baseman Staci Brandon and center fielder Serita Brooks, few would have been surprised if the Seminoles struggled in the field as four newcommers, two of which are freshman, adjusted to one another. That really hasn’t been the case. The play of the Seminole defense this seasons has been one of the most pleasant surprises of 2002. The 2001 squad posted a .975 fielding percentage and made nine errors in the first 13 games and that group included four seniors, two juniors and a sophomore. This year’s group, made up of three juniors, three freshman and a sophomore, has made just one more error and has a fielding percentage of .975. Not a bad start.


Sophomore Elisa Velasco has started 11 of FSU’s 13 games this season with 10 of those starts coming at either catcher (5) or first base (1). Her 11th start came at designated player. In two less starts, she leads the team with 77 chances and has yet to make an error. She and Monique Marier are the only starters who have not made an error in 2002.


Freshman Casey Hunter recorded the first two wins of her Seminole career at last weekend’s Seminole Classic. The Millstadt, IL native threw 117 pitches in a complete game win over Syracuse picking up the Seminoles after they dropped the day’s first game versus Georgia. The game also marked the first start at catcher in 2002 for sophomore Julie Jordan. Jordan seems to have fully recovered from a back injury that sidelined her for 53 games last season and she is also finding her stroke at the plate. She is hitting .273 and has scored a run in four starts.

Hunter picked up her second win of the tournament on the final day. She started FSU’s last game against St. John’s pitching three innings of shutout ball before running into trouble in the fourth, which led to another first of sorts. Senior All-American Leslie Malerich came in to garner the save, which was her first in more than a year.


Would-be base stealers have always had to be aware when Kimmy Carter was behind the plate and nothing has changed this season. The senior co-captain has already thrown out five of the 11 runners who have tried to steal off of her. In 70 games last year, Carter threw out a total of 10 base runners. She is already half way to that number through just 13 games.


FSU’s 4-2 loss to Florida Atlantic was unique considering FSU set six different season highs in the game. On the positive side, the Seminoles set season highs with eight walks, two sacs, 14 assists and just two walks allowed. On the flip side, FSU struck out a season-high 13 times, left 13 runners on base and equaled a high for wild pitches with one.


Against St Johns, Florida State set seven season highs on the positive side of the ledger but unlike the FAU game, they didn’t set a single season high on the negative side. The Seminoles set season highs for runs scored (8), hits (11), RBIs (6), triples (1), total bases (13), assists (15) and double plays turned (1) in what was the most productive day at the plate for FSU this season.


Senior Kimmy Carter is just 54 games away from entering the all-time games played list for FSU Softball. She has averaged 66 games per year in her three years with the team.

Carter is also 123 at bats away from becoming a career leader for Florida State in that category. She has averaged 180 at bats per season in her previous three years.

Carter and junior Brandi Stuart are both nearing career records for runs scored. Carter is 35 runs away after scoring 38 times in 2001. Stuart has two seasons to secure the 30 runs she needs to make it on to the list. At her current pace, Stuart will end up second all-time by the time her career is over with 178 runs.

Carter and Stuart should both find themselves on FSU’s career list for hits by the time the season is over. Carter needs just 51 this season after posting 64 her junior year. Stuart could end up as FSU’s All-Time hits leader when all is said and done. At her current pace she would finish her career with 304 hits, which is just six hits shy of No. 1 on the list.

Carter, Stuart, Jessica van der Linden and Monique Marier are also zeroing on the record for all-time doubles after the 2001 squad set a record with 93 last season. Carter is just two away from making it on the list and if she repeats her effort of nine from 2001 she will end up third on the all-time list. Marier and van der Linden each launched 14 last year (the second most in team history). Marier is just 7 away from reaching the all time list while van der Linden is 6 away. Van der Linden is on pace to shatter the record of 38 after her record freshman season. Stuart is also on pace to take over first after recording 18 doubles in just two seasons.

The same duo of Carter and Stuart are also nearing the triples record. Carter is two away and Stuart has two seasons to record eight.

Brandi Stuart has already amassed 81 steals in just two seasons. She is fifth on the all-time steals list and is projected to finish third all-time with 144 swipes.

Here they go again. Carter and Stuart are closing in on the all-time RBI record also. At her current pace, Carter could finish her career tied for fourth and needs just 10 to break onto the all-time list. Stuart is just 19 away from making the RBI list and has posted 36 RBIs in back-to-back seasons. If she does that over the next two years, Stuart will end up FSU’s all-time RBI leader.


In a rather small ceremony after FSU’s 4-1 win over Louisville, Seminole sophomore Jessica van der Linden was awarded her Pitcher of the Tournament trophy by the Puerto Rican National Team coaching staff. The Cerritos, CA native won the award after going 4-2 and helping Puerto Rico qualify for the 2003 Pan American Games and the 2002 World Championships. She traveled with the squad to Venezuela to compete in the qualifier.


Senior All-American Leslie Malerich will see the bulk of the action for FSU in 2002 against the Seminole’s toughest competition as she did against No. 9 Washington and No. 22 South Carolina last weekend. Malerich will get the short end of the stick statistically by going up against the toughest teams but Jessica van der Linden will also play a crucial role. The reigning ACC Rookie of the Year is off to a great start in 2002 despite getting the start against tougher opponents this year than she did as a rookie. Van der Linden drew the start versus a very good FAU team this past weekend and despite the loss, she is off to a great start.

Van der Linden is currently 4-1 with a 0.80 ERA on the season and has pitched five complete games. She has recorded a shutout and already pitched two two-hitters. She has allowed just four earned runs and has struck out 36 batters, which leads the team. She is averaging eight K’s per game. Van der Linden is also holding opposing batters to a .117 average. She has been especially tough on lefties too, holding them to a minuscule .105 batting average. She is also limiting batters to a .149 average with runners on. When it comes to closing out an inning, van der Linden is unmatched. Opposing teams are hitting .026 against her with two outs.


Sophomore Elisa Velasco (know as ‘E’ to her teammates) blew-up at the Seminole Challenge and rebounded from a tough 0-of-7 start to raise her average 316 percentage points. The Hesperia, CA native turned things around by going 6-for-12 with a double and three RBIs versus top competition. She slugged .583 for the tourney, drew two walks, had an on base percentage of .533 and had a perfect fielding percentage (1.000) starting at catcher and first. She led the team with a .571 average with runners on and an even more impressive .667 average with runners in scoring position. She also hit .600 when batting with two outs in an inning and advanced runners successfully over 66% of the time.


2001 was one of the top seasons in the 23-year history of Seminole softball and the team begun that campaign by getting off to a quick start and posting a 12-1 record out of the gate. That team didn’t have to face the level of competition that the 2002 squad faced in the first thirteen games but despite the respective schedule strengths, there isn’t that great of a statistical difference between how the 2001 and 2002 squads started their seasons.

Looking at the stats, the three biggest areas of concern when looking at a snapshot of the two starts is the amount of RBIs, the team’s batting average with runners on base and the team’s ERA. The ERA is not such a great concern due to the fact the Seminoles played four teams that are among the best in the nation and Leslie Malerich and Jessica van der Linden both pitched well against strong competition. Getting the timely hit FSU needed has probably been the biggest concern so far. That seems to be improving as evidenced at the Seminole Classic where FSU left fewer runners on base and seemed to get more timely hits. Both Kimmy Carter and Tatiana George came up in RBI situations and got key hits to drive in big runs.


Does anyone remember the start All-American Brandi Stuart got off to in 2001? Just in case you forget, here’s a little reminder. Stuart, a junior from Cerritos, CA, led the Seminoles in seven different offensive categories through 12 games. Stuart hit .487 and led the team in RBI’s (10 tied for first) slugging percentage (.667 tied for first), hits (19), home runs (2), total bases (26), steal attempts (6) and stolen bases (5 tied for 1st). She was second in runs scored (9) and third in walks (4), Stuart also led the team with a .650 batting average with runners on base, led the squad with a .667 average with runners in scoring position, had the most 2-out RBI’s (4) and she led the team with a 1.000 batting average with the bases loaded. Stuart also excelled in tournament play where she batted .500 with eight RBI’s and two home runs. That all culminated in Stuart being named NFCA/Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week.

If the first eight games of 2002 are any indication, Stuart might shatter those early numbers this year. In just eight starts, Stuart is hit .556 with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs. She slugged .741, had an on base percentage of .586 and was a perfect nine-of-nine in stolen base attempts. She hit 1.000 when leading off an inning and advanced runners successfully more than 55% of the time. She led FSU in batting average (.556), runs scored (9), doubles (tied with 2), total bases (20), slugging (.741), hits (15), home runs (1) and on base percentage (.586). If she is able to sustain a level of play just with in the same vicinity as those numbers, Stuart will become FSU’s first junior 1st-Team All-American since Serita Brooks accomplished that feat two seasons ago.


There is no doubting what head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf has accomplished in her 23 seasons at Florida State. The one and only coach in Seminole softball history has won two slowpitch national titles, taken FSU to 14 NCAA Regionals and five Women’s College World Series, won eight ACC Titles, coached 21 All-Americans, been named ACC Coach of the Year four times and never had a single losing season in 23 years. While every one of those feats is impressive, none can match the record she is about to set.

With just 3 more wins, Graf will break the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) record for career victories and will do it in almost five fewer years than the current record holder Judi Garman of Cal St. Fullerton. Graf entered the 2002 season with 1113 wins of which 894 have come during fastpitch competition. She also appears in the top 10 of every NCAA coaching record and is in the top 4 in five of those six categories.


Is this a coincidence or what? Just as Dr. JoAnne Graf prepares to make softball history this season, she will have the opportunity to face as many as three other coaches that appear on the NFCA top 10 All-Time wins list.

After facing USC coach Joyce Compton and her 804 wins at last weekend’s Seminole Challenge, coach Graf and the Seminoles will welcome another coaching legend Friday. Georgia coach Lu-Harris-Champer is currently the seventh-winningest active coach by percentage and sits just four spots behind coach Graf on that list. Graf had a career winning percentage of .765 entering the season while Champer stood at .735

Coach Graf will also face Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso, who is fourth on the NCAA’s Winningest Active Coaches list (by percentage), when FSU travels to one of the nation’s toughest tournaments at the vaunted Kia Classic. Depending how things go at the Kia, Graf could also run into Arizona coach Mike Candrea (No. 2) and Fresno’s Margie Wright (No. 6) who both appear on that same list.


When senior Monique Marier came to FSU last season as a Junior College transfer and the leading home run hitter in the nation in 1999, people expected to see some power and Marier didn’t disappoint. She led FSU in homers (6), RBIs (38), slugging percentage (.565) and she had the second-most doubles in a season with 14. Unlike many power hitters around the nation, Marier also hit for average during her first season of D1 softball as evidenced by her .313 average, fifth on the team. After ‘adjusting’ to the D1 game last year, its scary to think what she will have in store for 2002.


If the last name of two of FSU’s newcomers, Shandra and Shundra Colzie, sounds familiar, it should. The twins from Miami are the sisters of four-time letterwinner James Colzie who played football at Florida State from 1993-96. Colzie played in 10 of the Seminoles 11 games as a senior in 1996 and was tied for the team lead with three interceptions. James Colzie is currently the defensive backs coach for the FIU Golden Panthers who will play their first season of football this fall.


With the addition of California natives Tatiana George and Bryttani Lindheim, one-third of FSU’s roster is now made up of Cali-kids. The West Coast has long been fertile ground for the nation’s top softball players and FSU has increased its presence in the area especially over the last two seasons. In 2001, the Seminoles landed three top prospects from the Golden State in Julie Jordan, Elisa Velasco and ACC Rookie of the Year Jessica van der Linden. They joined All-American junior Brandi Stuart who hails from Cerritos, CA. With seven players from the state of Florida, California is gaining on the Sunshine State when it comes to Seminole Softball.


The 2001 season was a great one for Seminole softball in many aspects. The team was ranked from wire-to-wire once again and made a return trip to an NCAA Regional final. The Seminoles also captured the NCAA’s ERA crown but what this team did when it came to doubles was amazing.

In 2001, FSU shattered the team’s doubles record set in 1999 when the squad hit 71 on the season. Last year’s team hit an amazing 93. The 2001 Seminoles also had two players come within two doubles of tying the all-time record for doubles in a season when Monique Marier and Jessica van der Linden each hit 14 two-baggers.


Junior All-American Brandi Stuart is on the verge of re-writing the FSU record books and she still has two seasons left. The newly elected co-captain is coming off her best season ever and has a chance to own almost every offensive record in Seminole softball history.

After a stellar rookie campaign, Stuart improved in almost every category during the 2001 campaign. She raised her batting average 12 percentage points from .349 to .361, scored 10 more runs (49 versus 39), doubled her doubles (from 6 to 12) and hit more than twice as many homeruns (5 compared to 2). She equaled her RBI total of 36 and raised her slugging percentage from .442 to .515, an increase of 73 percentage points. She also cut down on her strikeouts by almost 38% (from 34 to 21). Stuart also was more patient at the plate garnering 11 more walks in 2001 (28 versus 17).

Another area of Stuart’s game that is often overlooked is her ability to steal bases. In two seasons, she has amassed 72 swipes. That is just 25 behind All-American Serita Brooks’ total from her two years at Florida State and she is considered by many to be one of the top base-stealers in Seminole history. Brooks currently holds three different NCAA records for stolen bases.

At her current pace, Stuart will finish in the top two for runs scored, first in doubles, fifth in triples, third in steals and first in RBIs amongst FSU’s all-time leaders. She would single-handedly wipe away almost 20 years of history. That’s impressive.

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