February 5, 2004 - by
No. 19 FSU Softball Opens Season At Home Friday At 4:00 PM

Feb. 5, 2004


* Florida State returns seven of nine starters from a
team that had the third-highest batting average in
school history,tied an all-time record for walks and
was also in the top five all time at FSU for doubles
and home runs in a season.

* For the first time in Florida State history,FSU returns
the ACC’s top pitcher (Casey Hunter)and top hitter
(Jessica van der Linden)in the same season.

According to coach Graf: I think this is going to be a
good year.Our schedule is the toughest that it has
ever been but I think that we have a fairly veteran
team coming back.Our new players are capable of
stepping up to the challenge.I think it is going to be a
strong year for us.The key will be Casey (Hunter)and
Jessica (van der Linden)staying healthy.Our offensive
power is going to increase despite the changes in the
bats and the balls.We are going to have more team
speed than we ‘ve ever had so I think it will be exciting
year for us.

According to coach Graf: What the NCAA has
done,all at the same time,is that the bats are
going to lose a little bit of their rebounding
speed,which will make the bats less lively.They
have also changed the core co-effi cient in the
balls,which means they will be a little deader.
You won ‘t see quite the offensive power you
saw last season but the better teams that hit
well will continue to hit well.It will reduce the
number of home runs you will see throughout
the country.I think it will be fi ne for us.
Because of our speed we will get more doubles
and triples than we will home runs but I don ‘t
think it will hurt this team at all.


* Florida State has captured the Atlantic Coast
Conference championship nine times in 12 years.
* The Seminoles have played for the NCAA Regional
title three times in the last four years on top of
advancing to the Women ‘s College World Series

* Only four teams in the history of NCAA Division I
softball have been to more WCWS than Florida

* The Seminoles have been to the NCAA Tournament
16 times in the last 18 years.

FSU will look to repeat as ACC regular season and tournament champions.

According to coach Graf: We want to obviously
repeat our ACC Championship. Winning an ACC
Title is prestigious and that is one of our main goals.
Sometimes I think we overlook that looking ahead to
NCAA Regionals.I think the kids now have a sense of
what that tradition is.That is our number one goal.
Next we want to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Once you have been to the World Series recently,
and we have been to six but just one in the last few
years,that taste is always there.Getting beyond
regionals and really kind of stepping up at the NCAA
Tournament is really the focus we want to have
this year.I think last year ‘s showing in the regional
will add fuel to the fi re because I think they will
remember what happened.There are enough players
on the team that have been to the series and didn ‘t
go back that they know what that feels like and I
think that will fuel them.Maybe that will get them a
little more pumped up at regionals.


* Florida State is 73-16 all-time in ACC play winning
a gaudy 82%of its conference games and the Tribe
has finished atop the ACC regular season standings
10 times in 12 years.

* Florida State has won more ACC MVP awards,
more ACC Coach of the Year awards and more ACC
Tournament MVP awards than any school in the

* The Seminoles ‘ 18 All-Americans are more than the
entire ACC ‘s total combined (12).

According to coach Graf: I think the ACC is an
underrated conference.We have had the number
two RPI in the country as far as conferences for
several years right behind the Pac-10.I think the
coaches in our conference have done an excellent job in strengthening their schedules,their facilities are
all getting better and we have quality coaches and
players.I defi nitely think the region of the country
you play in sometimes gets looked down upon a little
bit because we aren ‘t the west and we aren ‘t the
mid-west.The fact that ACC teams have done really
well in the postseason in the last few years and have
upset some pretty big teams has helped.It is a strong
conference and it is only getting better especially
in the future with the addition of NC State this year
and Virginia Tech and Boston College down the road.


* NC State ‘s addition to the ACC this year marks the
fi rst new softball team to play in the ACC since
Maryland joined in 1995.

* When Boston College and Virginia Tech join the
ACC,the conference will have doubled in size in a
decade going from four teams to eight.

* The Eagles,who played in the 2003 NCAA
Tournament,have been to regionals three times
since 1997.

According to coach Graf: I think expansion is good
because it makes things more
competitive.For a team like
Florida State its good.It
keeps you challenged and
makes you work a little bit
harder.I think the quality
and depth is going
to make dominance
a little tougher for
any team.You will
see more balance,
which has been
a trend the
last few years.
North Carolina
and Georgia
Tech have both
won the ACC
in the last
three years.
The balance
is defi nitely
there and it
is going to
help us


* The Seminoles are scheduled to face 15 teams that
played in the 2003 NCAA Tournament and will play
half of the fi eld from the 2003 Women ‘s College
World Series.

* Including tournaments,FSU could possibly face as
many as 25 teams that played in the 64-team NCAA
Tournament last season.

* The Tribe will host two WCWS teams in Tallahassee
(Oklahoma and Louisiana-Lafayette)and will face at
least 10 NCAA Tournament teams at the Seminole
Softball Complex.

According to coach Graf: We have a great schedule this
year.When you combine the teams we play out of
conference with the ACC and our traditional rivals like
Florida,it is going to be an awesome schedule.I really
think this group is up for that and they are looking
forward to that challenge.I believe it will pay off for
us in the postseason. Playing this strong of a schedule does a lot of positive things.It may hurt your won/loss
record a little bit but the positives are that your kids
will get recognized for postseason honors because
everyone around the country will see them play.The
pitchers will get tested and learn they just can ‘t get up pitchers will get tested and learn they just can ‘t get up
there and try to blow a ball past somebody because
they are going to see great hitters and really good
hitting teams.It will elevate us.We will see the best
pitching in the country really early and I don ‘t think
anybody will intimidate us down the road.


* This is just the second time in FSU softball history
that the Tribe will begin a season with two current
NFCA All-Americans on the roster.

* Elisa Vasquez is the fi rst catcher in Florida State
history to be named an NFCA All-American.

* Since switching to fastpitch,Florida State has never
returned two players that have combined for more
than the 81 RBIs Vasquez and van der Linden drove
in during the 2003 season.

Jessica van der Linden returns for her senior season as an NFCA first team All-American.

According to coach Graf: It is a great thing for them
if they keep their focus up.Sometimes seniors have
a way of letting down as they look toward their
future.Both of those kids are looking at their future
but hopefully we can keep them focused on the
season.If they have the same type of year they had
last year,it is going to really help us a lot and take
some pressure off other players.I am keeping my
fi ngers crossed on that.

Elisa Vasquez has become one of our top hitters over
the last couple of years.She understands her role
when she steps into the batter ‘s box and is much more
aggressive with the outside pitch.Her hard work has
paid off,as she is a very dangerous hitter with runners
on base.She is one of the better hitters in the south
region and a very tough out for opponents.”

“Jessica is a very smart hitter putting the ball in play
on whatever pitch she is thrown.A controlled hitter,
but she can hit the ball deep.A true lefty with a
sweet swing,Jessica is one of the best in the country.
A very tough out and I glad she’s a Seminole!”


* The 2003 Seminoles had one of the best seasons at
the plate when it comes to hitting for power.No
previous squad has ever combined for more doubles,
home runs and RBIs in a season than the 2003 team.

* Three returning Seminole starters slugged over
.520 last year.That was just the second time in two
decades that three Seminoles slugged over .500 in
one season and this will be the fi rst time all three
are returning.

According to coach Graf: Offensively,we will not have
any easy out and that is great for me as a coach.We
have kids that don ‘t strikeout a lot so the ball will
always be put in play.That will allow us to do some
hit and runs.We have two exciting freshmen that
will be starting in Veronica Wootson and LaShaun
Davis.Both of those kids have a lot of speed and
are so confi dent at this age.They are very mature
for freshmen.They are going to provide awesome
stability to us and bring excitement.

All-American Elisa Vasquez had a breakout year in 2003 as she almost broke FSU’s single season RBI record.

With the
seniors we have returning,Jessica,E (Elisa Vasquez)
and Beth (Wade),they all have good power and can get the bat on the ball.They do a lot of good
things,know our system and know what we like to
do.Lesley (Palmer)has had another year here and
will be a lot stronger.This is what I kind of look at as
her breakout year because she will have now been
at Florida State for a whole year.She is going to
be even better this year.She started slow last year
but she didn ‘t have a fall practice and that hurt her.
With a great fall behind her,she is going to start off
really strong and will get better and better.Tasha
(Natasha Jacob)is experienced now and is really
developing.Tatiana (George)has some experience
as a junior and none of them will be an easy out.


* Last year ‘s Seminoles and the fi fth-fewest errors
in school history and posted the best fi elding
percentage since 1998.

* Florida State catchers Elisa Vasquez and BillieAnne
Gay threw-out almost 47%of the players that tried
to steal against them and each player fi elded over
.992 last season.

* Five of Florida State ‘s returners fi elded over .982 last
season including left fi elder Natasha Jacob who was
perfect in 34 chances while starting 53 games.

According to coach Graf: We have a great group
of defensive starters and very good back-ups
at every position as well.The only change in
the infi eld is at second base where we have to
replace a two-time All-American in Brandi Stuart.
Veronica Wootsen had a great fall,which makes
me confi dent she will adjust pretty quickly.The
outfi eld might be a little different at times.We
will probably have fi ve players playing out there
since Jess will vacate her centerfi eld spot to pitch
but they are all capable and can really pick it up
and get the job done.


* It has been more than a decade since FSU returned two
pitchers who ‘s numbers were as good as Jessica van der
Linden ‘s and Casey Hunter ‘s were in 2003.

* The 2003 staff ‘s ERA was the fourth lowest in the

* Florida State was the only school in the country last
year to have two pitchers finish the season ranked in
the top 16 by the NCAA for ERA.

* Last year,Seminole pitchers allowed no triples for
the fi rst time in school history.

According to coach Graf: Casey and Jess will be the keys
to our success.Both of those kids need to stay healthy
all year.Both of them need to have great years.They
are experienced and great competitors.They don ‘t
like to lose.They are very confi dent pitchers and they
have thrown against the best during their careers.
They are ready for another challenge and they are
excited about the upcoming season.We haven ‘t
returned two pitchers coming off the type of seasons
that Jess and Casey had in a long time and that ‘s
exciting.We know what they can do.When you get
a new pitcher you have no idea how they will react
in competition but with those two you know exactly
what you are going to get game in and game out.
We know their strengths and weaknesses and I am excited.They are quality players and both potential
All-Americans. Amy Harrison is a freshman and she
knows her role. She will get some opportunities and
her future is down the road a little bit.

Jessica van der Linden is the consummate competitor.
Last year she turned a corner when she was able to take
that aggressive attitude that she has in the box and in
the outfi eld into the pitching circle.Technically speaking
Jessica gives you a lot of options in terms of setting up a
hitter.The fact that she is left-handed gives her an added
advantage,in that the majority of pitchers are right
handed.That coupled with a repertoire that includes a
variety of pitches that she can throw on command makes
her a tremendous weapon on this staff.”

Pitcher Casey Hunter finished 2003 fifth in the NCAA for ERA and 14th for wins.

Casey Hunter in what was her fi rst season pitching full
time,showed that she has the makeup to become a
dominant pitcher in this game.Having made huge strides
throughout the season in terms of her mental toughness,
situational awareness,and pitch development,I look
forward to how that experience translates into more a
more confi dent Casey Hunter.”

“As a pitching coach I can ‘t helped but feel blessed,
this staff has a tremendous amount of potential.
Casey and Jessica are the elder statement of the
staff and have helped a great deal in bringing along
freshman pitcher Amy Harrison.The three combined
give us a lot of options.”


* LaShaun Davis,who will start for FSU in the outfi eld,
was one of 20 at-large players selected to tryout for
the USA Junior Women ‘s National Team.

* Davis and Veronica Wootson are both scheduled
to start for FSU when the Tribe takes the diamond
opening day.The last time FSU started two freshmen
was 1999 when Leslie Malerich and Kimmy Carter
started for the Seminoles.Those two players went
on to lead FSU to three NCAA Regional finals and a
College World Series during their FSU careers.

Freshman Veronica Wootson will have big shoes to fill at second as she replaces two-time All-American Brandi Stuart.

According to coach Graf: They (the freshman class)are
going to be really exciting.Lena Sifen brings some
depth to the catcher position and can come off the
bench and DH.She can get the bat on the ball and is
a really steady kid.She works very hard on her own
and she will get better and better.Amy (Harrison)
will be our number three pitcher and we will use her
in some games.She will come in from the bullpen
if we get ahead in games to get her a little bit of
experience at the collegiate level.Both of those
players have a little bit of developing to do.I expect
LaShaun and Veronica to both be starters.They have
a lot of experience versus tough competition and are
very mature softball players.They are both going to
contribute immediately.


* Seniors Jessica van der Linden and Elisa Vasquez
came to FSU together in 2000 and fellow senior Beth
Wade took a redshirt in 1999.

* Junior Tatiana George,who coach Graf thinks will
assume a leadership role this year,is in her third
year as the Tribe ‘s starting shortstop.She is the fi rst
Seminole since Jesse McGregor in 1996 to start at
short as a freshman.

According to coach Graf: Jessica will be a big leader
for us.I also expect someone like Carly (Brieske)or
Tatiana (George)to step up.Beth and E are both
pretty quiet and will lead by example but Carly and
Tat are more verbal along with Jess.That is the core of
our leadership.Jessica has it all and is in every inning
of every game.This team knows how competitive she
is and this team follows her lead.She is also a great
student-athlete as far as classroom work.When she
says something she really means it and will act on it.

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