April 30, 2004 - by
No. 2 FSU Closes Out ACC Play At Home Versus NC State Tomorrow At 11:00 a.m.

April 30, 2004

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Its senior day!! Come out and watch the Seminole seniors as they participate in their last regular season home game. A free Alltel Seminole T-shirt will be given to the first 150 fans and the first 500 fans will receive a free 2004 team photo card courtesy of Sunshine Network. There will also be an autograph session immediately following game two. Kids come out early and play on the obstacle course inflatable and help form the tunnel with the team. That’s Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. FSU vs. North Carolina St. sponsored by ALLTEL.

No-hitters and perfect games are nothing new to Jessica van der Linden. Coming into the North Carolina doubleheader she already had eight career no-hitters, two of which were perfect games. She has pitched two no-hitters in a week once already this season and she has twice as many no-hitters in the last decade that any other Seminole pitcher. With that being said, you’d think the ninth no-no of her career wouldn’t be that big of a deal but when van der Linden no hit UNC to clinch the ACC regular season title, it was the seniors first ever no-hitter in ACC play. It was also the first no-no thrown by a Seminole in ACC play since 3/25/97 when Stacy Venable didn’t allow a hit in a 3-0 win over Maryland. On top of all the other areas that van der Linden has set record in, she is now compiling some impressive numbers when it comes to no-hitters as well. For the first time in at least a decade (complete set of box scores not available after 1995), van der Linden pitched 2 no-hitters in a week. Amazing when you consider that FSU pitchers threw either 1 or 0 no hitters in a complete season in 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2002. In fact, van der Linden’s two no-hitters in a week were either more than or equal to the amount of no-no’s thrown in the entire season in 8 of the last 10 years and the only two years FSU pitchers had more than 2 no hitters were 2001 and 2004 when van der Linden threw five herself. Combined with Casey Hunter’s no-hitter February 18, the Seminole staff fired three no-hitters in an eight-day span. The only time this past decade before 2004 that a Seminole team threw three or more no-no’s in an entire year was 2001 and the Tribe eclipsed that in eight days. The duo then topped them by throwing back-to-back no-hitters (van der Linden’s was her second career perfect game). Van der Linden’s nine career no-hitters are more than FSU totaled in the six years (1995-2000) before she arrived on campus. Of the 18 no-hitters now thrown over the last decade, van der Linden has half of them (9) and the current FSU staff (van der Linden and Hunter) has 12 of those 17 (71%).

The last Natasha as dangerous as the current Seminole sophomore was trying to blow up “moose and squirrel” in the Bullwinkle cartoons. What Natasha Jacob is doing in 2004 is just plain scary. Jacob has been an everyday starter for two years but despite 143 at bats entering the Florida A&M game April 5th, the sophomore has managed to raise her season average 68 points to .369 in just the last 11 games. How has she done it? Jacob has hit .588 in her last 34 at bats with two doubles, two triples, six RBIs, a .765 slugging percentage and a .611 on base percentage. She is now just two points behind Jessica van der Linden for the team lead in average and she is tied with the All-American with a .510 slugging percentage. The most amazing part of the story is how far Jacob has come since her freshman season (see table below). Her numbers are way up in every major offensive category. Despite all her offensive success she has still managed to raise her game in one of the most underrated but most important facets of the game for a number two hitter, bunting. She leads the team with 18 bunt singles and 16 sacrifice bunts. When Jacob lays down a bunt, she is hitting .529. That is compared to last season where she hit .389 when bunting with seven hits and 10 sacrifices.

AVG. AB RUNS HITS 2B 3B HR RBI SLG % 2004 .367 147 35 54 3 6 2 21 .510 2003 .279 140 27 39 2 0 0 5 .293

What Jacob is doing in ACC games is even scarier. She leads FSU in average (.455), hits (10), doubles (2), triples (1), total bases (14) and on base percentage (.478). She is second on the team in RBIs (4) and runs scored (4). Compared to what she did as a freshman, the numbers are eye-popping.

2004	.455	22	4	10	2	1	0	4	.478
2003	.279	15	4	3	1	0	0	0	.267

Natasha Jacob isn’t the only one that should be sending a chill through the spine of ACC opponents. Casey Hunter is dominating the conference from her spot inside the circle like nobody else in the league. After shutting down the Tar Heels in the Tribe’s second-to-last ACC series, Hunter moved to 5-0 in ACC play with a perfect ERA of 0.00. She has not allowed a run, earned or unearned, in 31 innings. In fact she has now gone 52.2 innings without allowing a run versus an ACC opponent. The last time she allowed a run was March 25, 2003 when Maryland touched her up for two runs in FSU’s 6-2 win. In conference games Hunter has a strikeout to walk ratio of 8 to 1, with four complete games and four shutouts.

With Casey Hunter’s win over North Carolina, the lanky junior improved to 28-1 on the season. The 28th win was a new career high for the Illinois native but even more impressive it was her 20th straight win. She is now the first FSU pitcher to win 20 straight games since Rebecca Aase won an NCAA record 50 straight games in the early 90’s. Hunter is the only Seminole pitcher in the last 14 years to have two double digit win streaks in her career. Last season Hunter reeled off 15 straight wins at one point. Since falling 4-3 to LSU February 29 in the NFCA Leadoff Classic championship game, Hunter has gone 20-0 over that stretch with a 0.22 ERA, 139 strikeouts and 29 walks. In 129 innings she has allowed just four earned runs.

If you want one reason for the streak, just look at Hunter’s walks. She has not issued a single walk in four of her last six starts, three of which were seven inning outings. Hunter has not walked more than four batters in a single outing this season and in eight of her last 10 appearances she has walked two or fewer batters. For the season her strikeout to walk ratio is 5 to 1, which is easily the best of her career.

While fellow hurler Casey Hunter is having her best year ever when it comes to walks, Jessica van der Linden is in the midst of the best season in school history as far as strikeouts go. With her 14 K’s versus North Carolina, van der Linden’s season total moved to 278 and she is now just 30 shy of a new single season record. Christy Larsen set the current record of 307 strikeouts in 1991. van der Linden is averaging over 11 K’s per game and is slated to make four more regular season starts. While 30 seems likely, there is another huge milestone that is even closer. With 10 more K’s, van der Linden will reach 800 strikeouts in her career becoming only the second FSU pitcher ever to reach that plateau.

Like you needed any more evidence proving just how amazing Jessica van der Linden is, we still dug up another nugget for you. Of FSU’s 50 wins, van der Linden has won 29 of the 50 games with either a game-winning RBI or from inside the circle. She is 22-4 on the mound and has a team-leading 17 game-winning RBI’s. Ten of her 17 game-winning RBIs have come in games she was the winning pitcher. van der Linden has accounted for 58% of the team’s wins. Her 17 game winning hits are more than four times as many as anyone else on the team and is just 10 behind the total for the rest of the team combined. There is no doubt that she is the team’s top clutch hitter. She is hitting .427 with runners on, .456 with runners in scoring position and .408 with two outs in an inning, which includes 14 two-out RBIs. One of the most amazing comparisons is van der Linden’s numbers on the hill with runner’s on base and at the plate with runners on base. She is hitting .427 with runner’s on base but holding opponents to an .088 average, which means when there are runners on base van der Linden is 486 times as likely to get a hit as to allowing one.

With her big weekend versus North Carolina, Jessica van der Linden moved even closer to taking over first place in two big career record categories. The senior All-America is now two RBIs and two walks away from tying Brandi Stuart for first all-time in those categories. With just one more RBI van der Linden will become only the second player ever at FSU to hit 150 RBIs in her career and just the fifth ACC player ever to accomplish that feat.

On top of clinching the ACC regular season title, the Tribe’s sweep of North Carolina also gave the team its 50th win of the season. The 2004 FSU softball team became the quickest to reach 50 wins in program history as it continues to stake its claim as one of the best teams in school history. The only other teams to reach 50 wins while still having single digit losses were the 1992 (50-7) and 2001 (50-8) squads. The 1992 team went to the College World Series and the 2001 squad was one strike away from heading to Oklahoma City. The 2004 team is the 11th squad in 21 years to reach the 50 win mark and four of the last five Seminole teams have now won 50+ games. Only two FSU teams have ever won 60 games in a season and those squads did it back-to-back in 1991 and 1992. Both of those teams went to the College World Series as well. FSU still has eight regular season games left and at least two games at the ACC Tournament and two games at NCAA Regionals to try and reach that 60-win mark.

The last stop on NC State’s inaugural tour of the ACC is Tallahassee this weekend. The Wolfpack are having a VERY successful first season of softball. They are fighting to finish as high as fourth in the six-team league and are almost 10 games over .500 at 32-23. They have split season series with top 25 team Georgia Tech, Maryland and conference runner-up North Carolina. They only conference team that has swept NC State is Virginia and that took place just this past weekend. FSU has never lost its first-ever game against and ACC opponent going 4-0. Florida State actually started series with Georgia Tech, Maryland and North Carolina with long winning streaks. The Tribe started its series with the Jackets 16-0 and started 7-0 with both Maryland and North Carolina. FSU won the series opener against Virginia but went 2-2 in the first four games with the Cavs. The Seminoles did go on to win 10 in a row after that.

One of the areas Florida State has excelled at in 2004 is in games versus ranked opponents. The Seminoles are 11-3 this season against teams that were or are ranked. In the upcoming weeks FSU will really get tested when it comes to playing ranked teams. Despite its 11-3 record against ranked squads, none of those games has come on an opponent’s field. The majority of the Tribe’s ranked games came on a neutral field and FSU is 6-2 in those games. The Seminoles are 5-1 in the other six games, which were all played at home. The Seminoles first test against a ranked team on their field will come at Auburn Monday. The Tigers will be ready also. Eleven of the Tigers 13 games leading up to FSU’s arrival have come versus ranked opponents including No. 2 LSU, No. 9 Georgia, No. 11 Tennessee and No. 13 Alabama. Auburn went 6-5 in those games and 4-2 at home. On the positive side, FSU is 2-1-1 all time at Auburn and 2-1 versus SEC teams this season. The Seminoles will then travel to Michigan where they have never played before to face a top 10 Wolverine squad.

There is no doubt that Florida State enjoys playing at the Seminole Softball Complex. The team is 31-1 this season at home, which is the best record in team history. No Seminole team has ever gone an entire year with just one home loss. Three teams have gone the year with just two losses at home and those were the 1992 (33-2), 1988 (29-2) and 1985 (34-2) squads. For FSU to finish the year as the best home team ever, they would need to sweep the final home series of the year from NC State. The Seminoles last six regular season games will be on the road in Alabama and Michigan. The Seminoles will play at home again when they host the ACC Tournament and then will hold out hopes for hosting their third NCAA Regional in the last five years.

If you want to beat FSU, your best chance is getting on top of the Seminoles in the first inning. The first frame is the only inning FSU pitchers have allowed double-digit runs all season. Of the 52 runs the Tribe has surrendered in 2004, 29% (15) have come in the first frame. In four of the other six innings, FSU has allowed six runs or less all season. On the plus side, the Seminoles have scored the second-most runs themselves in the first inning plating 55 runs. The fewest runs scored on FSU came in the second inning were foes have plated only two runs all season. The Seminoles most productive inning is the third, usually the second time through the order, where they have scored 71 runs, over 22% of their season total.

Florida State’s 1-0 and 5-0 wins over North Carolina clinched the ACC regular season title for the Seminoles and cooled off a streaking UNC squad that came in 24-3 in its last 27 games. The two wins extended FSU’s ACC winning streak versus Carolina to 11 games and the Tribe has now shutout the Heels four times in a row. Last season, FSU went to Chapel Hill and shut down the UNC offense in 1-0 and 4-0 wins. In those 2003 games Casey Hunter and Jessica van der Linden recorded the shutouts. Those two FSU hurlers have now gone 4-0 with four shutouts in the last 28 innings versus UNC. van der Linden has thrown a one-hitter and a no-hitter in her last two starts versus the Heels and she has 27 strikeouts and just two walks in those 14 innings of work. With FSU clinching the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament and the Tar Heels clinching the No. 2 spot, the teams aren’t likely to meet again outside of the conference championship if they both get there.

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