April 21, 2004 - by
No. 2 Softball Hosts Red Hot Tar Heels This Saturday At Noon

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April 21, 2004

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The Home Run Derby has been re-scheduled and is set to take place this Saturday. 14 participants will be evenly divided into two teams (garnet and gold). Each participant will be given the chance to record 3 outs. The team that records the most homeruns will be declared the winner and will win a softball prize pack. Runners up will receive consolation prizes. In the case of a tie, the two teams will each select a representative to participate in the tie breaker.

When Tatiana George launched her first of two home runs in FSU’s 7-0 win over Maryland, the round tripper was a momentous hit. While it traveled just over 200 feet down the left field line, in one swing she helped erase 20 years of history. George’s home run was the 34th of the season for FSU, which is a new single season record. The Seminoles went on to hit two more bombs (George and Fricke) and their new single season record now stands at 36. The only other team to ever hit over 30 homers in a season was the 2002 squad and that team ended up in the World Series. In the last three seasons FSU has hit 91 homers. That is more than the team hit from 1994-2000 combined (90 in seven seasons) . Amazingly the HR record comes in a year when the NCAA changed the bats and ball to lessen the home run threat. The record isn’t a product of a changing game either. FSU hit it fewest home runs ever in a season each year from 1996-1999 so it was hard to see this current increase coming.

Tatiana George’s two home runs in a single game versus Maryland was a new career high for the junior. George now has five homers on the season and despite missing 26 games she is third on the squad in that category. The last FSU player to home twice in a game was Brandi Stuart who did it versus Troy State in 2003 but one of Stuart’s two homers was an inside the park home run. Both of George’s hits left the field in College Park. Although George had never hit two home runs in a single game, she had hit two in a day and that was last year in Atlanta when she went yard in back-to-back games versus Georgia Tech. Four of her nine career home runs have now come against ACC teams. For her career, George is averaging a homer once per 27 starts but in ACC play she is averaging a home run every 3.5 games.

There are so many amazing accomplishments being turned in this year by Veronica Wootson and her sixth homer of the season is just one of them. When the freshman went yard versus Florida A&M (4/14/04) she broke the freshman home run record. It was also her third straight game with a homer. She is the first player since Wendy Braye in 1997 to homer in three straight games during the regular season but you don’t have to go back too far to find the last Seminole player to go yard in three consecutive games. Current FSU third baseman Lesley Palmer did it just last season in the ACC Tournament as she homered in all three games as FSU win the conference title and she was named tournament MVP.

Veronica Wootson is the complete package. From generating offense on the bases to hitting balls out of the park to exceptional defense, the California native has done it all for FSU and the total player is now shooting up the ranks for total bases. With her two hits versus Maryland, Wootson surpassed 100 total bases in her rookie season and she is now just three bases away from setting a new freshman record. Former second baseman and first team All-American Brandi Stuart set the record in 2000 when she recorded 103 total bases. No Seminole hit the century mark in total bases last season but in 2002 Stuart set the all-time single season mark with 134.

Veronica Wootson has already set a freshman record for home runs and she is close to setting a rookie record for total bases as well. One of the records Wootson is quietly stalking would be the biggest of them all. Wootson has scored 56 runs this year and she is coming around an amazing 68% of the time she gets on base. She is now just 16 runs away from tying the all-time record set by Shamalene Wilson set during her first team All-America season as a senior in 1996. With eight regular season games, the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament still left, Wootson will have a chance at setting a new mark. She is currently averaging just over a run per game so she would need to increase that number down the stretch to have a shot. Wootson is eighth in the nation in runs scored and the only other freshman in the top 10 is Arizona’s Caitlin Lowe who leads the nation.

The series between Florida State and North Carolina dates back to 1984 and the Tar Heels are second only to Virginia in number of games played versus FSU amongst ACC teams. The Seminoles lead the all-time series 39-10 and are 10-1 all-time at home. Florida State recorded back-to-back shutouts versus UNC last year in Chapel Hill and the last time the teams met in Tallahassee FSU swept the double header 7-6 (8) and 9-5. The series has been fairly even over the last 10 games with the Seminoles holding a slim 6-4 edge. Three of those four losses to North Carolina have come in the ACC Tournament. The two teams are currently first and second in the ACC standings and these are the last two ACC games of the season for UNC. The Seminoles still have a twin bill with NC State next weekend. The Tribe has lost only one home game all season and that came to No. 7 Louisiana at Lafayette in a 1-0 game. The Tribe is 29-1 at the Seminole Softball Complex and have won 18 straight games at home since the ULL loss.

Coming into this season, everyone involved with Florida State softball knew the Tribe was going to be facing a lot of ranked opponents in 2004. The Seminoles are 11-3 versus ranked squads and still have four more games ranked foes on the docket (Auburn and Michigan doubleheaders). What is probably being overlooked on the FSU schedule though is the quality of opponents from top to bottom. FSU’s 2004 opponents have a combined winning percentage of .592 and only eight of the 37 teams the Seminoles have faced have a record below .500. Fifteen of the 37 teams FSU has faced are at least 10 games over .500 and the Tribe is 15-2 in those games. Those 15 teams have a winning percentage of .739, four still have single digit losses, 11 have 30 or more wins and three have already hit the 40-win mark. For FSU to win almost 74% of its games against the 15 best teams on its schedule and almost 79% of its games versus ranked teams speaks volumes about the 2004 squad.

Natasha Jacob continues to show why FSU coaches were so high on her as a freshman in 2003. The outfielder has never made an error in her career and she is now showing that her game is not limited to solid play in left field. Jacob is currently in the top five of 10 offensive categories including average (3rd), triples (1st), slugging (5th), on base percentage (4th), runs scored (3rd) and hits (3rd). What is so amazing about her numbers is that she is hitting second in the order behind Veronica Wootson and is often asked to sacrifice, which she is doing amazingly well as she leads the team in sacrifices with 15. That is almost triple the number of the player in second in that category. Jacob’s offensive growth was never more on display than in the Maryland double header. The sophomore hit .833 in the two games (5-for-6) with two runs scored, a double, a triple and four RBIs. She slugged 1.333 and was on base almost 86% of the time. In the first UMD game Jacob was just a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. The Coppell, TX native is really heating up at the right time. In her last nine games Jacob is hitting .517 with eight runs scored, a double, two triples, six RBIs, a .690 slugging percentage and three steals.

Florida State completed a season sweep over Florida A&M April 14 going 5-0 on the year so why was FSU’s third straight 12-0 victory over FAMU a big deal? It was a record-breaking day for Seminole All-America Jessica van der Linden. The California native reached the 20-win plateau for the first time ever in her stellar career and also struck out the 750th batter of career as well. She passed Leslie Malerich with her 752nd K and now sits second all-time in FSU history with 776 strikeouts. She should become just the second pitcher ever to reach 800 K’s by the time her career comes to a close. She is still 59 K’s away from setting a new career record and probably has a minimum of six more starts remaining so anything is possible since she is currently averaging nine per appearance and 11 per start.

Florida State’s lofty ranking is pretty cool but when it comes time for the NCAA to select host sites and seed the 64 teams in the NCAA tournament, they won’t be looking at the national polls. The NCAA will be looking at the eight regional rankings that their committees put together to come up with these decisions. The regional polls used to be released to the public but they no longer see the light of day so it is hard to know where you stand with the committee. There are five teams in the south region that have five or fewer regional losses: FSU (19-2), FAU (14-1), College of Charleston (18-4), North Carolina (21-4) and Tennessee Chattanooga (13-2). Three ACC teams look to be in the mix for the top spot in the south region with FSU, UNC and Georgia Tech (15-6). Florida Atlantic is always among the top teams in the south and they currently hold the best regional record of the group. Stetson is 39-9 on the year and is 15-6 in regional games. Florida State has just four regional games remaining (North Carolina and NC State) while FAU still has eight regional games ahead including Stetson and a 37-15 UCF squad.

                   OverallRecord    RegionalRecord
Florida State          48-5              19-2
Florida Atlantic       44-13             14-1
College of Charleston  34-17             18-4
Georgia Tech           32-12             15-6
North Carolina         38-16             21-4
Stetson                39-9              16-5
Tennessee-Chattanooga  36-20             13-2

Tatiana George’s return to the FSU line-up couldn’t have come at a better time. With four big ACC games on the slate in the next two weeks, George’s bat will be a welcomed addition especially considering the way the Californian is playing against ACC teams this season. George leads FSU with a .364 average, one double, two home runs, four RBIs, a .462 on base percentage and a 1.000 slugging percentage in ACC play. She is also fielding 1.000 in conference games and has yet to be struck out in 11 at bats. As well as George has been playing, it is hard to say anyone has been better in ACC play than junior pitcher Casey Hunter. Hunter is a perfect 4-0 in conference games with a 0.00 ERA. She has gone 24 innings without allowing a run and has struck out 25 batters while issuing just four walks. ACC batters are hitting just .139 versus Hunter and she gone all seven innings in each of her three starts.

Virginia’s win over Florida State was a rare setback for the Tribe. It was the first ACC loss for Florida State since 2001, a stretch that covered 23 games. It ended the Tribe’s 12 game winning streak over Virginia that dated back to 1999 and it also halted FSU’s longest winning streak of the season, which had just hit 14 games with a win over the Cavs in the first game of the twin bill. Even though the loss was rare, it shouldn’t have shocked anyone since Virginia has played well versus Top 25 teams this season. Florida State was the fourth ranked opponent Virginia has downed this season. They had already beaten No. 14 Fresno State, No. 22 Pacific and No. 23 Georgia Tech.

50 X 2
All-American Jessica van der Linden is already the all-time doubles queen at Florida State University. She held that title even before the 2004 season started. While she is a little of her usual pace this year, her double versus Maryland brought her one double away from two big milestones. When van der Linden records her next double, she will not only become the first player in FSU history with 50 in her career she will also become the first player ever to record 10 or more doubles all four years at FSU. She is already the first FSU player to ever record 40 doubles in a career and she is closing in on career record for walks and RBIs as well.

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