May 6, 2004 - by
No. 2 Softball Takes On No. 7 Michigan In Ann Arbor Saturday

May 6, 2004

FSU vs UM (Game 1) |
FSU vs UM (Game 2) |
Camp Graf Photos |
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There is no doubt Jessica van der Linden is a special player. She is probably the best all-around player to ever put on an FSU uniform but the senior has always wanted to be know as a pitcher at heart and after this season, there is no doubt she has earned that. van der Linden’s work in the circle this year has elevated her to one of the best pitchers in the nation. She and Louisiana Lafayette’s Brooke Mitchell are the only two pitchers in that nation in the top five for ERA and strikeouts. van der Linden also ranks 16th in the NCAA in victories. What she is doing to the FSU record books is amazing as well. The kid who spent her first year as a number three pitcher and her second year as a No. 2, is just 23 strikeouts away form setting a new career record and retiring as the all-time strikeout queen at FSU. With her 14 K’s versus No. 15 Auburn, she also hit the 300-strikeout mark for the season. She is now just eight strikeouts away from setting a single season record as well. Like her wins, van der Linden’s K’s have gone up every year. In 2001 she had 91 in 92 innings. Her sophomore season she fanned 175 in 175 innings. Last season she broke 200 with 246 in 176 innings. This year she has 300 in just 183.2 innings. van der Linden has 10 or more strikeouts in 15 of her 32 appearances this season and in nine of those 15 games she has 13 or more K’s. In three games this year versus Big 10 opponents, van der Linden has recorded 31 K’s.

Seminole junior Casey Hunter did all she could to extend her record 21-game win streak but despite allowing just three hits, no walks and recording nine strikeouts, the hurler saw the streak come to an end. The 1-0 loss to Auburn in eight innings was her first loss since February 29 when she dropped a 4-3 decision to No. 4 LSU in the championship game of the NFCA Leadoff Classic. Hunter is now 29-2 with both of her losses coming against SEC foes. Hunter didn’t allow an earned run in the Auburn loss as the game ended with the international tiebreaker in effect. It was Hunter’s third straight start in which she hasn’t allowed a single walk. In fact, she has issued just four free passes in her last 49.2 innings. In fact, in 19 of Hunters 31 starts, she has walked one or fewer batters and in 12 of those 19 games she hasn’t issued a single walk. Since her loss to LSU, Hunter has dropped her ERA from 1.39 to 0.55, which is the third lowest ERA in the nation. Another way you can tell that Hunter is really coming into her own at the right time is looking at her strikeout to walk ratio. When FSU left California after the Kia Klassic, Hunter’s ratio was one walk per every 4.7 K’s. Since that time she is striking out 7.6 for every walk. That is a key reason the junior has gone 21-1 with a 0.20 ERA and 155 strikeouts and just 29 walks since losing to LSU in February.

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After sweeping NC State to close out the 2004 ACC regular season, the Tribe locked up its 11th ACC regular season title in 13 years. A dominating run that has seen FSU post a 30-2 record in conference games since 2001. By virtue of its 9-1 league record, FSU will have a bye in the first round of the tournament as the No. 1 seed. The Seminoles will open ACC play at 5:00 p.m. versus the winner of the Georgia Tech/NC State game that will open the tournament that day. Florida State is the defending ACC champion and has won nine of the 12 league crowns. North Carolina wrapped up the No. 2 seed and will also have a bye as they await the Virginia/Maryland winner. For more information on next week’s ACC Championship in Tallahassee, FL, please log on to

One of the main reasons that FSU wrapped up its 11th ACC title, the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament and a 9-1 league record, look no further than Casey Hunter. The junior had one of the most dominating seasons in ACC history as she went 6-0 with a 0.00 ERA. She didn’t allow a run, earned or unearned, in 37 innings of work and five of her six wins were complete game shutouts. Hunter recorded a complete game shut out win every time she started in 2004. She struck out 39 ACC hitters and issued just four walks. ACC teams also hit just .137 against her.

The second-ranked Seminole won’t be in a panic to pack up and head out to regionals as soon as the ACC Championship ends since the Tribe was awarded one of eight NCAA regionals. The Seminoles and Georgia Bulldogs were the only southeastern teams to be selected as host sites. This is the third time in four years that the NCAA has awarded FSU with a host site. The last two times FSU hosted they advanced to the regional final versus Cal in 2001 and then won the regional in 2002 by defeating Georgia Tech twice on championship Sunday. This is the first season the regional will consist of eight teams compared to the six teams in the past. The regional field will be announced on ESPN News May 16 between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m.

For the second year in a row, Seminole softball All-American Jessica van der Linden has been named a Top 10 finalist for USA Softball’s Collegiate Player of the Year award. The senior from Cerritos, CA made it into the top 10 last season and she is now one of just three players to make it into the top 10 in each of the last two seasons. Three finalists will be announced May 11. The winner of the 2004 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award will be announced May 26 at the opening ceremonies of the NCAA College World Series in Oklahoma City, OK. The winner will be recognized and presented with the Player of the Year trophy during the ASA National Council Meeting in Mobile, Alabama, in November.

For the fourth straight week FSU has held on to the No. 2 spot in the NFCA poll. After never making it as high as No. 2 before this season, the tribe has been a fixture right behind Arizona. For the first time ever this week the Tribe set a new poll first. The Seminoles received a first place vote in the Softball poll for the first time ever as they continue to distance themselves form the pack when it comes to the top two teams in the land. FSU has more wins than any team in the top 25 of either poll and fewer losses than anyone except for Arizona.

When FSU travels to No. 7 Michigan this weekend it will be FSU’s third and fourth consecutive game versus a top 15 squad with all four games coming at the opponent’s park. This is nothing new for the Tribe who seem to have played most of their ranked games in close proximity of one another this year. AT the NFCA Leadoff Classic, the Seminoles played five straight ranked opponents and went 4-1 in that stretch. AT the Kia Klassic FSU played three ranked teams in three days and went 2-1 in those games. Then FSU played three of four games against ranked opponents when Georgia Tech and Florida came to town sandwiched around a Florida A&M game. The Seminoles went 3-0 in those contests. Florida State is 9-2 overall when playing ranked opponents in consecutive outings. After starting off 1-1 versus No. No. 15 Auburn the tribe will have its work cut out if they want to avoid losing two games in a stretch of games versus ranked teams for the first time this year.

Sophomore Natasha Jacob continues to amaze with her play as a second-year outfielder. After a 2-for-3 game in the Auburn nightcap, Jacob moved into a tie for the team lead in batting average with first team All-American Jessica van der Linden. She is also fifth on the team in slugging at .497, which is amazing for a player that was once considered a slap and bunt hitter. One of the most overlooked parts of Jacob’s game has to be her clutch hitting. In 67 opportunities with runners on base, Jacob is hitting .493, with the bases loaded she is hitting .500 and with runners in scoring position Jacob is hitting a team best .540. In all RBI situations, Jacob is hitting an amazing .513. That is by far the highest clutch hitting average on the team.

FSU’s loss to No. 15 Auburn was the Tribe’s sixth loss of the season and all six defeats have come by just one run and three of the six have come in 1-0 games. Two of the Tribe’s losses have now come to SEC teams and the Southeastern Conference is the only conference to record two wins versus FSU this season. Four of Florida State’s six losses have also come to southern schools, two from Louisiana, one from Alabama and one from Florida. Considering that most people think the best softball is played in the southwest and on the west coast, the fact that FSU has gone 8-1 against teams from those regions and has four losses against southeastern teams speaks a lot about the level of play in the southern states. The Tribe has struggled versus the SEC when compared to other major conferences. The Seminoles are 2-2 against SEC schools but are 9-1 versus the Big 12, Pac 10 and Big 10.

Florida State’s first ever trip to Ann Arbor should be a doozey as the second-ranked Seminoles and seventh-ranked Wolverines square off in what could be a possible World Series match a few weeks down the road. Both teams look to be locks for No. 1 seeds in the tournament and both will be hosting NCAA regionals beginning May 20. Michigan and FSU have met once already this season in a classic battle. The two teams played to a 0-0 tie through six innings before Veronica Wootson stole home in the bottom of the sixth to give FSU the 1-0 win. The game was a semi-final match-up at the Florida State Invitational Tournament and both teams mustered just three hits a piece in the pitcher’s duel between Jessica van der Linden and Jennie Ritter. It was just the second win ever for FSU over the Wolverines who lead the all-time series 7-2. Every time the teams have played the game has taken place in Tallahassee except for 1999 when the squads met at a neutral site. The win this year stopped a seven-game losing streak by FSU at the hands of Michigan. Winning in Ann Arbor will be especially tough considering Michigan has lost just once at home all season. What will make the twin bill even more special are the two pitching staffs. FSU is the No. 1 staff in the nation and Michigan ranks fourth. Casey Hunter, van der Linden and Michigan’s Nicole Motycka are all in the top six for ERA and the Seminoles and Wolverines are two of just three teams to have two pitchers ranked among the top 40 in the country in ERA. Another thing to watch for is if FSU can keep its perfect record alive versus Big 10 teams. The Tribe is 3-0 versus the conference with wins over Michigan, Minnesota and Penn State.

After battling No. 7 Michigan for a couple of games, FSU will take Sunday off and play a rare Monday afternoon double header versus Eastern Michigan. The Eagles will enter the twin bill with a sub-.500 record as they try to record their first ever win versus Florida State. FSU is 15-0 lifetime versus EMU with 10 wins coming in Tallahassee and five coming at neutral sites. The Tribe has never played at Eastern Michigan and this is the first time the squads have met since 2000.

It might not be the most exciting part of the game but if you want to win in collegiate softball you have to be able to bunt and it is no coincidence that FSU is having one of its best season ever at the same time they are having their best bunting season in a long time. The last team to bunt as well as the 2004 squad was the 2002 team that went to the College World Series. FSU is hitting .500 this season on bunts with 42 hits in 84 bunt attempts. The 2002 team hit .491 on bunts but recorded just 28 hits on 57 attempts. The 2004 squad has 56 sac bunts while the 2002 team had an astounding 102. Part of the reason for the discrepancy in sac numbers is that FSU is beating out so many sacrifice bunts that those are turning into hits. The other distinction is that the 2004 team has been hitting so well that bunts have not been called for nearly as often.

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