Feb. 28, 2004
Columbus, GA –
Florida State put together its most complete outing of the season Saturday morning in Columbus, GA and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With the pool championship on the line and facing a top five team for the first time all year FSU dominated the game defeating No. 4 Washington (13-3) 7-1 while clinching the pool 2 title. Jessica van der Linden was masterful on the hill as she moved to 8-1 on the season . The senior hurler allowed just two hits struck out 14 batters and issued just one free pass.
Junior Lesley Palmer had the biggest hit of the game as her three-run first inning home run set the tone for the day. Beth Wade also homered and five Seminoles drove in a run as FSU defeated a Pac-10 team for just the eighth time in 47 tries.
“This was a complete team win for us,” said head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “Jess was awesome, we hit the ball well and we took control of the gamer early on. I think the key for us was keeping the pressure on a very good Washington team, which we did in almost every inning.”
For van der Linden, the win was one of the biggest of her career. For the fifth time in nine outings she struck out double digit batters and in four of the seven innings she set Washington down in order.
“I was very happy with our performance today,” said van der Linden. “There is always things I can do better personally but compared to yesterday I felt I pitched much better. I wasn’t worried about putting the ball in play today because the defense behind me is awesome and I have an amazing catcher in BillieAnne (Gay) behind the plate.
“You have to respect Washington because they are a really good hitting team but there was no pressure on us. We weren’t expected to win but we wanted it. We came out here and did our job and that feels really good.”
Washington ace Tia Bollinger (8-1) got off to a little bit of a rocky start as she walked two of the first three batters she faced. With runners on first and second and one down, the UW senior got Vasquez looking at strike three for the second out of the frame. That brought up Lesley Palmer who was 2-for-5 in her first two games at the Leadoff Classic. The junior took a 0-1 offering over the fence in right field staking FSU to a 3-0 lead. It was Palmer’s first homer of the year after hitting six last year, the second most on the team. It was also FSU’s fourth home run of the tournament.
“I think I was really focused today,” said Palmer. “One of my goals this year was to not leave people on base. I came up with two runners on and I have seen Tia before so I was familiar with what she was throwing. I just tried to stay high and go with the pitch.
“I think the home run set the tone and it was a clutch hit. When you play against Washington the game can go either way so it comes down to heart and that is the way we opened the game and played throughout the day.”
Bollinger issued another walk to leadoff the second before battling back and getting the next two outs. Veronica Wootson then singled and advanced to second as Wade moved from first to third on the play. With two outs though FSU couldn’t take advantage as Bollinger ended the inning with a K.
Seminole pitcher van der Linden cruised through her second inning of work as she fanned her fourth batter in two innings and had yet to allow a Washington base runner. She then led off the third with a hard hit single up the middle and moved to second on a wild pitch. A Vasquez ground out advanced van der Linden to third with just one away. Bollinger walked her fourth batter putting Palmer on first. With runners on the corners and one out, Tatiana George drove in her sixth run of the tournament as her fielder’s choice scored van der Linden from third.
In the fourth the Seminoles looked to add some insurance and after a leadoff out, Veronica Wootson was the beneficiary of a three base error as her deep fly ball to right field was dropped by the Washington outfielder. The freshman then came in with FSU’s fifth run on Natasha Jacob’s bunt single.
In the bottom of the fourth Washington recorded its first hit of the game off van der Linden. The senior hurler came back and got the next two outs on her sixth and seventh K’s of the game. That brought up UW cleanup hitter Kristen Rivera who had 25 homers in 2003. The Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year swung through strike three though as van der Linden fanned the side.
Van der Linden continued to dominate the Huskies in the fifth as the USA Softball Player of the Year candidate struck out two more hitters and upped her K total to 10 for the game.
Looking for their biggest win of the season, FSU got another insurance run in the sixth inning. Veronica Wootson drove a one-out double into center field and then she came home on a clutch pinch hit single by Katie Fricke. It was Fricke’s third pinch hit in five opportunities and her fifth RBI of the year.
Washington left fielder Courtney Jeffries cut into the FSU lead as she sent a leadoff homer over the center field fence to cut the lead to 6-1. As she has done all game, van der Linden stormed back setting down the next three batters with two more strikeouts raising her K total to 12.
Beth Wade got the run back in the top of the seventh as she sent Bollinger’s 2-0 offering over the fence just right of center. It was the Georgia native’s second round tripper of the tournament.
Florida State returns to action in bracket play at either 4:00 or 6:30 pm. The Seminoles’ opponent has yet to be determined. Live stats will be available for the contest at the official athletic website for FSU at www.seminoles.com.