Feb. 20, 2003
Tallahassee, FL –
Florida State will definitely have its work cut out at the 2003 NFCA Leadoff Classic. On top of eight of the nation’s top 10 teams and 18 total teams from the 2003 preseason poll, the tournament features 19 squads who competed in the 48-team NCAA Tournament last year. The Tribe has reasons to be optimistic entering the tournament. Not only did they sweep the field in their last tournament but they are also 116-89 all-time against the NFCA Leadoff Classic field. When you remove conference rival UNC, the Tribe is still 79-79 against the best college softball teams in NCAA DI history. In their pool, FSU is 12-5 against its opponents and does not have a losing record against any of those squads. FSU is 11-4 against UMass and 1-1 versus Pacific but they have never faced Oregon State. The Beavers are one of just two teams in the NFCA Leadoff Classic that the Seminoles have never played. If the Seminoles do have a concern it is their recent play against teams in their pool where they have posted a 1-3 record in the last four meetings.
Florida State and Pacific last met in March of 2000 when Pacific picked up the 5-2 victory. Pacific took the lead in the bottom of the first but Florida State came back in the top of the second and picked up two runs. In the bottom of the fourth, Pacific regained the lead and as FSU was staging a comeback, the game was called due to weather. The Seminoles had four hits on the day led by Staci Brandon who went two for two with two RBI’s and a double. Jen White-Stokes was pegged with the loss after striking out four and walking one. Leslie Malerich pitched two innings striking out three and walking three.
UMass won the last meeting between the schools 3-2 at the Seminole Invitational Tournament. UMass took a 1-0 lead in the bottom half of the first inning on a hit and an FSU error. Florida State managed to get out of a bases-loaded jam with a strikeout and a fly out to left field. UMass scored two runs in the 5th inning off of three hits. Florida State had a total of five hits throughout the game. Second baseman Brandi Stuart went 1 for 2 with a double and a walk and shortstop Tatiana George went 1 for 3 with a single and an RBI. Jessica van der Linden went 1 for 2 with a single, a walk, and a run scored. Leslie Malerich pitched the complete game giving up seven hits, three runs, five walks and six strikeouts.
One of the most encouraging signs for FSU as they enter the 2003 NFCA Leadoff Classic is the team’s hot play at the plate. Coming into the weekend FSU is hitting .300 as a team and has a team on base percentage of .438. After the fifth game of the season versus Oregon, the Tribe was hitting just .231. In the next eight games, FSU has hit .343 and raised its team average 69 percentage points. Six everyday players are now hitting .300 or better and eight Seminoles will enter Friday’s game versus Pacific currently on a hitting streak. Last year’s World Series team never hit above .284 during their magical season so it is safe to say that the 2003 Seminoles might have even more fire power than last years squad.
SOMETHING TO SHOOT FOR
Another reason FSU enters the NFCA Leadoff Classic cautiously optimistic is the team’s current win streak. Florida State has now won six games in a row after a 4-3 start. The Seminoles’ current six game winning streak matches the second longest streak of the 2002 season. Last year the Tribe’s two longest winning streaks were six and 10 games. If FSU is able to match that 10 game streak this weekend, they will have beaten at least three ranked teams and will be in the prestigious gold bracket at the NFCA Tournament.
NO YOU DON’T
A lot is being asked of sophomore pitcher Casey Hunter. The Millstadt, IL native is stepping in for one of FSU’s all-time greats in Leslie Malerich and is doing a pretty good job. The best example of that was her performance last week. Hunter pitched 21 innings, posted a record of 3-0, didn’t allow a single earned run, struck out 28 batters, walked just four, held opponents to a .116 average and threw the first no-hitter of her career. She is now 7-2 on the season with an ERA of just 0.92. She has seven complete games, three shutouts and has already K’ed 67 batters in just 53 innings of work. She also has a strikeout to walk ratio of 4 to 1 this season.
Since 2000 was the last time FSU was invited to play in the prestigious NFCA Leadoff Classic, the only comparison this squad has to that level of play in a regular season tournament was when they took part in the 2002 KIA Klassic. When Florida State traveled to Fullerton, CA, few people outside of Tallahassee were expecting the Tribe to make much of a splash on the west coast. The tournament featured nine ranked teams, including the last two national champions and FSU was in one of two four-team pools that featured three ranked opponents. It is safe to say the Tribe opened some eyes and proved that east coast teams can also play ball by advancing to the final four. Florida State, which was winless in six games versus ranked teams in Tallahassee before the trip, downed three top 15 teams in three days. The Seminoles beat No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 14 DePaul and got a measure of revenge when they beat No. 13 Washington to go to the tournament semifinals. To put in perspective just how well the Garnet and Gold did, they advanced further into championship play than No. 2 Arizona, No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 10 Fresno State, No. 13 Washington, No. 14 DePaul and No. 18 Louisiana-Lafayette. The Seminoles only two losses came against the Kia champion (Cal State Fullerton) and runner-up (Texas).
YOU GOTTA GO WAY BACK
Senior All-American Brandi Stuart is leaving very little to chance when it comes to her legacy as the best player to ever play at Florida State. The career records should all fall this season and she will likely end up holding more career marks than any player in the 25 year history of the program. She is also one of just four Seminoles to ever be named a first team NFCA All-American and is one of just two Florida State players to ever be invited to Team USA National Camp. She is on the 2003 watch list for ASA Collegiate Player of the Year and now she is staking another claim. Stuart has started off the 2003 season on a 13 game hitting streak, which is the longest in the last 10 years at FSU and is the longest in that span to begin a season. Four other players have posted 12-game hitting streaks since 1993. Second team All-American Serita Brooks was the latest Seminole to have a 12-game streak and before her three players did it in 1995 (Missy Calkins, Shamalene Wilson and Kristy Hull). Stuart has hit safely in every game in 2003. The streak almost came to an end at nine games against Iowa State. After Tatiana George reached with a single, the door was opened for Stuart to get another crack at extending the streak. The senior was down to her last strike in her last at bat of the game before a chopper down the third base line caught the ISU defense by surprise and kept the longest FSU hitting streak in three seasons alive.
IN A SUNSHINE STATE OF MIND
If anyone was worried about whether the 2003 Seminoles could hit the ball, their fears were put to rest this past weekend at the Sunshine State Tournament. Florida State hit .394 as a team with nine players batting over .333. The Tribe scored 26 runs in four games and they slugged .500. Florida State had 23 RBIs, 52 total bases, 41 hits and 19 walks in just four games as they won the Sunshine State Tournament title. The team raised its overall batting average 47 percentage points from .252 to .299 in one weekend and hit eight doubles compared to nine in the first eight games of the year. The Tribe’s 23 RBI’s were also just three shy of the 26 the team had hit in eight games coming into the tournament and they also raised their slugging percentage 60 percentage points.
FSU’S NEXT ALL-AMERICAN
In a dominating weekend that saw FSU go 4-0 and outscore its opponents 26-6, no Seminole was more dominant than junior Jessica van der Linden. The outfielder/pitcher hit .692, scored three runs, hit two doubles, drove in five runs, had 11 total bases, slugged .846 and was on base 75% of the time. She also went 2-0 in two starts in the circle. The Cerritos, CA native led FSU in average, at bats, hits (9), doubles, RBIs, total bases and on base percentage as the Tribe won the Sunshine State Tournament. In FSU’s four games last week, van der Linden had two or more hits in three contests, she drove in at least one run in three of four games and she either doubled or drew a walk in all four games. She started the weekend off with a 2 for 4 performance versus Iowa State that included an RBI double and a five inning win in the circle where she allowed just one earned run. In the second game of the day, van der Linden had her best game of the week. Against Middle Tennessee, van der Linden went 3 for 4, scored three runs, drove in three RBIs and recorded another double. Her two RBI double in the second inning broke the game open for FSU. The Cyclones didn’t let van der Linden beat them in the next meeting as she went 1 for 2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch. In the final game of the weekend, she started inside the circle against Middle Tennessee and once again got a win as she struck out eight Lady Blue Raiders. She also went 3 for 3 with a walk and an RBI. She was also a perfect 1.000 in the field for the weekend.
Junior college transfer Lesley Palmer is continuing to grow accustomed to the Division I game. After a huge weekend at the Seminole Classic, she had another big outing at the Sunshine State Tournament. She started all four games at third and batted .571, scored two runs, had a double, two RBIs, slugged 1.143, drew four walks and was on base 73% of the time. On top of all that, she blasted one of the most mammoth home runs seen at the Seminole Softball Complex in quite some time. Her first career homer at FSU came versus Middle Tennessee and not only cleared the left field fence but it landed in the far lane of the road running behind the complex and bounced over a parked SUV. The blast probably traveled more than 240 feet. The redshirt sophomore is now hitting .381, with four doubles, a home run, six RBIs, 16 walks and is slugging .714 with an .649 on base percentage.
STEALING THE DAY
2003 Collegiate Player of the Year candidate Brandi Stuart has done some amazing things in her FSU career but they way she has started the last two seasons when it comes to steals is mind boggling. The 2002 NFCA 1st Team All-American started the season 16 for 16 in steals last year and wasn’t thrown out until February 22, 15 games into the season. This year, she went 11 for 11 through the first 12 games of the season. The streak came to an end against Florida A&M when Stuart was picked off for the first time all season but with starts like that it is no wonder she is just 25 base swipes away from passing FSU Hall of Famer Shamelene Wilson for No. 2 on the career steals list.
Last year Jessica van der Linden and Brandi Stuart were first and second in seven different offensive categories. While it speaks volumes about the talent of the two Cerritos, CA natives, it does put a lot of pressure on the duo to produce every game. Things are a little different this season. Four players (Stuart, van der Linden, Lesley Palmer and Elisa Vasquez) all appear on the leader board in at least two offensive categories. While Stuart and van der Linden lead the way leading the Seminoles in eight statistical categories, Vasquez and Palmer are right behind with five. The most amazing thing about this is that van der Linden and Stuart are each putting up better numbers than they did in 2002 but still find their teammates atop the stat leaders helping out.
PERECT IN 14
Sophomore hurler Casey Hunter is continuing to prove that she is ready, willing and capable of being the dominant pitcher FSU is looking for to help replace all-time great Leslie Malerich. In 14.0 innings at the Sunshine State Tournament, Hunter went 2-0, struck out 17 batters and walked just four while not allowing a single earned run all tournament. She pitched two complete games and held opposing batters to an average of just .160. Her performance at the Sunshine State Tournament dropped her team-leading ERA to 1.07 and raised her record to 6-2. After her no-hitter versus FAMU, she has now allowed just seven earned runs in 53 innings and she has struck out 67 batters while walking just 17 on the year.
The 3-4-3 putout is pretty rare. It isn’t often that the first baseman throws to the second baseman who throws back to the first baseman for one out at first. Not only did the strange putout happen once for FSU it happened twice in the same game versus Middle Tennessee. On two occasions first baseman Beth Wade got her glove on a rocket shot but was unable to scoop the ball. On both occasions Brandi Stuart was there to back her up and get the runner at first for the 3-4-3 putout.
WADE-ING FOR THE THIRD
Redshirt junior Beth Wade has been busy in the third inning this season. In the first 12 games of the year, the first baseman has recorded almost 20% of her 78 putouts in the third. In 80 innings, Wade is averaging a little less than seven putouts per inning but she has 15 in the third this year and eight have come in the last four games. She has recorded two or three putouts in the third on five occasions and seven of her 15 putouts have been unassisted. At one point she even recorded four consecutive unassisted putouts in the third inning.
PICKS TO CLICK
Last week we told you that if you were looking for a couple of Seminoles who could be in for a big weekend at the Sunshine State Tournament, look no further than junior teammates Elisa Vasquez and Jessica van der Linden. The two Californians had combined to go 7 for 14 with four RBIs, a run and a triple in four games versus Iowa State and Middle Tennessee and van der Linden threw her second career no-hitter versus the Cyclones as a freshman. Against MTSU, Vasquez had the biggest hit of the game as the Seminoles were down to their last out in the bottom of the ninth before her RBI triple evened the game and allowed FSU to go on to a win in the 10th. Well that was nothing compared to this season. In the four Sunshine State Tournament games, van der Linden and Vasquez hit .542, slugged .708, launched four doubles, knocked in nine runs, scored seven times, drew five walks and did not strikeout once. The two posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage and van der Linden also went 2-0 in the circle.
One of the most amazing stats for Florida State through the first 12 games of the season has been the team’s balanced scoring. The Seminoles have scored double digit runs in the first through sixth innings in 2002. Florida State has amassed 13 runs in the 6th, 11 runs in the first, second and fifth and 10 runs in the third and fourth. On the flip side, FSU hasn’t allowed double-digit runs in a single inning this season. In fact, teams have scored fewer than five runs against the Tribe in every inning but the seventh and FSU is usually way out in front by that point in the game. No FSU opponent has yet to score on the team in the third and teams have scored just four total runs in the first through third innings combined. In 11 of 13 games this year FSU has taken an early lead. In fact the Seminoles have scored in either the first or second inning in every game but one in 2003 and only twice (Georgia and Middle Tennessee) did FSU fail to score first. Even more impressively, the Tribe has trailed in just eight of 89 innings this season and if you take out the game versus Georgia, FSU has only been behind for a total of two and a half innings all year.
HEY NOW, YOU’RE AN ALL-STAR
It didn’t take long for 1st Team All-American Brandi Stuart to pick up right where she left off in 2002. The all-everything second baseman put together a stellar first week as she led FSU in runs (6), total bases (11), hits (7) and stolen bases (3) while hitting .389 and extending her 2003 hit streak to eight games. The next week, Stuart had a double and a home run, she slugged .611, drew six walks and was on base 56% of the time. Then at the Sunshine State Tournament, she hit .455, scored three runs, had two doubles, knocked in two RBIs, slugged .636, drew three walks and didn’t strikeout once. She has already won ACC Player of the Week honors and has been named to the 2003 National Player of the Year watch list. You just have to wonder what she has in store next.
THIS IS HER YEAR
Junior Jessica van der Linden has had a standout career at FSU already and that is evidenced by her ACC Rookie of the Year selection in 2001 and her inclusion as one of the 50 best softball players in conference history but 2003 may be her best season yet. The pitcher and outfielder has been just dominant at the plate early on. The California native is hitting .636 on the season while slugging .727 and she is getting on base 76% of the time. She leads No. 9 Florida State in average, RBIs, total bases, hits, slugging and on base percentage. She is also second on the team in doubles, runs scored and walks. If van der Linden is able to continue a level of productivity anywhere near that throughout the year, she will join fellow Cerritos resident Brandi Stuart on to the NFCA All-American team this season.
NICE TO MEET YA
Redshirt sophomore Lesley Palmer had a breakout weekend at the Seminole Classic Tournament. The junior college transfer didn’t arrive on the FSU campus until classes started in the spring and then didn’t practice the first couple of weeks while all of her paperwork was being taken care of. She started to get back into a playing rhythm and it showed at the Seminole Classic. The third baseman hit .400, scored three runs, smashed three doubles, slugged .700, drew eight walks and posted an on base percentage of .667. Her hot hitting continued at the Sunshine State Tournament as the Virginia native exploded again and posted even more impressive numbers. Palmer hit .571, scored two runs, had a double, a home run, two RBIs, drew four walks, slugged 1.143 and was on base 73% of the time.
The third baseman is being asked to fill the power hitting role that fellow Lake City player Monique Marier filled so well in her two years in Tallahassee. In Marier’s first 12 games as a Seminole, she got off to a very impressive start. Marier hit .357, scored three runs, had 10 hits, two doubles, two triples, a home run, five RBIs, slugged .679, walked twice and was on base 36% of the time in with six strikeouts. Palmer has been even more impressive though. The redshirt sophomore is hitting .571, has scored five runs, has eight hits, four doubles, a home run, five RBIs, is slugging .789, has drawn 14 walks and has only K’ed four times.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
One area that is probably giving the Seminole coaches a few sleepless nights is the 2003 squad’s performance in close games. This year the Tribe is 2-3 in one-run and two-run games and 1-1 in extra innings. Last season the Seminoles were 29-16 in those situations. Winning the close games is always a key to a team’s success and as FSU’s four new starters get more accustomed to pressure situations, the Seminoles should see those numbers improve.
CALIFORNIA, CITY OF CERRITOS
Senior Brandi Stuart and junior Jessica van der Linden, former Cerritos High teammates, both had monster seasons for FSU in 2002. The two combined to hit .363 and slug .553. Together they accounted for 153 hits, 23 doubles, 12 triples, 11 homeruns, 80 RBIs, 233 total bases and 86 walks. No tandem in FSU history has ever combined for more total bases, walks and slugged for a higher percentage than Stuart and van der Linden did in 2002. On top of that only two pair of FSU players in the program’s 24-year history has ever combined for more RBIs than Stuart and van der Linden. Only one pair of players has ever scored more combined runs, only one pair of players has ever accounted for more doubles and only one pair of players has ever hit more home runs. So far this season the combo are off to an even better start combining to hit .514 and slug .643. They lead the team in eight offensive categories and are first and second in four statistical categories. Together they have also drawn 27 walks and struck out just four times.
JESS WHAT YOU’D EXPECT AND A LITTLE BIT MORE
Just like Brandi Stuart, junior Jessica van der Linden seems to be picking up right where she left off in 2002 but has been even more spectacular at the plate. The junior numbers so far in 2003 are staggering. She is leading the team in six different offensive categories already as she is batting .636, slugging .727, on base 76% of the time and has 21 hits. Those numbers are truly remarkable but they only tell part of the story. Van der Linden is hitting .591 with runners on base, .727 with the bases empty, .833 as a leadoff hitter, .714 with runners in scoring position, .500 with a runner on third and less than two outs, .750 with two outs and is advancing runners successfully over 65% of the time. She also leads the team with five two-out RBIs. There is not one statistical category in which she is hitting below .500. Keeping those numbers all season is virtually impossible but few doubt that van der Linden has everything it takes to be FSU’s next All-American.
THAT’S BRIESKE BABY
Tuesday, February 4 was a day of firsts for freshman Carly Brieske. The Safety Harbor, FL native got her first collegiate at-bat in the first game of the doubleheader against Auburn and came through with an RBI double. She then made a huge statement in game two versus the Tigers as she started in right field for her first time in her FSU career. Brieske drove in all three runs and helped the Seminoles come from behind in the 10th inning to down Auburn 3-2. In the second inning, after third baseman Lesley Palmer doubled to right center and was sacrificed to third by Beth Wade, Brieske hit a sac-fly to right field to score Palmer and give Florida State the early lead. Then in the tenth with runners on first and second and the Seminoles down 2-1, Brieske sent Tiger pitcher Kristen Keyes delivery to right center driving in two more runs and giving Florida State the extra inning, come from behind victory. With her three RBI night against Auburn, Brieske is now the clubhouse leader with four RBIs on the season.
EXTRA TIME FOR EXTRA BASES
Jessica van der Linden’s double in game one versus the Auburn Tigers was the first extra base hit of the season for the Seminoles. In Florida State’s opening day doubleheader at Georgia Southern, the Seminoles banged out 11 hits, which were all singles. Against Auburn, the Tribe accumulated 14 hits with five of those going for extra bases and now the Tribe has 20 extra base hits in the last three weeks.
The Seminoles are really starting come through at the plate in clutch situations this season. Florida State is hitting .307 with runners on, .315 with runners in scoring position, .526 with a runner on third and less than two outs and is even hitting .274 with two outs. The team has also knocked in 19 two-out RBIs. Junior Jessica van der Linden leads the team hitting .714 with runners in scoring position and with runners on base (.591). Shundra Colzie and Tatiana George are both hitting .333 with runners in scoring position also. The Tribe is suffering with the bases loaded though as they have gone just 1 for 27 this year with the sacks covered in Garnet and Gold.
Junior Jessica van der Linden has had a phenomenal career in so many ways despite playing just two seasons so far at FSU. One of the areas she has made the biggest impact is in launching doubles. Last year she became the first player to hit 10 or more doubles in back-to-back seasons at FSU. She has doubled 14 times each season and with her three doubles in 2003, she is now just seven doubles away from becoming the all-time leader at FSU. Following close behind is Brandi Stuart who has 30 doubles in her career. The record is currently held by Corrie Williams who accumulated 38 doubles from 1996-99.