May 10, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - For the third time in less than a week the 10th-ranked Florida State softball team (45-9) downed defending ACC Champion Georgia Tech (36-22). The win was the 26th consecutive for FSU and the team's fifth in a row over Tech dating back to 2002. With the 5-3 victory FSU returns to the ACC Championship game after missing the final for the first time in ACC history last season.
The Seminoles seemed to be cruising to their third straight shutout of the Jackets in 2003 and their fourth overall before Georgia Tech mounted a comeback in the bottom of the seventh. Jessica van der Linden (18-4), who won her 12th straight start, got into a little trouble in the inning before Casey Hunter shutdown the Tech rally with the potential winning run standing at the plate.
"I was pleased with the way we came out but I think Tech's Jessica Sallinger pitched a great game. She kept us off balance all day and we didn't hit the ball nearly as hard as we did last night," said Dr. JoAnne Graf. "Lesley Palmer's home run was huge putting us in front but those runs we got late in the game really helped because Tech made a great comeback and got to the point where one swing could have won the game for them."
Jessica Sallinger (21-14) started strong in the circle in the top of the first. The sophomore set Florida State down in order while striking out the first two batters she saw. The 2003 ACC Player of the Year, van der Linden, tried to match Sallinger as she fanned the first two hitters she faced before All-American Tara Knudsen singled through the left side. She then finished the inning by getting Lindsay Wood looking at strike three.
The Tribe broke out the sticks in the top of the second. Elisa Vasquez drew a walk and was moved over to second on a Beth Wade sac. Although the runner was in scoring position, the Tribe needed a two out hit to take the lead and third baseman Lesley Palmer delivered. The sophomore fought back from a 1-2 count and then sent a 3-2 Sallinger pitch out of the park for her second HR of the ACC Tournament. The round-tripper was the fourth by the Seminoles in six innings and the eighth overall in the tournament. It was also Palmer's fifth of the year.
"I feel really good lately but the great thing is that everyone is coming around and this is the perfect time for that," said Palmer. "I have been focusing more on correcting my weaknesses and I think I have come a long way. The home run came on an inside pitch and two weeks ago I don't think I would have hit that pitch."
Van der Linden cruised into the bottom of the fourth as she entered the inning with seven K's and had fanned four straight batters. Knudsen broke the strike out string as she once again singled. Van der Linden recorded the first out of the inning on her eighth K but Tech pressured again with another base knock. With runners on first and second, Sara Wissman's fielder's choice put runners on the corners with two down. Shundra Colzie then saved a run on a diving catch on a dying line drive to center field to end the fourth.
Florida State opened the top of the sixth with its first hit since the Palmer homer. Shandra Colzie singled down the left field line and was then moved over to second on Tatiana George's sacrifice. She moved to third on van der Linden's long fly out to right bringing up Elisa Vasquez with FSU once again needing a two-out hit. The Junior who leads the team in RBIs and two-out RBIs pushed a seeing-eye single up the middle of the diamond for her 45th RBI and her 19th two-out RBI of the season. The Tribe went on to load the bases with two down on a Brandi Stuart hit and a Beth Wade walk. The Seminoles were unable to cash in though as Tech came up to bat trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth.
The Yellow Jackets went in order in the sixth as the Tribe moved within three outs of the school's 11th championship game in 12 years. But before the game moved to the bottom of the seventh the Seminoles got some much needed insurance. Shundra Colzie and Natasha Jacob both reached via bunt singles and moved up a base on a Sallinger's wild pitch. The Tribe's fourth run came home on a George ground out and the fifth on van der Linden's single to center field.
The Jackets put up a fight in the bottom of the inning as they led off with back-to-back infield singles. Tech then loaded the bases with no outs as van der Linden hit the next batter. Tech cashed in with three runs off new pitcher Casey Hunter as they sent the potential winning run to the plate with two outs in the seventh as Knudsen stepped into the box. The All-American watched strike three though as Hunter picked up the second save of her career.
Next up for Florida State is the ACC Championship game Sunday, May 11 at 12:00 p.m. Florida State is seeking it's ninth ACC title in 12 years. The Tribe's opponent is yet to be determined but the game will be carried live throughout Florida by the Sunshine Network and throughout the southeast by Fox Sports South. For more information on the 2003 ACC Softball Championship and the Florida State softball team, please log on to seminoles.com, the official home for Florida State athletics on the internet.