May 11, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - After winning or sharing eight of the first nine ACC Titles, the Seminole softball program hadn't taken home the crown in two years and even failed to reach the ACC title game for the first-time ever last season. That all changed Sunday afternoon as the 10th-ranked Seminoles (46-9) needed just four and a half innings to capture the team's first conference championship since 2000 as they won their 27th game in a row. The 10-2 win over Virginia (37-26) was highlighted by tournament MVP Lesley Palmer's third straight game with a home run and Casey Hunter's (27-5) second win of the weekend.
"I am really proud of our team because Virginia really came out ready today," said head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. "One of our big goals was to win the ACC Championships and now we have accomplished that. Our next goal now is to go to the World Series."
The Seminoles employed the same formula Sunday that they used all weekend as the won the tournament in just three games for the sixth time in school history. Using the long ball, Florida State scored double digit runs versus the Cavs for the second time in three days and the third time in four games in 2003 as they swept the series and outscored UVa 37-4. Palmer broke the ACC Tournament record with her third home run and Shundra Colzie also went deep for the first time since homering off Jennie Finch at the 2002 Women's College World Series.
"I don't think I have ever had a streak like this and I was just happy I got to be a part of this," said Palmer. "I have seen our whole team come up with clutch hits throughout the year and it is just great to feel that. I am seeing the ball really well now unlike before and I think the extra work we are putting in is going a long way."
For the weekend, FSU hit .357 as a team, slugged .657 and homered six times, a new ACC Tournament record as well. Palmer led the way with a .800 batting average, a 2.600 slugging percentage, four runs scored and five RBIs. Overall, six of FSU's nine field players batted over .286 with four hitting over .400.
"This is a great group of kids. They work hard. They take extra batting practice. They watch tape and really put effort into it and because of that they are seeing the results right now. They have also responded well to coaching," said Graf.
"We are all having fun out there. We aren't putting any pressure on ourselves and we know if we don't produce, someone behind us will," said Palmer. "That is the best part about this team. We don't rely on just one person. We know there are nine people in the line-up and more in the dugout that can do the job. That gives us confidence."
The Cavaliers started strong against Hunter as they put runners on first and second with one out via a hit and a hit batter. The sophomore then walked the bases loaded as she looked to keep Virginia from jumping out to an early lead. A costly throwing error then allowed two UVa runs to score as FSU went to the plate for the force and Brandi Stuart's throw sailed over the head of Elisa Vasquez. The first inning runs were the first allowed by FSU since March 27 against Florida A&M and was the first time FSU trailed in a game since April 9 when they fell behind UCF 1-0.
"The first inning of a championship game you get a little nervous no matter how many you have been in," said Graf. "I think once we settled down we were fine. Virginia took advantage of hitting first but once we got through that we were fine.
"Brandi normally makes that play and she will make that play the next opportunity she gets. She is too good of a player and it was just a mistake. I'm not worried about that at all."
With Florida State in a 2-0 hole, they came to the plate looking to get back in the game against Tallahassee native Erin Horn (17-12). After a dropped foul ball extended lead-off hitter Shandra Colzie's at bat, the senior took advantage sending a double to the wall in left center. The Tribe couldn't cash in on the lead-off double though as Horn came back and got the next three hitters.
In the bottom of the second the Seminoles got even with Horn and the Cavaliers just as they have done all weekend using the long ball. For the fifth time in three games FSU went yard, with four of the five homers coming against Virginia. After Beth Wade drew a one out walk, Palmer stepped up to the plate. The redshirt sophomore had homered in both of FSU's first two tournament games and she made it three in a row with a line drive shot over the fence in left center on a 1-2 Horn offering. The round-tripper was her sixth of the year after entering the ACC Tournament without a HR in her previous 15 games.
After Florida State gave UVa two runs in the first due to a throwing error, the Cavaliers returned the favor in the third as the Tribe took a 3-2 lead. Shandra Colzie started things off with her second hit of the game, a lead-off single. She moved to second on Tatiana George's sac bunt and then to third on a Jessica van der Linden ground out. It then looked as if Elisa Vasquez had ended the inning on a grounder to third but a poor throw made a close play at the bag moot as Colzie came home with the lead run.
It was more of the same for FSU in the fourth as another Cavalier error allowed a fourth Seminole run to score. Back-to-back walks to start the inning put Horn in a hole before Shundra Colzie's sac bunt was dropped allowing pinch runner Carey Galuppi to come home. The Tribe went on to load the bases with just one out in the inning as Natasha Jacob singled on a perfect bunt but Horn got Shandra Colzie on a shallow fly to left to move within one out of escaping the jam. George didn't allow that to happen though as she slammed a single off of Horn's leg allowing everyone to move up a base and the Tribe to move out to a 5-2 lead. Elisa Vasquez came through with another run as she sent a two out, two strike single into left for FSU's sixth run. The RBI was her 46th of the year with 20 coming with two outs. Brandi Stuart then knocked in her first RBI of the tournament on a fielder's choice where Virginia was unable to put anybody out on the play.
With the Seminoles in front 7-2, van der Linden came in to try and carry FSU to its first ACC Championship since 2000. She retired the Cavs in the top of the fifth and then Florida State gave van der Linden an even bigger cushion to work with in the bottom of the frame. After new third baseman Larson walked and moved to second on a passed ball, Shundra Colzie unloaded on a 2-1 offering from Horn and sent it on to the hill behind the left field fence. The homerun was the third FSU hit off Horn in 2003. With the FSU in front 9-2, another walk came back to haunt UVa as new pitcher Joanna Barstad walked Jacob. The freshman then stole second before George laced a double to center field ending the game with Florida State's third run rule win over Virginia in four games in 2003.
"I felt confident at the plate after putting a lot of pressure on myself in the previous two at bats," said Shundra Colzie. "I just went up there trying to have fun and do something positive. I had a different feeling that time though. I do put a lot of pressure on myself and the home run came when I went up to bat and I just hit the ball and did what I was supposed to do."
Next up Florida State will wait to hear where the NCAA will send them as the team is assured of its 16th NCAA Regional in program history and its fourth consecutive berth. The announcement will be made tonight at 10:00 p.m. on ESPN News. The Seminoles will be looking to advance to the team's sixth World Series and second in a row. Last year the Tribe made it to the semi-finals of the WCWS upsetting No. 1 seed UCLA along the way.
"Right now between us and the World Series is seven teams and those are the teams we are going to focus on," said Graf. "We will try to improve some things and keep our timing going with the bats."
"This tournament has helped us maintain a level of confidence," said Shandra Colzie. "Going into Regionals we know what we are supposed to do. We have to stay focused and at the same time have fun. I think we are better off mentally going into the tournament this year because we won't put as much pressure on ourselves."
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.
ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM