Jan. 29, 2013
By Ryan Syrkus for Seminoles.com
For five young ladies, the 2013 softball season will be their last chance to make their mark on FSU athletic history. All five of the seniors have already made an impact in helping the team start 16-0 last year and reach a 47-16 mark, which is the highest win total since finishing 62-12 in 2004, and making it to the team's 13th consecutive NCAA postseason.
After two heartbreaking 1-0 losses to San Diego State in the Los Angeles Regional last year, the seniors look to rebound with a new slate of games quickly approaching while taking every competitor seriously.
"We need to take it one play at a time and one pitch at a time," said infielder Tiffani Brown. "[We need to prevent] getting ahead of who we're playing and also not overlooking the teams that may not be as well known for their softball programs. We're playing for each other and not getting discouraged if the outcome doesn't come our way knowing that it will make us better for May."
Brown aims to continue her play from last year when she finished hitting .301 with four triples, 14 RBIs and three doubles. She also stole 43 bases which was 12 more than any other student-athlete in the ACC. Combined with a .980 fielding percentage, Brown was voted the team's most valuable player to go along with her All-ACC First Team, all-region and All-ACC Tournament Team honors.
Even with the tough end to last year, the team learned from their trip out west and gained confidence heading into this season as well as becoming a closer unit.
"It's the little things," outfielder Kirstin Austin said. "It's letting go if you have a bad at bat and being there behind every single player. From the bench to the starters, making sure that when one of your players has failure, we're right behind them saying, `hey, you got this next one. Let's go.' It's just making sure we're there as a unit and focusing, helping, to get through the game one pitch at a time."
Austin, coming into her third year with the garnet and gold, batted a team best .364 (16-of-44) in conference play. She was awarded the co-most improved player along with fellow senior infielder Briana Hamilton at the team banquet.
Hamilton, the Seminoles' main power hitter with 12 home runs last year and a two time ACC Player of the Week as well as an All-ACC First Team honoree, agreed with Austin on some of the adjustments needed this year.
"As a team, as a whole, we always work well together and we always work hard," said Hamilton. "We don't need to get selfish like `it's all about me and my stats.' We just need to stay together as a cohesive group instead of separating. We stay focused when we're together. It's when we fade away from each other that we lose it."
With a tough schedule this season, highlighted by a West Coast trip for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in which they will play national powerhouses Oklahoma, Washington, and Stanford along with Nebraska and Long Island University, the entire team is excited to see where they stand amongst the nation's best.
"[I'm looking forward to] seeing how we do against programs that are nationally ranked every year," Austin said. "It's going to be a great thing because win or lose we're going to learn a lot from those games and we're going to learn how we do in pressure situations. It's almost like a second starting point for us on how we go about handling the rest of the season."
Redshirt senior pitcher Monica Perry will play a large role in how well the team matches up against top talent. The redshirt transfer from Illinois is coming into her second year on the playing field at Florida State, but made a huge splash last season with a record of 22-6 and a 1.54 ERA. Perry was a two-time All-ACC Pitcher of the Week and earned All-ACC First Team honors for her performance last year. Perry also defeated softball juggernauts in LSU and North Carolina (twice) before leading FSU to a 2-1 victory over 12th-seeded UCLA in the NCAA Regional.
Also looking to contribute is outfielder Morgan Bullock, who batted .288 in 52 games and was 6-for-6 in stolen bases during the season. Bullock only struck out four times in her 69 plate appearances which averaged once every 17.25 times she was at the plate.
With the five seniors leading the way, this group of players looks to improve on last year's accomplishments, but also have one goal in mind.
"It's important [to get a fast start to the season], but it's also not important," said Brown. "What matters is the end. People remember the end more so than the beginning. Yes, it's an honor to be 16-0, but in reality it doesn't really matter if we start 16-0 since we want to finish stronger than we start off."