May 10, 2002
When you think ACC Championships and Florida State University, one thing should come to mind...Winning. The Seminoles currently hold an all time winning percentage of .833, going 30-6 in tournament play. Here is how Florida State has fared against its ACC rivals come tourney time (including championship games):
Georgia Tech: 7-0, last meeting: 1996, last victory: 5-4 (1996) North Carolina: 6-2, last meeting: 2001, last victory: 2-1 (1999) Virginia: 10-4, last meeting: 2000, last victory: 2-0 (2000) Maryland: 7-0, last meeting: 2001, last victory: 4-0 (2001)
NO FSU NO FINAL
Since the inception of softball to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1992, Florida State University has been at the forefront of the pack making an appearance in the championship game in every season. The Seminoles currently hold an 8-2 record in championship play, with one of those wins coming as a co-champion in 1997 with Maryland, as the Championships were washed away due to rain. Here is how Florida State has fared in the championships versus their ACC opponents:
Virginia: 5-1, last meeting in 2000 with a 2-1 victory North Carolina 1-1, last meeting in 2001 with a 4-1 loss Georgia Tech 1-0, last meeting in 1995 with a 5-2 victory
This is the eighth time in conference history that Tallahassee, Fla. has been the site of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. Florida State has flourished at home under head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf, winning the tournament six out of seven times. The Seminoles will look for their fifth straight championship title as the tournament host. FSU has outscored their opponents 143-45 in the ACCs.
With a perfect 6-0 record in the regular season in 2002, Florida State moved their all-time conference record to 65 wins and 16 losses, for a winning percentage of .802. They stand 276 percentage points higher than North Carolina, which has the second best all-time record in the conference with 41 wins and 37 losses.
Coming into the 2002 ACC Tournament, Florida State has won the Championship four times, while losing only twice as the No. 1 seed. The Seminoles have found their greatest success in tournament action as the No. 2 seed, where they have won the Championship all three times. Only once has Florida State entered the ACC tournament lower than a one or two seed. In 2000, the Seminoles entered as a No. 3 seed only to defeat Virginia in the Championship game.
Florida State has finished as the ACC regular season champion nine times in 11 years. They finished tied for first place with Maryland in 1999. FSU has finished no lower than second place in the regular season in that 11-year span. On top of that, the Seminoles are the only team in ACC history to finish the regular season with a perfect record. They accomplished this feat three times going 4-0 in 1993, 6-0 in 1995, and 6-0 in 2002.
Florida State was hot at the plate in conference play batting .340 in six games. FSU had five players in the top ten in batting and were led by senior Kimmy Carter, who hit .579 with 11 hits in 19 at-bats. Junior Brandi Stuart hit .429, collecting six hits in only 14 plate appearances.
Recent Team USA National Team camp invitee Brandi Stuart had a spectacular campaign in her third season wearing the Garnet and Gold. She was among the leaders in the ACC in runs scored (58) and triples (7) and was 3rd in batting average at .413. Stuart stole a career high 50 bases in 55 attempts, which was good for 2nd overall in the ACC. She slugged a career best .698 with 50 singles, seven doubles, seven triples and 10 home runs. Her 10 home runs tied a team high for homers in a season and has 17 for her career. She is the only player in FSU history to appear on the career leaders list in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs and steals. Stuart currently has a career batting average of .368, which is the highest career batting average in FSU softball history. With her outstanding play, Stuart became just the second FSU player to ever be invited to the USA National Team Camp.
In 2002, Florida State has been the only ACC team to be nationally ranked from the beginning to the end of the season. They are currently ranked 21st in the USA Today/NFCA Poll and have been as high as 15th throughout the season. The Seminoles also finished the season ranked second in the NCAA South Regional Poll. The ACC was well represented in the South Region with four of five teams ranked in the top ten. Georgia Tech, Virginia, and North Carolina finished 3rd, 4th and 8th, respectively.
NO FIRST DAY JITTERS
In the 10 previous ACC Softball Championships, Florida State has NEVER lost an opening round game and the Tribe has never lost a Friday game at the ACC Tournament. That includes seven opening-round matches played on Friday and three subsequent Friday games that were not first round contests.
SCHEDULE OF STRENGTH
The 2002 Florida State Softball team played one of its toughest schedules in recent memory. On top of playing 13 games versus teams currently ranked and another two games versus teams that were previously ranked, Florida State played 70% of its 63 games versus teams with winning records. Seminole opponents posted a .605 winning percentage this season and FSU played five games against teams with 50 or more wins and 18 games versus teams with 40 or more wins. FSU went 13-10 in those contests, which is a .769 winning percentage versus the toughest competition on their schedule. The Garnet and Gold played more games against teams with 50 wins and 40 wins then they did against team's with a sub .500 record. The Seminoles lost only four games to teams that weren't ranked at one point in 2002 and registered just two losses to teams with a sub-.500 record. The combined record of the teams that beat FSU this season is 619-272 (.695). If you remove the two losses to Texas Tech from the Troy Cox Classic, the teams that recorded the other 12 wins over Florida State have a record of 593-192 for a gaudy .755 winning percentage.
When ACC Honors were announced Thursday night in Tallahassee, FSU once again illustrated its strangle-hold on the annual post-season conference awards. For the seventh time in 11 years, the Florida State softball team placed more players on the All-ACC team than any other school. The Seminoles, who are the No. 1 seed in the 2002 ACC Tournament, which begins Friday, placed four players on the 2002 squad. It was the eighth time in 11 years that FSU has placed at least four players on the All-ACC team. Senior Leslie Malerich and junior Brandi Stuart were each named to their third consecutive team while sophomore Jessica van der Linden was voted on for the second straight year. Van der Linden is the first Seminole to ever garner conference honors as a freshman and sophomore despite the fact the Florida State has had a league-leading 51 selections in 11 seasons. Senior Kimmy Carter made her first-ever appearance as Seminoles made up one-third of the 12-member team.The Tribe's four selections mark the eighth time in 11 years that they have either lead the conference or tied for the conference lead in All-Conference selections. Florida State has now placed an ACC record 51 players on All-ACC softball teams in the conference's 11 years of sponsoring the sport and 39% of 131 All-ACC selections have been Seminoles.
There is no doubt that the 21st-ranked Seminoles gained a lot of confidence when they traveled to Fullerton for the prestigious Kia Klassic tournament. 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 Garnet and Gold 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, downed three top 15 teams in three days. The Seminoles beat then 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 FSU 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).
The benefit of that trip out west was immeasurable when you look at what the Seminoles have done since the Kia. Florida State left Fullerton with a respectable 25-10 record and .714 winning percentage but since then they have gone 23-4 and posted an amazing .852 winning percentage. Included in that amazing stretch was a 10 game win streak that wasn't broken until the final game of 2002 against then-10th-ranked FAU. Florida State has hit .323 as a team over that stretch, belted 21 home runs, 13 triples, knocked in 133 RBIs and slugged an incredible .481. Seven everyday starters hit .290 or above during this run with five hitting .300 or above and Brandi Stuart hitting .446. FSU pitchers have done their part also in posting a 1.41 ERA and a strikeout to walk ratio of almost 3 to 1. FSU has outscored opponents 148-57 in the last 27 contests. The scariest part for this weekend's ACC Tournament participants is that FSU was 16-2 at home in those 27 games.
REGULAR IS SPECIAL
The 21st-ranked Seminole softball team wrapped up its ninth regular season conference title in 11 years with a 6-3 win over Virginia in the second game of a April 30th doubleheader. Obviously no team has ever won the regular season title as many times as FSU and capturing the regular season title is a good omen for the Tribe. Florida State has won the ACC crown in five of the seven years in which they won the regular season title. Even better, every time the Seminoles have finished first in the regular season and the ACC Tournament was held in Tallahassee, FSU won the conference title.
After leading the nation in home runs in 1999 as a junior college player and then setting the pace for FSU in her first season with the team as a junior, you couldn't help but wonder if senior Monique Marier was suffering a power outage earlier in the season. The outfielder had hit just two four-baggers in 47 games after hitting six as in her first season. Boy has that changed. The senior is on a tear right now and has hit six dongs in the last 16 games and she has hit six of FSU's last 10 homers. She has now hit two more HR's than she did in 2001.
STREAK AND PEAK
It seems Florida State is peaking at the right time. Entering its doubleheader with Jacksonville State, FSU was facing 10 straight games against a team in the ACC or in the South Region. Florida State announced that it was ready for the stretch run by sweeping Georgia Tech and North Carolina. The Jackets came into Tallahassee undefeated in the ACC while UNC was the defending conference champions. The Seminoles went on to to go 7-1 during that key stretch run with two games versus Maryland rained out. Florida State ended up finishing the season with a strong 23-3 record in South Region games and a 6-0 mark in the ACC.
Florida State continues to hold a prominent place in the latest NCAA statistics and finished the regular season in a season-high number of categories. The Seminoles, either individually or as a team, appear amongst the nation's leaders in eight different categories. Florida State made its third straight appearance amongst the nation's leaders for won/loss percentage. The Seminoles moved up 10 spots and have the 16th-best winning percentage in the country at .770. FSU made its first appearance of the season amongst the top teams in the nation in scoring. The Tribe is averaging 4.66 runs a game and is 29th in DI softball in that category. After capturing the NCAA's ERA title last season, the Seminoles are once again amongst the nation's best staffs. Their 1.31 staff ERA ranks as the 18th-best ERA in the nation this season. Florida State moved up six spots from 24th in the last NCAA statistical release. Leading the way for FSU amongst the nation's statistical leaders is junior Brandi Stuart and senior Leslie Malerich. Stuart is still fourth in the nation in steals per game at 0.80 and she has made a huge leap amongst the nation's top hitters. The All-American candidate moved from No. 35 in the nation with a .405 batting average to No. 18 with a .420 average. Only four players in the nation have a better average than Stuart with more at bats. The junior also made her first-ever appearance amongst the nation's leaders for triples. Stuart also ranks 18th in that category and she is one of just four players in the nation who appears in the top 20 for batting average, stolen bases and triples. Malerich is seventh in the nation for victories and only four pitchers in the country have more wins than the senior. Malerich also ranks amongst the nation's saves leaders. Her four saves place her in a tie for 21st in the country.