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Yellow Jacket Roundup: It’s Time to Talk About Softball

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With the Jackets off to their best start in 12 years, they get top billing this week

A fall picture, from the win over Emory
Danny Karnik / Georgia Tech Athletics

ATLANTA, GEORGIA — There’s quite a bit to talk about this week, and a fair amount of it is good news. For those who prefer golf, we will touch on their tournament title from early in the week, but for the bat-and-ball sport enthusiasts, softball is off to their best start in the last twelve years. In terms of programming updates, “Scions of the Southland” is taking a week off, given that I am currently bogged down in reading Clayton Trutor’s new Atlanta sports book Loserville — just kidding, our producer is taking a well-earned break, given that there have been five episodes posted in the last two weeks — but in all seriousness, that book has been great so far and I look forward to posting a comprehensive review soon. In the meantime, if you’re interested in getting a copy, using the code 6AF21 when buying directly from the publisher will get you the book for 40% off. So far, it really does feel like a great entry into the anthology of Atlanta sports and urban history.


Softball

Overall: 14-2 | Last Week: 6-0

Furman - [W] 5-0: The week started for Tech with a tidy shutout win over Furman. Chandler Dennis got the start in the circle, and in seven innings, she was extremely impressive, putting together probably her best start as a member of the Tech team. In seven innings of work, Dennis yielded just one hit. Tech was also efficient at the plate, scoring five runs on nine hits and five walks, breaking through for four runs in the sixth to put the game essentially out of reach.

Georgia State - [W] 9-1 (5): Tech stayed at home for another midweek, this time against Georgia State. Tech was more timely with hitting in this game, as the seven walks issued by the Panthers made sure the table was set almost every inning. After a four run first put Tech ahead for good, and with ace Blake Neleman dealing on the mound, the Jackets only needed five innings to put the game away. A humorous note from the box score lists the weather as “muggy, but beats the cold.”

Penn State - [W] 2-0: This was certainly a pitching duel in every sense of the word, as both teams were scoreless the entire way until the bottom of the seventh. Dennis started the game, yielding four hits over six innings of work, while Neleman entered the game in the seventh, giving up one hit. With one out in the bottom of the seventh and Jin Sileo on base, Ariella Jackson, a pinch hitter, put a ball over the outfield fence, ending the game with a statement Tech win.

Penn State - [W] 6-4: The second game of the weekend-opening doubleheader was a higher scoring affair, with Neleman remaining on the mound to start the second game of the day. In her first six innings of work, she yielded just one run, but when trouble started brewing, Palmer Pinholster split one hit around two outs, closing out the frame. That four run seventh, however, wasn’t enough to catch the Jackets’ 6 runs, as they had exploded for five runs in the bottom of the previous frame to break a 1-1 tie and put themselves ahead for good.

East Tennessee State - [W] 10-0 (5): For the first time this season, I can say I was able to catch this game in person at Mewborn Field. I was fairly certain that it didn’t used to cost money to catch a game at the Mew, but I was a student primarily before this season, so it is also likely my memory is just a bit faulty. Anyways, the admission was perfectly fair for a softball game - $3.00 - and, when paired with a hot dog, made it cheaper than going to lunch somewhere else, anyways. Obviously, I was going to the game no matter what, but you get the point. It was, as the box score noted, “nice, legit softball weather.”

It is also worth noting that Tech played this game in front of a fairly robust crowd, and for the Tech fans in attendance at least, they were treated to an all-around great game of softball. Lexi Ray and Kinsey Norton split the innings on the mound, but the real story took place at the plate. In just four innings of Tech at bats, the Jackets notched ten runs, including a barrage in the third that saw seven runs cross the plate and Tech bat around the order. Tech’s hitter of the game absolutely goes to Caroline Davis, who went three for three at the plate, with two home runs and a double.

East Tennessee State - [W] 13-1 (5): In the second game of the day, the story was largely the same. Sophia Voyles got the start for Tech, and she yielded just one hit in four scoreless innings of work. In this game, Tech was even more dominant at the plate, scorching 13 runs in just four innings at the plate. Tech scored five runs in both the first and fifth, with ten walks pairing with eight hits to yield six batters left on base. To be honest, it could perhaps have been an even higher scoring game, but a double set of run rule wins is a perfect way to fill a Saturday.

Tech was due another two games this weekend, and, to be honest, it is a little disappointing to not see them get the chance to get two more wins. With the team hitting, well, fantastically, along with having a better slate of pitching than Tech has had in a while, this team could very well have exited the weekend 16-2. With the ACC on the rise, every win does matter, and notching more wins is never a bad thing. That being said, it was still a great week for Tech, who look to be facing their biggest test yet as a very solid Duke team comes to town next weekend.

Golf

Polls - Golfstat: 12

Honestly, after the performance Tech had last week, moving them only five spots up to #12 in the country feels a bit too low. The Jackets headed down to the panhandle of Florida to take on what amounts to the rest of the ACC, joined by Alabama and Arkansas. In a great showing on what will be the host course for this year’s ACC Championships, the Jackets, led by the individual runner up, Ross Steelman, cruised to a start-to-finish win, beating the next best team, Alabama, by five strokes. Notre Dame (#15), North Carolina (#4), Arkansas (#6), and Wake Forest (#12) all entered the weekend ranked in front of Tech. Steelman was -6 on the week, while Bartley Forrester shot a -4 to tie for fourth. Connor Howe also finished under par at a -2, good for a tie for thirteenth place.

Tech is in action in Las Vegas this week through Tuesday.

Women’s Basketball

Overall: 20-9 | Last Week: 1-1

Polls - AP Poll: 22 | Coaches: 24

Georgia Tech split their games this weekend, as they closed out the regular season on the road. In the first game, Tech stuck to what has by-and-large been the theme over the past few weeks, where they started even in the first, before falling behind in the second. Tech, much like the game against Notre Dame, was able to claw its way back into contention against Florida State enough to force overtime, but it wasn’t enough, as the Jackets fell 65-63 in the extra period.

On Sunday, Tech was in the Triad - seriously, what is with North Carolina urban areas and having colloquialisms based on threes - to close the season with a matinee at Wake Forest. Tech looked more true to their season form in the game, as Lorela Cubaj led the way with a double-double. Tech’s offensive output was balanced, with three other scorers netting double digit point totals.

Tech will play next this week at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, and will receive a single bye in the tournament, as they finish with the sixth-best regular season record in conference play. The Jackets appear to be in line to face the winner of Virginia/Wake Forest, based on the current standings, and would play Notre Dame provided they win that contest.

Men’s Tennis

Overall: 5-4 | Last Week: 2-0
Rankings - ITA: 40

Men’s tennis surprised pretty much all of this week, as they were due to be at rest this weekend until they organized another two matches against the Citadel. Much like the first match between the two teams this season, Tech came away with wins, as the Jackets swept both legs of the doubleheader in 7-0 fashion. Pablo Schelcher and Chen Dong each came away with one singles win apiece, while Andres Martin, Keshav Chopra, Marcus McDaniel, and Ángel Guerrero each netted two. Tech trotted out five different doubles pairings, and, much like the singles, Tech didn’t drop a single set.

Tech opens ACC play next week on the road at Notre Dame and Louisville.

Women’s Tennis

Overall: 4-4 | Last Week: 1-1
Rankings - ITA: 47

Tech very nearly walked away with an unblemished road trip this weekend, but #15 Miami was able to storm back from an early deficit to notch a 4-3 victory. Tech beat the Hurricanes in doubles, but were topped in four straight singles matches, though the Jackets were able to notch two consolation singles wins on courts 1 and 4 by Carol Lee and Mahak Jain.

It was again Jain who led the way for Tech in the win column, as Tech handed Florida State a 4-3 decision of their own. Tech again came out strong in the doubles, netting wins on courts 1 and 2. In singles play, the Jackets push the lead to the penultimate point by taking two set wins on courts 2 and 3 by Ava Hrastar and Kylie Bilchev. However, the home team was not going down without a fight, rattling off three straight wins to bring everything down to the outcome of court 4. Jain did not disappoint, too, as she legged out a 7-5 first set win before bouncing back from a 3-6 second set loss with a 6-4 win in the third. A great close to a tough weekend of back-and-forth tennis.

Track and Field

Rankings - ITA M: NR | W: 86

In a tale as old as time, Nicole Fegans set yet another record this weekend, this time coming in the 3000 meter run. However, Tech’s star distance runner also netted the ACC title in the process and reset the facility record with her time of 9:01.31. This was also good for first team All-ACC honors. In all, the stars of the Tech team did a great job this weekend, and Tech netted a number of second team All-ACC honors, while the women’s distance medley relay broke the school record, a time that had stood for over a decade. However, the main story of the weekend was that Tech was fairly out of the race for the ACC title fairly early on, particularly on the men’s side. Tech has always had a number of standout individual performers, which, to draw a parallel, seems similar to the situation swimming and diving found themselves in until fairly recently. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much depth outside of the that, as the women finished in 11th and the men in 14th.

A selection of Tech athletes will be next in action at the NCAA Indoor Championships, while the rest of the team pivots their focus to the outdoor season.


The Hot Corner:

Tech played five games this week, starting with a road trip to Statesboro on Tuesday. Tech came up a bit empty, suffering their first loss of the young season. However, the bats were back in full force for the next four games, as Tech scored 52 runs, while yielding just 15. However, the 4-0 record and offensive domination does bury just a bit that Tech was knotted with Presbyterian late on Wednesday before absolutely blowing the game open, or that Gardner Webb was very much threatening in the top of the ninth in the second leg of the Saturday doubleheader. I think this is emblematic of Tech’s team and expectations this year, despite the strong starts from Chance Huff and Zach Maxwell in particular. Much as ever, Tech will be lead by their performance at the plate, and could certainly find themselves needing to hit their way out of ballgames. However, that said, there is a lot of time left this year, and the team is certainly on their way to face what is certainly their biggest test of the season thus far, a three game slate with the school in Athens.

Much will be learned this weekend, and that much is true. But I will simply leave any conjecture to the side to close with this: it is a crying shame they don’t play the rubber match in the major league park anymore. That game filled Truist/SunTrust/Turner quite well and made for a heck of a special atmosphere. Retreating all the way to Lawrenceville just doesn’t do the game justice.

Of course, what happens on the field is still the most important outcome.

In the Club House:

Tech Hockey headed to Columbia to take on South Carolina, but came up empty in both contests, falling 4-1 and 4-3. Tech will compete next in the SECHC Tournament en route to a hopeful national championship bid.

Men’s Lacrosse had a home game against TCU this Friday night, and came away victorious with an 11-3 thorough victory. However, in the second game, a road match in Seneca, South Carolina, the Jackets unfortunately fell to Clemson 15-8, giving them their first loss of the season.

Women’s Lacrosse won both games against Emory last weekend in dominating fashion, throttling the doubleheader by scores of 20-5 and 16-5. The results of this weekend’s games, against KSU and FGCU are yet unknown. Swimming was in South Carolina this weekend for a meet, and, much like women’s lacrosse, the results are heretofore unknown. We will update you as information arises for both teams.


This Week:

Men’s Basketball:

3/2 - at Clemson
3/5 - Boston College

Women’s Basketball:

3/1-5 - ACC Tournament (Greensboro, NC)

Baseball:

3/1 - at Georgia State
3/4 - the school in Athens
3/5 - at the school in Athens
3/6 - vs. the school in Athens (Coolray Field, Lawrenceville, GA)

Softball:

3/2 - at Kennesaw State
3/4-6 - Duke

Golf:

2/27-3/1 - at Southern Highlands Collegiate (Las Vegas, NV)

Women’s Tennis:

3/4 - at Syracuse
3/6 - at Boston College

Men’s Tennis:

3/4 - at Notre Dame
3/6 - at Louisville

Diving:

3/7-9 - Zone Diving Championships (McAuley Aquatic Center, Atlanta, GA)


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