LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY — As far as i can figure, this is the first official Yellow Jacket Roundup road trip, as your trusty Olympic sports reporter hopped on Delta and ventured up to land of bourbon, horses, and baseball bats — Louisville, Kentucky. Seriously, it feels like an old trope, but one definitely knows they are in Louisville the second they step into the concourse. To make all biases clear and present up front, this weekend, I donned the red and black of the Louisville Cardinals, as my sister is their first baseman. Yes, I both felt like a traitor, and still got an earful from the Louisville fans for keeping my Tech sunglasses on. C’est la vie. However, this series would have been circled as one of interest in the long arc of the softball season even without the personal intrigue, given that the two programs do provide an interesting foil to the other, given their competitiveness in the conference picture that is the miasmatic middle tier of the ACC. That intrigue certainly paid off in a series that did wind up telling us a fair amount about a striving Tech team — and a Louisville team that brings a fun, competitive brand of softball to the plate and in their electric defense. Like I said, this one made for an interesting matchup.
We can spend plenty of time talking about the results of that softball series and plenty more up and down Fowler Street — it arguably was not even the biggest storyline from that particular team this week — as we dive into the results of the rest of the Tech teams. For now, though, I need to catch a flight. Before I do, if you are here for the Hot Corner, that has been split up into standalone weekend preview and review series by Andrew and Logan, respectively, and I absolutely love that we are getting more hands on deck to get more ink spilled on these non-football teams. That, in turn, should give us more space here to wax poetic about a historic softball win in Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate, unpack the end of the women’s basketball season, or explore the postseason thrills that come from GT Hockey. Or whatever comes up next week, too.
Overall: 18-9 | Last Week: 3-1
Athens - [W] 12-3: This is, quite simply, the biggest win Tech has ever had in this series. Georgia Tech went on the road to Athens and secured not only their first win in the series in a decade, but its first on the road in fifteen years. Not only that, but they upset a ranked team that had gone to Oklahoma City the year prior in run rule fashion, the first contest decided by run rule in the long history of this venerable series. In the previous 10 wins Tech managed against their archrivals, the Jackets had won by a combined 13 runs, all close games. In this one, Tech got things started right with an 8 run second inning highlighted by a Caroline Davis grand slam. They kept things going in the third with an Emma Kauf laser to center field, pushing things into run rule territory. Though the hosts were able to start some momentum on offense, an additional insurance run iced the game and the season slate for Tech.
Louisville - [L] 11-8: In what was a cold and windy day in Louisville, Tech and their hosts started the day in a fierce pitching duel, which took the game quickly and scoreless-ly through the first four innings. However, shortly after, Tech figured out the Louisville starter, with Tricia Awald and Davis going back to back, followed by a Grace Connelly shot that probably should have been ruled a home run, since it bounced straight up off the top of the fence, yet resulted in a triple, and was one of several weird calls by the umpiring crew on the weekend slate. Tech would manufacture another three runs, including sliding into home on a play that was ruled safe, but probably should have been an out. With the home fans in agita facing a six run deficit, Chandler Dennis and Blake Neleman were torched for 11 straight runs, before Sophia Voyles turned off the faucet. Tech would manage to load the bases, score two runs, and bring the go-ahead run to the plate, but that is as close as they would get before the inconsistent strike zone did them in one final time.
Louisville - [W] 17-5: This game started much like the last one, with Louisville and Tech locked in a fierce pitching duel, this time with their aces on the mound. Through four innings, both sides were scoreless, but Tech struck first to the tune of three runs. Pitching injuries dominated the theme of the day, however, as first Neleman took a hard liner off her foot, scoring two runs, before a Louisville reliever suffered an arm injury, to boot. In the end, despite flashing great defensive work on both sides all day, including a rare 7-3 double play from Louisville to end a prior Tech threat, the rest of the game would yield a lot of runs, almost all coming across in favor of the Jackets, who put up their highest run total since before the pandemic started.
Louisville - [W] 2-1: Unlike the previous two games, which were windy, wet, and cold, this game was warm in the sun and moved along at breakneck pace. This game was similarly scoreless through the fourth, until Awald smoked a ball onto the interstate on-ramp beyond the right field fence for the game’s first run. This pitching duel also came in spite of the fact that relatively unproven Voyles pitched five frames after Neleman worked two innings and once through the lineup in her third straight day of work. She allowed just one hit and one run on a solo shot with two outs and two strikes in the ninth, a remarkable performance to clinch the series when the team needed it most. Tech and Louisville combined for just five hits on the day, but the game ended after the seventh thanks to Tech scratching an insurance run across in the top of the seventh, handing them the series.
For more big picture talk, be sure to check out this week’s episode of the podcast, as there is a lot of softball chatter this week.
Overall: 21-11 | Last Week: 0-1
Though the season did not end as everyone certainly hoped, it is certainly true that Georgia Tech had both a memorable and successful season in 2021-22. That needs to be said and acknowledged before moving on. There is plenty of time before the next season tips to deconstruct where Tech faltered from their winning ways, but today is not that day.
In the end, Tech’s excellent run came up shorter than most likely expected. The Jackets faltered into the end of the season, earning a middling seed and the right To face Kansas and, if they won, the juggernaut Stanford Cardinal on their home court. Tech found themselves in an early hole in the first quarter, going down 10 points immediately out of the gate before a 22-3 run of their own put them up nine. This would be the ebb of the Tech offense, as the Jackets would cede the lead back slowly and entered the half trailing 34-31. Tech wouldn’t get much closer in the second half, as the Jayhawks stepped on the gas and pulled away to a 77-58 win. Digna Strautmane in her final game of collegiate eligibility led the Jackets’ scoring with 18 points on the night. On to next year.
Overall: 6-7 | Last Week: 1-1
Rankings - ITA: 54
Tech once again lost a heartbreaker in the opener, coming just a point short of yet another conference win, this time against #14 Virginia. Tech got things started well once again, as they took the doubles point. The Jackets reunited Andres Martin and Marcus McDaniel, and they were able to notch the win. However, in singles, it just wasn’t quite enough, as Martin was upset on court one, offsetting Keshav Chopra’s upset on three.
In the second match of the weekend, Tech moved outside and got a must-needed conference win to show for it. Andres Martin got back to his winning ways on court one, his doubles partner McDaniel got a win on two, and the pair was able to notch a win in doubles too, as one of two winning courts for the Jackets. Chopra and Chen Dong also picked up wins in singles play.
Overall: 9-5 | Last Week: 1-1
Rankings - ITA: 33
The Tech women also split the weekend, with their win coming first against #21 Wake Forest on Friday by a 5-2 margin. Though #13 Ava Hrastar and Kylie Bilchev were upset 6-4, Tech cleaned up on the other two courts in the doubles point, securing them the opening point. The Jackets continued their strong play into the singles side of things, with Carol Lee setting the table nicely on court one with a tidy two set upset and Gia Cohen taking care of business on court five. Kate Sharabura made quick work of court six as well, meaning that the match was iced at 4-0 before the Demon Deacons even got on the board.
The second match was not quite so great for Tech, as they fell by a reversed 2-5 margin to North Carolina State. This one is particularly poignant, seeing that NC State currently sits at #2, but up until a few years ago, the Jackets were riding a 34 match win streak against the Wolfpack. Bilchev and Mahak Jain netted Tech’s wins on the day.
Women’s Swimming and Diving:
It was a relatively quiet week for Tech, who saw Anna Bradescu, Camryn Hidalgo, and McKenzie Campbell represent the Jackets in their home pool at NCAAs. On the week, Tech had no qualifiers for finals in event and scored no points, but it was certainly a meet that saw a lot of solid swims, with Kate Douglass netting three wins and three American records for the Virginia Cavaliers, who went on to win their second national championship in a row.
Track and Field
Tech opened the outdoor season hosting the Yellow Jacket Invitational. Of note, the schools in Athens and Clemson both made the trip to Midtown, along with a number of mid-majors and unattached runners. Tech looked particularly good in the high jump, as Shanty Papakosta, Carla Du Plessis, and Camille Trotman sweeping the podium. Tech had two other First place finishers on Sunday, and they joined Zach Jaeger, who had won the 1500m the day before. All in all, it was a very solid weekend for the Jackets, who will next be in action next week in both Raleigh and Tallahassee.
In the Club House:
Tech Lacrosse only had one game on the weekend, and they certainly made the most of it, as they traveled on the road to face one of the SELC’s traditional powers, South Carolina, on their own field. Tech and South Carolinas both came into the game ranked in the nation’s top ten teams. The Gamecocks got on the board first, firing off two goals before Tech turned right around with an answer and an equalizer. This very much epitomizer the game, as even though Tech was able to generally stake themselves leads from the point, their hosts were never out of reach, and the game was tied as late as 8-8. However as the 12-8 final would belie, Tech poured them on from there, netting first the tiebreaker and then an insurance goal in short succession, before a third and then an open net goal put the game on ice and keep Tech atop the SELC North.
Not to understate the results for the men’s lacrosse team, but the biggest news on the weekend from the club circuit came from the town of West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Side note, boys and girls of Georgia Tech Hockey, if any of you read this, go to Baldwin’s Book Barn while you are in West Chester. Fantastic place, great vibe, eclectic selection.
Anyways, back on topic, the Jackets were placed in a pool with Kutztown, Alvernia, #3 Florida Atlantic, who they played in that order. In the first two contests, the Jackets were able to absolutely throttle their opponents, as the Pennsylvanian schools were dispatched 7-0 and 10-3. On Sunday, though, in the clinching round of pool play, Tech was to face Florida Atlantic, a highly-regarded team in their own right. After offensive onslaughts the previous times out, the #3 vs. #14 affair was much quieter, but it was still an exciting match as Tech netted four goals behind the stellar play of captain Matthew Connelly and his superb hat trick. Certainly a gutty performance by #17 when the moment called for it. The Owls managed just two goals on the day, while Tech also netted another, giving them the decisive 4-2 lead and a chance to play for the Federation Cup by advancing to the quarterfinals.
3/22 - at Kennesaw State
3/23 - Kennesaw State
3/25-27 - at Raleigh
3/22 - Dartmouth (DH)
3/25-27 - Syracuse
3/24-26 - at The Godwin (Palo Alto, CA)
3/26 - at Charleston Southern
3/26 - at College of Charleston
3/23 - Clemson
3/25 - Florida State
3/23-26 - NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships (McAuley Aquatic Center, Atlanta, GA)
Track and Field:
3/24-25 - Raleigh Relays (Raleigh, NC)
3/24-25 - Florida State Relays (Tallahassee, FL)