ATLANTA, GEORGIA — We are keeping it short this week and not burying any ledes. Georgia Tech Softball is the story of the week, and they paid off a half decade of program building by Aileen Morales and her staff by earning their first NCAA Tournament appearance in a full decade with the announcement Sunday that they would be headed to Gainesville as the #2 seed in Florida’s regional. All that and more - mainly Track and Field, as well as a brief golf update - in this week’s edition of Yellow Jacket Roundup.
Overall: 37-16 | Last Week: 1-1
NC State - [W] 4-2: Tech faced a familiar face in the form of Maddie McPherson, who spent all six innings in the circle for NC State, while Blake Neleman got the start in the circle and pitched a complete game two hitter. Neleman allowed just two runs on the day while Tech spread four runs over six trips to the plate. The Jackets got on the board first with a single run when Jin Sileo knocked in Bailee Zeitler on a double to the outfield after one of Zeitler’s two hits on the day. Kennedy Cowden also reached base safely twice, with the first of the two knocking in the tying run. Tech broke the tie and added an insurance run when Emma Kauf’s two run double tacked on two more, and the scoring stood still from there.
Duke - [W] 4-2: After playing into the main bracket of the tournament for their second game of the ACC Championship, the Jackets got one more shot to beat the vaunted Blue Devils once on the year. Though they kept the designated home team at bay enough to take the game into the bottom of the sixth trailing just 4-3 thanks, critically, to another critical Cowden hit, it wasn’t enough, and Duke tacked on three to put the game out of reach in the bottom of the frame. Tech would rally in the seventh and tagged Duke’s vaunted Peyton St. George for three runs, but fell 9-6 nonetheless.
Postseason Notes: Tech was selected for its first NCAA appearance since 2012 as an at-large team, one of 6 from the ACC. The Jackets join conference champion Florida State, a remarkable Virginia Tech team, hosts Duke and Clemson, and a solid Notre Dame team. The ACC field is a solid contribution, though they likely are underrepresented relative to the Big Ten and SEC. Those two conferences send two of the other three teams in the Gainesville regional, with the host Florida Gators and perennial tournament team Wisconsin Badgers joined by Tech and Canisius, the MAAC champions.
Tech got a relatively favorable regional matchup, relative to their RPI and other metrics, but neither Florida nor Wisconsin are easy outs, with both having marquee wins on the year. More to come on this later in the week as we look to do more previewing of the upcoming weekend.
Track and Field
It was a relatively quiet weekend for Tech up in Durham at the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Tech finished on the men’s side with just a single point, slotting them into 15th place. That point, it should be noted, came from a very nice performance by John Watkins in the triple jump, and he did receive all-ACC honors for his efforts. On the women’s side, Tech finished with 31 points and four top three finishers. Taylor Grimes (2nd — 100m Hurdles), Shanty Papakosta (2nd — High Jump), Nicole Fegans (3rd — 5000m), Lydia Troupe (3rd — 400m Hurdles) were the Jackets that made the podium on the weekend.
The Jackets have one day under their belt in Columbus, and, by and large, it was an unspectacular debut in their NCAA Regional. Tech was paced by Benjamin Reuter and Ross Steelman, who each shot +1 on the day, but despite the inconsistent start, Tech is still in the mix for a top 5 spot and a trip to the NCAA Championship. The Jackets can figure in some improvement - hopefully - to the next few rounds, but they simply need to hold serve and stay in the top five in order to play another weekend.
In the Club House:
Men’s Club Lacrosse received an at-large bid to the MCLA Tournament in Round Rock, where they faced #9 Concordia-Irvine in the first round. Tech narrowly eked out a win against their foes, taking the game by a goal in the 12-11 final. Matching up against the nation’s best team in the quarterfinals, Tech fought valiantly against Virginia Tech and again escaped with a one goal win, 11-10. After a day of rest, they came back out for a rematch with Clemson and avenged a loss earlier in the season with a 12-10 win. Despite the storybook run through the best the nation had to throw at them, their quest for the MCLA title came up just short of a championship, falling to rival South Carolina for the second time in five games. Thus, the Jackets came up short, but it was still a remarkable year with some very notable highlights on the way to the season’s final day.
5/20-23: NCAA Regionals (Gainesville, FL)
5/17: at Kent State
5/19-20: at Pittsburgh
Through 5/18: NCAA Regionals (Columbus, OH)