Jack In The Box: Six Days In April, Day 2

By Jack Wilkinson
Ramblinwreck.com

April 23, 2009

Call it Six Days in April. Not to be confused with “Seven Days in May.” That 1964 film was based on the political thriller novel of the same name. Not that this week in Georgia Tech athletics doesn’t have its own intrigue, drama and long-range ramifications, if not long-range nuclear weapons. Unless, of course, Luke Murton goes on another home run binge.

But for now, as the spring semester winds down and final exams loom next week, Tech teams are positioning themselves for the month of May and the post-season. So let’s follow along daily during Six Days in April: a sporting six-pack on the Flats as April approaches May and the collegiate sports calendar gets serious.

Day 2: A decidedly mixed bag, one much better off the playing fields than on ’em. At least the Tech women’s softball team — unlike the baseball Jackets — got to play at home and was spared a long day’s up-and-back-by-bus journey into night.

Track and field — both men’s and women’s –, and men’s basketball, meanwhile, fared much better Wednesday without setting foot on a track or court.

To recap a sort of Happy Earth Day:

A big time at The Shirley: No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 20 Georgia Tech, on a perfect day for softball. Not a cloud in the sky, and a big crowd at Mewborn Field. “Let’s play two!” Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, always said. And so the Tide and Jackets did. A non-conference double-header that was double trouble for Tech.

In the circle in the opener: Kristen Adkins, Tech’s sophomore with an 18-6 record and 1.39 ERA. A little-known key to her success? Her pre-game, superstitious ritual, as gleaned from her player profile in the press guide: “Put my pants on upside down and inside out.” This is not the kind of frank, Q&A answer you normally get from, say, defensive linemen or point guards.

For three scoreless innings, Kristen fed Alabama a steady Adkins diet of fastballs and off-speed stuff, risers and sinkers. In the third inning, she escaped a potential jam on a chopper to second base. Tech’s Jen Yee, who played on the Canadian Olympic softball team last summer in Beijing, charged to field the ball but collided with the Tide’s Kellie Eubanks, who was running from first.

The runner was correctly called out for interference. The two kids from the Alabama school radio network, sitting up in the press box, disagreed;

“To be honest, Eubanks should be on second base,” one guy said to his broadcast partner. “She was in the base path. But Yee, with her Olympic experience and some dirty tricks…” Translation: the crafty Canadian intentionally caused the collision to get the out. Not so. And not the kind of play-by-play you normally hear during a women’s softball game.

The Tide finally broke through with a three-run fourth inning. Adkins was undone by miscommunication between her third baseman and shortstop on a very catchable popup. It dropped behind them for two runs and a 3-0 Alabama lead.

That was more than enough for Kelsi Dunne. The Tide starter didn’t allow a hit until Whitney Haller singled leading off the fifth. Tiffany Johnson chopped a single, too, but that’s all, folks. An abbreviated, five-inning final: 8-0, ‘Bama.

The nightcap? Even worse: A no-hitter, and nearly a perfect game by Alabama’s Charlotte Morgan. Tech’s lone baserunner: Adkins, who was hit by a pitch with two out in the fifth inning. Another abbreviated, five-inning final: 10-0, ‘Bama.

It’s the first time Tech was no-hit since 2004 — also by Alabama, but in a game the Jackets still managed to win 1-0. No such luck this time.

Happy welcome-back-to-Earth Day, everybody. Next up: A huge three-game weekend series with ACC leader North Carolina at The Shirley.

The best Tech news of the day emanated from the Edge Athletic Center. From the men’s basketball office on the third floor: Daniel Miller, a 6-11 player from Loganville Christian Academy, signed a financial aid agreement with Tech to enroll in the fall and play basketball this winter. This, after Miller — who’d signed with Georgia last November, before Bulldogs coach Dennis Felton was fired — was granted his release by UGA.

What was already rated the nation’s third-best recruiting class by one scouting service is now even better. Not that anyone will confuse Miller with Derrick Favors, the 6-9 force from South Atlanta High and the nation’s best big man. But down the road…

“We feel that he will fit in great with our other players,” Tech coach Paul Hewitt said, “and take full advantage of our player development program.”

So for now, when you think of Miller, think: a young Luke Schenscher, a few inches shorter, without the Aussie accent or a posse. Just be patient.

Speaking of impatience: Tech head track and field coach Grover Hinsdale can’t wait to get to Philadelphia for this weekend’s Penn Relays at historic Franklin Field. Not just for the best track meet in the country, an annual T&F carnival and celebration of the sport. But also for something far more precious:

A Philly cheesesteak.

“I’ll always have one, and most of our guys will, too,” said Hinsdale, who’ll take 30 athletes — 17 from the Tech women’s team and 13 from the men’s team that finished a very satisfying fourth in last week’s ACC Championships — to Philadelphia. “I can either go to Pat’s or Geno’s. Some people would argue with me, but I can go either way.”

Either way, at either of the two celebrated eateries across the street from each other at “Cheesesteak Heaven” — the intersection of 9th and Passyunk in South Philly –, Hinsdale can’t go wrong.

Unlike, say, Tech baseball’s up-and-back trip Wednesday to Western Carolina. A day after toying with the Catamounts in Tuesday night’s 16-7 laugher at Russ Chandler Stadium, the No. 4 Jackets boarded a 1 p.m. bus for the 3-hour-plus trip to Cullowhee, N.C.

It was a nice gesture by Tech coach Danny Hall, who agreed to the home-and-home series with his ex-aide Bobby Moranda, now WCU’s head coach. It was also surely a one-time-only offer. Let’s read Bobby’s Moranda rights: don’t count on another Tech visit any time soon.

After tying the game at 4-all in the fourth inning, Tech regained the lead in the fifth on Tony Plagman’s 11th homer, a 3-run shot that made it 9-6. But the Catamounts scored twice in the sixth inning, two more in the seventh and stunned Tech 10-9.

Afterward, the Jackets had to board the bus for the long ride home. They arrived at the Flats after 1 a.m. There were Thursday morning classes to attend in this, the last week of the spring semester, then an afternoon practice before the Jackets hopped another bus up I-85 to Clemson for this weekend’s crucial ACC three-game series.

Then, it’s back home by Sunday evening, before final exams Monday morning.

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