Aug. 24, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Thursday is going to be a fun day around Mewborn Field, as Georgia Tech’s softball team gets together for its first practice of the fall.
It will be a day of catching up and talking about their time spent away from each other during the summer.
Anderson, Dike and Thomas were teammates on the Virginia Pride in the UCBL College and Beyond League. In its first summer, the league is sponsored by the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA). The eight-teams featured some top-flight collegiate competition from around the U.S., including North Carolina pitcher Lori Spingola, Georgia pitcher Morgan Montemayor, Virginia pitcher Melanie Mitchell and Virginia Tech pitcher, Bailey LIddle.
While the teams were out to win, there was enough of a relaxed atmosphere to keep things fun.
“It was really an incredible experience,” said Dike, a native of Scottsville, Va, who put on quite a power display, hitting eight home runs in the ASA Nationals Tournament, held in Salem, Va., the final weekend of the Tournament. “It was really a lot of fun. It was more fun and goofing around than being serious about anything. You could crack jokes on people on the other team because you knew them. It was just a whole lot of fun and I’m planning on doing it again next year. I loved it.”
Of course, winning in any league makes everything better, and the Virginia Pride did that better than every team but one — the Virginia Legends, who beat the Pride in the final game, 6-5.
Leading the Legends were none other than current Yellow Jackets shortstop Kelsi Weseman and catcher Alysha Rudnik and former Yellow Jackets Blair Shimandle and Brittany Barnes (Barnes’ father, Larry, coached the team). They carried the torch for Tech on the Legends, as Pitching Coach Shaina Ervin and Assistant Coach Aileen Morales played on the team in 2006.
While the Legends took home the trophy, everyone in the league brought home pleasant memories.
“I just thought it was a lot of fun,” said Dike, who saw some time at first base. “When Kelsi got on base I would sit there and talk to her. When I got on base, Kelsi would sit there and talk to me. We could joke around.
“We could hang out after the game because most of the time we were in the same hotel,” she added. “We got to know other players on teams. There was a team that was basically full of UVA and Virginia Tech girls. One night, after all the games, we were just hanging out in the hotel with the other ACC girls.”
Anderson, who drove up from her home in Johns Creek, Ga., with Thomas, was impressed by the play of Dike and Thomas and had plenty of memories created by her Jackets’ teammates.
“I know Kelsi, when she played us, hit nothing but doubles. She probably would have had a triple if the coach didn’t hold her up,” she said. “D.D., was the home run champ in one of the tournaments and hit a walk-off grand slam, so that deserves a little bit of bragging rights in my opinion. I pitched pretty well, Ashley looked great. She played an awesome second base. But I would say the standouts were Kelsi hitting the ball to the fence every time and D.D. hitting it over the fence almost every time.”
Thomas, who hit .417 in the ASA Tourney, enjoyed hanging out with her college teammates, even if for a couple of hours they were on different sides.
“Since I live in Texas, I hadn’t gotten to see any of the Tech girls in a while,” she said. “So it was nice seeing Lindsey and D.D. and even, going to these tournaments, and seeing Alysha and Kelsi Weseman and other teammates. It was definitely great seeing them and playing with them.
“It was kind of weird because I’m used to playing with them,” she added. “It’s competitive but it’s not where we don’t like each other because we’re playing against each other. It’s definitely a lot more relaxed.”
On the whole, the league was a hit.
Anderson admitted that the time off the field was as much fun as the time on it.
“Ashley and I had a couple of road trips together and we just spent the whole time laughing and talking about how much fun we had,” she said. “We were roommates, D.D. Me, Ashley, and another girl. It was so great to just be able to goof off with your teammates. We just had so much fun.
“The only problem is there is a rule where you can only have four girls from the same college team on one of these teams,” she added. “So I’d love to get more teammates involved but we can only take one more on our team and obviously, Wilson Select can only take two more, considering Kelsi and Alysha are already on that team. I’d love to get more people involved. It’s just a matter of which team they’re going to play for.”
Thomas said she learned something else, something about playing in the league against Weseman and Rudnik.
“I’d rather be playing with them than against them,” she said.
Come Thursday, Thomas and all the Jackets will get to do that again.