April 9, 2009
#22 Georgia Tech Hosts NC State This Weekend
The Georgia Tech softball team (28-11, 6-3 ACC) looks for its fourth straight ACC series win when NC State (20-16, 3-6) comes to town for a three-game set this weekend. The Yellow Jackets and Wolfpack will play a doubleheader Friday beginning at 5 p.m. and then conclude the series Saturday at 1.
Live audio and stats for all three games are available free of charge at www.ramblinwreck.com, while Saturday’s game will be broadcast on ACC Select.
The Yellow Jackets have begun the 2009 conference season by winning two outs of three games in each of their first three series’ (at Virginia Tech, vs. #19 Florida State, at Boston College). Dating back to last year, the Jackets have won six straight ACC series.
The last time the Yellow Jackets lost a series in conference play came at the hands of NC State. The Wolfpack swept the under-manned Yellow Jackets April 5-6, 2008, in Raleigh.
Despite the sweep, Tech still leads the all-time series against NC State 10-8. The Wolfpack also beat the Yellow Jackets 1-0 in the first round of the ACC Tournament last season in College Park, Md. and have won five in a row in the series.
Lindsay Campana had a no-hitter for 5.2 innings and settled for a one-hit shutout helping fifth-seeded NC State to a 1-0 win over fourth-seeded Georgia Tech in the opening round ACC tournament game last season.
Blair Shimandle doubled with two outs in the sixth inning, but that was the farthest a Yellow Jacket reached on the base paths.
Tech had just three base runners all day against Campana as freshman Amanda Crow was hit by a pitch in the third inning and walked in the sixth.
Whitney Humphreys was the hard-luck loser as she allowed just one run in the first inning and scattered four hits in the game.
During the three game series in Raleigh last April, NC State out-scored the Yellow Jackets 23-10. They hit eight home runs as Tech was playing without several starters.
Sad To See March Go
As the calendar turns April, March proved to be a very successful month for the Yellow Jackets. Tech went 17-4 in the month while out-scoring its opposition, 131-41, and out-hitting them, .327-.226.
The Yellow Jackets compiled a team slugging percentage of .559, including 29 home runs in the 21 March games. They also had 35 doubles and a .408 team on-base percentage.
The pitching staff compiled a 1.81 ERA as sophomore Kristen Adkins and senior Tiffany Johnson combined to go 15-3.
Freshman Kelsi Weseman led the offense with a .467 batting average. She had 20 runs scored, seven doubles, three home runs and 19 RBI. Senior Whitney Haller (.433) and redshirt junior Jen Yee (.411) also hit over .400 in March.
Johnson led the squad with seven home runs, while she and Adkins each drove in 21 runs. Six of Tech’s nine regular starters batted over .300 in March.
Back In the Rankings
For the first time since last year’s preseason poll, the Yellow Jackets are ranked in the top 25. After receiving votes for most of the season, Tech cracked the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll at No. 24 in the March 31 poll and moved up two spots to 22nd in this week’s edition.
In the NFCA/USA Today poll, the Jackets are the fifth team receiving votes.
Perkins Wins Number 100
Georgia Tech Head Coach Sharon Perkins won her 100th career game on March 8 in the championship game of the Buzz Classic. Perkins is now 114-58 (.667) in her third season in Atlanta.
Perkins came to Tech after being an associate head coach and assistant coach at Georgia. Since taking over the reigns at Tech, Perkins is 4-0 against UGA. Those four wins represent nearly twice as many wins (5) as the Yellow Jackets had before she arrived on The Flats.
Haller Is Now Tech, ACC Home Run And RBI Queen
Senior Whitney Haller came into the season needing just one home run for the ACC record and she wasted no time in taking care of business on opening day, Feb. 7. Haller took Georgia State pitcher Madi Gore deep on the fourth pitch of her at bat in the top of the first inning for her 50th career home run surpassing NC State’s Jen Chamberlin.
For good measure, Haller added a three-run home run later in the game for her fourth career two-homer game. All this in the first game of the season.
With a three-RBI game at Kennesaw State on Feb. 25, Haller became the school and ACC leader in RBI as well as she passed former teammate Savannah Brown.
Haller Off To Much Better Start
In 2008, Whitney Haller spent the first half of the season in a slump, but has picked right up this year where she left off in the second half of last season.
Haller has hit safely in all but nine games this year and is third on the team and fourth in the ACC with a .397 batting average. She has eight home runs, which is tied for fourth in the ACC, and a league-high 39 RBI as well as a 1.151 OPS.
Haller began the season on an eight-game hitting streak, but was held hitless for three straight games at the Cathedral City Classic. It’s worth noting, that Haller, like many of the players, had the flu on the trip to the West Coast. When she felt better, Haller had a three-hit game against Oregon State.
That eight-game swing represented the fourth- longest hitting streak to begin a season in Yellow Jacket history. Laura Williams enjoyed a 15-game hitting streak to begin the 1997 season as well as a nine-game hitting streak to open up 1996.
In 2006, Tara Knudsen hit safely in her first 11.
Weseman Fitting Right In
Freshman Kelsey Weseman knew she had big shoes to fill replacing All-American shortstop Aileen Morales, but the Hutto, Texas native has fit right in.
Weseman has started all 39 games at shortstop and is first on the team and second in the ACC batting .426 with a 1.232 OPS.
Weseman has an ACC-high 12 doubles, two triples, six home runs and 31 RBI.
Weseman has reached base safely in all but four games this season, while scoring 28 runs and striking out just nine times.
Weseman has an on-base percentage of .519 (second in the ACC) and don’t say she’s not afraid to take one for the team. Weseman is currently 23rd in the nation after getting hit by a pitch 12 times.
Yee Is An On-Base Machine
Redshirt junior Jen Yee was one of 50 players named to the USA Softball Player of the Year Watch List last month and while she didn’t make the cut down to 25 which was announced April, she has certainly made her presence felt in the line-up this season.
Yee’s name can be found all over the ACC leaders this season as she is third in batting (.424), tied for second in hits (46), first in runs scored (39), tied for sixth in home runs (7), second in doubles (11), tied for seventh in triples (2), first in total bases (82), second in walks (25), first in on-base percentage (.532) and third in slugging percentage (.739).
Yee has struck out just six times all season and four of her team-high 25 walks have been intentional.
Johnson, Adkins Provide 1-2 Punch In The Circle …
Sophomore Kristen Adkins, who transferred from the University of Florida, has been the work horse so far for the Georgia Tech pitching staff.
Adkins is currently 14-6 with a team-best 1.39 ERA. She currently ranks fifth in the ACC in both wins and ERA. Adkins has held opponents to a .250 batting average while picking up two solo shutouts.
The McKinney, Texas, native is at her best when getting ground balls and quick innings, but recorded a career-high nine strikeouts in the March 28 win over No. 19 Florida State. It was a gutsy start that saw her throw 158 pitches, but give the Jackets a much-needed win to open up the crucial series at Mewborn Field.
Adkins has been a magician many times this year getting out of jams. Opposing hitters are batting .283 against her with the bases empty this year, but just .226 with runners on. When there are at least two base runners on, Adkins is limiting opponents to a .093 average. Of the 143 base runners she has allowed via a hit, walk or hit batsman, only 25 (17 percent) have come around to score.
Johnson, meanwhile, is 11-2 this season with a 1.69 ERA. She has four shutouts, 94 strikeouts in 95.0 innings pitched and has held opponents to a .165 batting average which is second-best in the ACC.
Johnson had a string of 24.0 straight scoreless innings snapped in the fourth inning of game three against Florida State on March 29.
… And At The Plate
Johnson and Adkins are not limited to just pitching duties. They have quickly become two of Tech’s most consistent hitters.
A career .147 hitter heading into this season, Johnson is currently batting .305 with 29 runs scored, 11 home runs and 37 RBI. Several of her home runs have been tape measure shots.
The Atlanta native did not have a home run in her Tech career heading into 2009, but took Georgia State’s Madi Gore deep on opening day in her first at bat of the season and has not slowed down since then. Johnson’s 11 round-trippers are tops in the ACC this year and 12th-most in the nation.
Johnson is also fourth in the ACC in runs scored (29), tied for eighth in doubles (6), tied for fifth in triples (3), second in RBI (37), tied for first in total bases (81) and fifth in slugging percentage (.686).
Adkins, meanwhile, was batting .115 with no home runs or RBI heading into the March 10 home opener against UT Martin.
She hit the game-winning, two-run home run in game one that day and has been on fire since then.
Since that twinbill against the Skyhawks, Adkins is hitting at a .392 clip with four doubles, six home runs and 23 RBI.
Shimandle Steady As They Come
If senior Blair Shimandle was in the Majors, she would likely be labeled a professional hitter. The LaGrange, Ga., native has been about as steady as you can be in her first three years at Georgia Tech.
After hitting .305 as a freshman, Shimandle has batted .330 in each of her last two seasons for a .321 career mark heading into her senior year.
Shimandle went through a minor slump (by her standards) for a few weeks in March, but seems to have turned it around. In game one of a doubleheader against Georgia Southern on March 24, Shimandle was 2-for-3 with three runs scored and two walks. She set a Tech single-game record with four stolen bases in the game.
Defensively, Shimandle has moved from right field to center field this year but not missed a beat. She has not committed an error since April 1, 2007. That is a span of 129 games. Shimandle has made a couple of highlight reel catches in center field this year and has thrown out a runner at the plate as well.
Coan Getting In On The Act
Adding to the Yellow Jackets’ freshman class is pitcher Jessica Coan. Coan made her first career start against No. 2 Florida and has been a very solid hurler all season.
The Duluth, Ga., native picked up her first career win with four hitless innings at Kennesaw State on Feb. 25. She walked three and struck out a then career-high seven batters.
Coan made her second career start against Oregon on Feb. 20 out in California and was a hard-luck loser. She gave up just five hits and struck out six batters, but the offense could not give her any support and the Ducks won the game 3-0.
Coan is 3-3 on the season with a 3.76 ERA. She has a knack for the strikeout, however, with 66 k’s in just 54 innings.
Lovin’ The New Digs
On March 10, the Yellow Jackets opened the nearly $5 million Shirley Clements Mewborn Field on a beautiful 80 degree afternoon and it has been nothing short of a hitter’s paradise for the Tech hitters.
The Jackets are 11-2 so far at “The Mew” and have a team batting average of .351 en route to a +56 scoring margin (83-27).
The Tech offense has compiled a .628 slugging percentage, including 23 home runs, and an on-base percentage of .423.
While the offense has found the new field to its liking, the pitchers have been able to shut down the opposition. Johnson and Adkins have combined to go 10-1 with a 1.40 ERA.
Seven of Tech’s nine starters are batting over .300 at Mewborn Field, including five over .350. Haller has enjoyed it the most, posting a .486 batting average with three home runs and 11 RBI. Adkins is hitting a robust .469 with five home runs and 15 RBI, while Weseman has hit .421 with five doubles, two home runs and 14 RBI.
Six of Johnson’s ACC-leading 11 home runs have been hit at Mewborn Field, while she leads the Jackets with 17 RBI at home.
Tech has also hit two grand slams this season at Mewborn Field, including Haller’s first-inning blast in game one of the series against No. 19 FSU, March 28.
As The Weather Heats Up, So Do The Bats
Look at the team leaders in offense for most ACC categories and you will find the Yellow Jackets at or near the top throughout.
The Yellow Jackets currently rank first in the ACC and 13th nationally in batting average (.316), first and ninth in fielding percentage (.975), first and 10th in slugging percentage (.521), first and 42nd in doubles (57), first and 11th in home runs (46) and third and 44th in stolen bases (56).
Tech is also first in the ACC in on-base percentage (.405), runs (229), hits (328) and RBI (210).