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Feb. 28, 2011

By Jon Cooper

Sting Daily

Sometimes the chance to step back and observe is the perfect remedy for a team, no matter how early in the season it may be.

Georgia Tech Softball Head Coach Sharon Perkins believes her charges had such an opportunity with the recent five-day break.

“[The break] came at a great time for us because it allowed us to sit down and really focus a few days in a row on what we need, offensively, pitching-wise and defensively,” said Perkins, whose No. 22/25 Yellow Jackets get back into action today, traveling to Georgia State, then playing its home opener against Niagara (first pitch for both games is at 5:00 p.m.). “It allowed us a chance to sit as a team and discuss what we need to improve on and things like that and get in there and work on it. We had some great practices after that.”

The Jackets are 7-4 but have lost three straight games. Two of them by one run — one of those was called after six innings due to time constraints. In two of the losses Tech came out on the short end despite Jackets pitchers not allowing an earned run and in one loss, they stranded 13 base runners.

But there is no panic. Perkins has an eye toward the long-term and used the days off to get the team prepared for that, as well. She sees short-term pain as the road to long-term gain.

“In the past, we’d start off stronger than we have this year I guess,” she said. “We’d start off a little quicker and be successful in conference and feel like once we get to the postseason we don’t have a particular somebody or a few somebodies that we can bring in in clutch situations. I don’t think we have taken this time to prepare people for that situation. So I think it’s been nice, even though maybe we’ve had more losses than we typically have at this point, early on, I think it’s going to pay off in the long run because you look at the people that are playing and they’re getting opportunities early on and they’re going to be in a better situation down the line.”

The Yellow Jackets have successfully worked freshmen Alysha Rudnik and Ashley Thomas into the lineup, with Rudnik platooning behind the plate with Kate Kuzma and at third with Danielle Dike, while Thomas has shared second with Shannon Bear. Hayley Downs also has gotten time in the outfield, while Lindsey Anderson had appeared in four games on the mound.

The freshmen have used the non-game days to work on things that will help them in game situations.

“I think they’re doing a great job defensively for us,” said Perkins. “It’s been nice to do some kind of game play things, some intersquad scrimmage, put them in situations and kind of see what they can do there. They were really successful throughout the week and weekend. So that was nice to see. Putting the ball in play in bunt situations, executing what we need, hit-and-runs, things like that. They’ve done a great job with that and they’ve been great on the bases, also.”

There will be no shortage of opportunities to show what they’ve learned, as over the next six days Tech will play seven games, concluding with the Buzz Classic this weekend.

“I think they do a pretty good job of staying focused, looking at what we have coming up next,” said Perkins. “I think it was a good time to have a nice long period of time off from games and get to focus on those things. We’re really excited to get back in there, put these things into play in game play, in live games.”

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