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From Atlanta, With Pride

June 19, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Just because the college season is over doesn’t mean that Georgia Tech student-athletes lose the desire to continue playing sports.

Sunday’s Sting Daily showed just how active Yellow Jackets baseball is this summer in collegiate summer baseball leagues.

Softball players are no less eager to keep playing and now have an outlet.

It is known as the USSSA Elite College and Beyond League (UCBL) — a six-team league organized by the USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association). One of the teams is the Virginia Pride.

Not surprisingly, Georgia Tech will have a presence there, as well, in junior third baseman Danielle Dike and freshman pitcher Lindsey Anderson.

While the League is new, most of the competition is not to Dike, a Scottsville, Va., native, who has played summer ball the last three years.

“I’ve played 23 and under for [Head Coach Rick Anderson] since my freshman year,” said Dike. “I really like him, he’s very laid back and he’s all about letting the girls go out and play. We’re all college players. So it’s cool.

“He told me this past summer that all of the big U23 coaches were going into this kind of semi-pro type league,” she added. “It’s like a mini-team for the pro teams. That’s basically what it is. You play a couple of tournaments here and there. There’s a championship and everything for it.”

Dike, who, herself was introduced to the league by Radford University star Kristen Shifflett, a high school rival but now a good friend, said that the league is always looking for pitching. Knowing that — actually her dad’s knowing that and taking the initiative — led to her recruiting Anderson, the Johns Creek, Ga., native.

“My dad said something to her because the coach of the team is always looking for pitchers and I knew that Lindsey was looking for somewhere to play this summer,’ Dike recalled. “I called [Anderson] up one day and asked him if he needed any pitchers, that I thought she’d be a great fit for our team. He was like, ‘Okay, bring her on.’ So they communicated and she’s on board.”

Anderson and Dike are excited about getting the opportunity to continue working on their skills against college-level competition.

“The last couple of summers, I’ve played for the same U23 team,” Dike said. “Doing that, just going home and playing, it was nice because you could get your games in, get your innings in and stay in shape. But I feel like this is a little bit above the U23 level, kind of like the college level. I think it will keep those senses sharp.”

“I think it’s definitely important to keep facing batters all summer and not completely lose your competitive mindset,” agreed Anderson, who was 13-2 with 2.85 ERA, and also was named to the 2011 ACC All-Academic Team. “[Tech Pitching Coach] Shaina [Ervin] and I talked about trying to work on my feet, gaining a couple of miles an hour, trying to pitch a little bit faster. We’ve also kind of talked about my step, when I stride out, my step goes a little bit towards the left, we’re trying to fix that so I have more momentum going towards the catcher. Other than that, there’s not really a new pitch that I’m trying to work on. It’s more of just trying to I guess perfect the mechanics that we’re already working on.”

Anderson believes that this league is a long time coming.

“I’m surprised that more pitchers aren’t interested in starting teams or getting on teams,” she said. “If there are more pitchers then you’d think more teams would start up. I am kind of shocked, but I guess after a whole season, especially if you go to the World Series, that many games, and academics on top of that, a lot of girls just get kind of burned out and kind of like that three-month break.”

Of course, Anderson’s version of a summer break differs than most college freshmen…or sophomores or juniors.

She started the season working for eight weeks as a camp counselor at Camp All-American, which is run by former Georgia Tech football player Jay Martin. She also is taking three Business Administration classes, including Legal Aspects of Business, Business Information Technology, (aka “Info-Tech,”) and an Accounting class. She’s also taking a Humanities elective class.

Even with all that, the over-riding need to compete made it impossible to say, ‘No.’ to the UCBL.

Dike sees great potential for the league, especially with the talent it has already been able to draw.

“It could be [big],” said Dike. “My coach tries to get players from all around. Last summer I played with [USA Softball centerfielder] Michelle Moultrie from Florida and I’ve played with a couple of Virginia Tech girls, some Radford girls, some Florida State girls.”

It may also become a summer training ground for more Yellow Jackets down the road.

“We’ll see. I think [Anderson’s] tried to get some other Georgia Tech girls before but they were worried about the distance coming up to Virginia so much,” she said. “My coach told me they shouldn’t worry about that. Lindsey’s not worrying about it. She said, ‘No problem, I’m coming.'”

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