May 12, 2002
ATLANTA — Having won its first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference title earlier in the day, the Georgia Tech softball team’s (49-16, 6-2 ACC) record-setting Sunday concluded as the team learned it earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, another first for the Jackets. Tech will return to Tallahassee, Fla., the site of the ACC tournament, and face 18th-ranked Alabama (46-19) at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Joining the Jackets and Crimson Tide in the regional are top-seeded Florida Atlantic (59-11), the No. 3 seed Florida State (49-17), fourth-seeded Auburn and No. 6 seed Chattanooga. FAU is ranked No. 12, while Florida State stands 21st nationally.
Alabama is the only team in the region that Tech has not faced this season. The Tide owns a 3-0 advantage in the all-time series with the Jackets.
Tech is 0-1 on the season against Florida Atlantic, dropping a 1-0 decision in Boca Raton, Fla., on February 23 in the FAU Worth Invitational. The Jackets are 2-0 versus Chattanooga, sweeping the Lady Mocs in Atlanta on April 10, and 1-2 against the host Seminoles, most recently topping FSU, 2-0, in the ACC tourney. Tech split a doubleheader at Auburn on March 19.
In addition to the Georgia Tech-Alabama meeting, Florida Atlantic will face Chattanooga, at 12:30 p.m., while FSU will face Auburn at 5:30 p.m. in opening round action. The regional concludes with the title game on Sunday.
The Jackets defeated North Carolina, 6-2, Sunday in Tallahassee, Fla., to secure the tournament title, but with only five teams in the conference, the ACC received no automatic bid. Tech allowed only one earned run in 23 innings of play at the championship. Freshman pitcher Jessica Sallinger, the ACC Rookie of the Year, earned tournament MVP honors, as she won all three games, pitching every inning and striking out a championship record 29 batters over the three days.
This trip to postseason is just another step in the remarkable turnaround of the Yellow Jacket program, which has won twice as many games as the 2001 edition of the team. After finishing 24-29 a year ago, the Jackets were picked to finish last in the ACC in a preseason poll of the league’s head coaches. Tech went from finishing five games under .500 a year ago to 33 games over this season.
There are eight regional sites in the 48-team tournament, with the winner of each double-elimination event advancing to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla., May 23-27.