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Here Come Tech's Fab 5 Freshmen

March 29, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

No. 25/24 Georgia Tech Softball (28-5, 3-0) is riding high, on a seven-game winning streak, and is 3-0, in the ACC, following the sweep of North Carolina State last weekend at Mewborn Field.

But tonight, those numbers can be thrown out the window, as the Yellow Jackets renew hostilities with intrastate rival and No. 2 Georgia (27-4, 8-3 in the SEC), at Jack Turner Stadium, in Athens in the first of two annual meetings. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

It will be the first meeting between Georgia Tech and Georgia for the group of five talented freshmen — catcher/3b Alysha Rudnik, outfielder Hayley Downs, second baseman Ashley Thomas, pitcher Lindsey Anderson and outfielder Kaitlin Kates. Thus far four of the five have contributed big time to the team’s success — Kates hasn’t had a chance yet, as she’s missed the entire season with a broken bone in her hand, but could be back contributing as a pinch-runner, possibly as soon as tonight.

Rudnik, Downs and Anderson are Georgia natives and are well-versed on the rivalry, but out-of-towners Thomas and Kates have been brought up to speed.

Georgia leads the all-time series, 18-9. Tech leads, 4-3, in the Sharon Perkins era but has lost the last three meetings by a total of six runs.

While none of the freshmen knows exactly what to expect from a Georgia-Georgia Tech game, all five have expectations, which they recently shared with Sting Daily

Alysha Rudnik
Hometown: Lawrenceville, Ga.
2011 Contributions: 8 homers (tied-5th), 23 RBIs (5th), 31 hits (5th), 64 total bases (5th)

What do you know about the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry?

“Not a whole lot, but the older girls have kind of talked about it. As far as the game itself goes, I don’t know as much as they do. But I remember one time Ashley was like, ‘Oh, we’re playing Georgia,’ and the older girls were like, ‘Yeah. It’s a BIG game. it’s a BIG rivalry.’ I’m excited to play. I haven’t really felt the rivalry yet as far as actually playing in it but I’m excited for it because I know that it’s going to be an intense game.”

Ashley Thomas
Hometown: McKinney, Texas
2011 Contributions: 12-for-12 in stolen bases, 55 assists (3rd)

What do you know about the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry?

“Being from out of town I don’t get the same rivalry as everyone else from Georgia, but I’ve heard a lot about it. It’s important to a lot of the girls on our team to beat Georgia. I’m excited to understand it.

“[Senior and fellow McKinney native Kristen Adkins] told me that you don’t understand the rivalry until you play in the game. So once I get to the Georgia game and we start to play, I’ll understand the rivalry.

Hayley Downs
Hometown: Grayson, Ga.
2011 Contributions: .382 BA (4th), 33 hits (3rd), .385 average with 2 out

What do you know about the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry?

“I grew up right in between, Georgia Tech and Georgia, but I know a lot more Georgia fans than Georgia Tech fans. I’ve been going to the Georgia-Georgia Tech softball games for years. The rivalry is definitely intense and so, when I committed here, that was one of the first things I thought about, the Georgia-Georgia Tech game. It’s definitely been something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. But when the day it comes, I don’t want to have the mindset of ‘I’ve been waiting for this day forever.’ I want to approach it like any other game because I want to keep the same focus that I’ve had going into every other game. So hopefully I can keep it calm. But I’m definitely excited about it because it’s a huge deal for me because I’ve been around it so much.

“I think it’s important for everybody, top to bottom, from the coaching staff all the way down, to get a win for some state respect. Because I feel like a lot of times our talent gets overlooked by Georgia, when I feel like we can compete with them. Hopefully we can show that.”

Kaitlin Kates
Hometown: Morgan City, La.
2011 Contributions: Has not played due to injury but blazing speed will make her a base-stealing threat

What do you know about the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry?

“I grew up in Louisiana, so it’s something new to me, but being on the team, I know [other girls] probably had this rivalry throughout their entire life. Coming to Tech, it’s already starting to build up in me. I’m starting to feel the rivalry. I’m already like wanting to beat them so bad. It doesn’t take much (laughs).

“I definitely don’t know what to expect but I’ve heard a lot about the intensity of the game and all the people and the rivalry. So I’m ready for it. I think our team definitely is well-prepared, we’re well-coached, we’re ready for it. If we do our jobs, I think we can beat them. Our hitting has been outstanding. If we can go out and play defense like we know how to play it, we’ll be okay. I’m really excited for it.”

Lindsey Anderson
Hometown: Johns Creek, Ga.
2011 Contributions: 4-0, 1 save, .158 opposing batting average (lowest on team)

What do you know about the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry?

“The first time going through it I just want to win. It’s more about bragging rights, to say you’ve won. Especially since Georgia’s doing so well this year, it would help our team tremendously to get that win, get the RPI. So for us, we don’t have anything to lose because going into it we’re the underdogs. I want to beat them so we can say we beat them, so we can say we beat the “supposedly” better team. I think our team’s been getting pumped up for it and we’ve been preparing ourselves mentally and aggressively to attack their pitchers by watching video and stuff like that.”



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