Oct. 31, 2011
By Jon Cooper
It seems like only yesterday that junior pitcher Hope Rush was a hot-shot freshman, chalking up strikeouts and blasting home runs at such an incredible pace that she earned First Team All-ACC honors and 2010 ACC Freshman of the Year.
Georgia Tech Softball Head Coach Sharon Perkins would like to see Rush go back to being a freshman — at least on the field.
Based on the team’s fall practice, it looks like she might get her wish.
“Hope’s been great,” said Perkins. “I feel like Hope is really closer to where she left off after her first year, which is exciting for me. That was kind of my goal coming into this year, let’s get Hope back.
“She’s had phenomenal at-bats,” she continued. “I think she’s had a great approach at the plate in every single game that we played and she’s been very successful at the plate. Pitching-wise, she started the first game of every fall game that we had and has thrown the most innings of all of our pitchers and I think she looks pretty good.”
Rush looked more than pretty good as a freshman, going 26-8 with a 1.98 ERA, striking out 170 in 222 1/3 innings. Offensively, she hit .302, with 20 homers, 60 RBIs and a .659 slugging percentage. But last season, injuries slowed her down. While her average actually went up four points, she managed 12 homers, 38 RBIs with a .649 slugging percentage in 49 games. Her hitting didn’t suffer nearly as much as her pitching, as Rush appeared in 18 fewer games (22 from 40) with 14 fewer starts (18). She threw six complete games in 18 starts, as compared to her freshman season, when she completed 28 of 32 starts.
She never used injuries as an excuse, but did use last season as motivation, working hard throughout the summer, when not taking classes.
“My main goal was to play ball throughout the summer. So I went to school and I played ball,” she said. “Last year we didn’t finish as well as we would have liked. I think it’s a good thing and a bad thing because you remember how we finished so we can continue to build off of that.”
Rush said she didn’t add any new pitches to her repertoire but simply went back to basics and worked on improving her fastball.
“I’m trying to get my speed back up,” she said. “I didn’t throw the off-speed much this summer. I just worked on throwing my fastball.”
Perkins believes that Rush, the elder statesman of the pitching staff, has what it takes, both mentally and physically, to be the ace of a young staff that has only one other returning pitcher (sophomore Lindsey Anderson; also on the roster are freshmen, Kylie Kleinschmidt and 1B/P, Karly Fullem) and put her sophomore year behind her.
“She dealt with some injuries early on and I think she was never really able to get into a routine,” said Perkins. “Sometimes pitching takes a little while. So I think mentally, hopefully, she’s going to have a strong year. Physically, I hope she’s going to be fine. If we can put those two things together then she’ll have another strong year. I think it’s difficult to come off of being an All-American your freshman year. It’s difficult to go from there sometimes. Mentally it’s a difficult thing to come back and try to top that. It’s difficult to top. If she just goes out and does the things that got here then she’ll be fine.”
Rush believes her time is now, although time, especially how fleeting it has been, has been difficult to fathom.
“It’s really weird because time has flown by,” she said. “It’s hard to believe I have two years left.”