April 27, 2009
By Jack Wilkinson
Call it Six Days in April. Not to be confused with “Seven Days in May.” That 1964 film was based on the political thriller novel of the same name. Not that this week in Georgia Tech athletics doesn’t have its own intrigue, drama and long-range ramifications, if not long-range nuclear weapons. Unless, of course, Luke Murton goes on another home run binge.
But for now, as the spring semester winds down and final exams loom next week, Tech teams are positioning themselves for the month of May and the post-season. So let’s follow along daily during Six Days in April: a sporting six-pack on the Flats as April approaches May and the collegiate sports calendar gets serious.
Day 6: It’s not lonely at the top. Not for Tech’s women’s softball team, now alone atop the ACC standings after one sweep weekend. How to one-up Saturday’s double-header sweep of No. 12 North Carolina? Complete the trifecta Sunday with a 3-2 victory, courtesy of Jen Yee’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh.
“They bounced back well,” head coach Sharon Perkins said in the afterglow of Sunday’s victory that leaves No. 20 Tech (38-13 overall) in first place with a conference record of 15-3. This, following a sweep of Carolina (44-10, 15-5 ACC) after last Wednesday’s deflating double-header defeat by No. 5 Alabama.
“You play a tough team like Alabama, you have to bounce back,” said Perkins, whose team was shut out twice by the Tide, and no-hit in the second game. And bounce back the Jackets did.
“We came out fighting,” said Perkins, whose team is now off until Saturday, when Tech opens a crucial three-game series at Maryland. “We’ve still got to go in and fight.” The Jackets can clinch the ACC regular-season title, and the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament.
“Oh yeah,” Yee, the redshirt junior from British Columbia, said after signing dozens of post-game autographs following her 11th homer of the season. “We feel it’s our year to win the ACC Tournament, and to win the regular season [title], too.”
“All right, superstar!” Tiffany Johnson said, the senior walking up to Yee, beaming and shaking her hand.
“Just trying to give you a sweep for Senior Weekend,” Yee replied. She did just that, connecting off Carolina’s Lisa Norris and crushing the pitch far over the fence in right-center. For Yee, the second baseman who’s now very comfortable hitting leadoff, it was her second home run of the series. For Tech, it was timely.
In the middle of the seventh inning, Tech assistant coach Todd Downes told first-base umpire Tim Kasate, “It’s probably gonna take someone hitting it over the fence. I don’t know if we can get two back-to-back hits.”
Not against Norris, who’d allowed just two hits to that point. Not to worry, though. Not with Yee, who made a 20-game winner out of pitcher Kristen Adkins (20-7) and put the Jackets in a driver’s seat even sweeter than the Ramblin’ Wreck’s. Two games up in the loss column, with three to play.
About the only melancholy Techie Sunday? Wanda Haller, whose daughter, Whitney, the senior slugger, is the Institute’s and the ACC’s career leader in homers and RBI.
Asked how her Senior Day on Saturday was, Wanda Haller said, “It was so sad.”
Sad? “Today,” Wanda said Sunday afternoon, “this could be the last time Whitney’s on this field, unless they host a regional. So, it’s bittersweet.
“She’s had such a wonderful, wonderful life all the way to right now,” the Marietta mom said of her youngest child. “The past four years have been unbelievable. On a happy note, I’m so proud of what she’s accomplished in softball and school.”
Haller, who has a GPA of 3.94, will graduate next month with a degree in Industrial Engineering. She’s been awarded an ACC post-graduate scholarship and been accepted into Tech’s graduate school. Haller will work towards a masters in health systems engineering.
For now, though, there are final exams this week. To that end, Perkins gave her players Monday and Tuesday off. Forget softball. At least until practice Wednesday. Then, off to Maryland.
Tech baseball doesn’t resume play until the weekend, either. The No. 4 Jackets could use a little rest, and not just to prep for finals.
After hanging on Friday night to beat No. 20 Clemson 5-4, Tech lost its second straight to the Tigers Sunday. That 6-3 defeat was their third in four games for the Jackets (28-11-1, 14-7-1 ACC). They fell out of first place in the ACC for the first time this season.
Danny Hall’s team still has two conference series left: May 8-10 versus Florida State at Russ Chandler Stadium, then May 14-16 at Duke to close the regular season.
Day 2 of the NFL Draft was bountiful for Tech. Four Jackets were chosen Sunday, including DE Michael Johnson, who lasted until Cincinnati selected him as the sixth pick in the third round, and No. 70 overall. Johnson will likely be a pass-rushing specialist for the Bengals.
Two more members of Georgia Tech’s superb defensive line were drafted in round seven: Defensive tackles Vance Walker and Darryl Richard, picked by the Falcons and New England, respectively. Offensive tackle Andrew Gardner went one round earlier, a sixth-round pick by Miami.
Not since 2004 had Tech had as many as four players drafted by the NFL.