March 1, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Kylie Kleinschmidt could use a break…or at least a run.
In two starts, Kleinschmidt has allowed four hits and three earned runs in 12 2/3 innings. That’s a 1.75 ERA. She’s limiting opposing hitters to a .108 average, has struck out 16 against seven walks and has carried no-hitters into the sixth (5 1/3 innings) and fifth innings (4.0 innings).
Unfortunately, she is 0-2, as in that same span, the Yellow Jackets have given her one run of support.
That’s tough luck. But don’t expect the freshman from Lilburn, Ga., to hang her head, or even to ask for any sympathy.
She’s too busy enjoying a ride that already has gone further than she anyone she ever would have expected heading into her senior year of high school, when she was still uncommitted.
“[Georgia Tech] was never in the picture until they called me,” recalled Kleinschmidt, who led Providence Christian Academy to the 2010 regional championship and the state championship game but wasn’t on Tech’s radar until pitching coach Shaina Ervin saw her at a showcase event. “I had a few other offers, but I just didn’t see them fitting. Once I got on campus at Georgia Tech, and once I talked to Shaina, talked to [head coach Sharon Perkins] and [assistant coach] Aileen [Morales] and found out more, I just kind of knew this was the place I was supposed to be.”
It’s looking more and more like she’s also supposed to be in the pitcher’s circle at the beginning of games. It’s a tough circle to crash as junior and former first-team All-American Hope Rush and sophomore Lindsey Anderson (17-3 with a 3.34 ERA over a season-plus) already occupy a place there.
But her numbers back her up, especially when compared to her numbers in relief. Kleinschmidt’s ERA in three relief appearances is 11.70 (five earned runs in three innings), on four hits, including two homers, with six walks vs. three strikeouts. It should be pointed out that those relief appearances were her first exposure to college softball.
Kleinschmidt is not one to quibble over numbers. She’s a team player, as well as a management major (she hopes to one day open an interior design business as well as return to Providence Academy to coach). So, whichever role she’s given, she’ll manage.
“I’m really just thankful to be here so whatever they want my role to be I will gladly do it,” she said. “Being a starter would be great but being a reliever, I could fill that role, too. It’s just one I’m not used to yet. But I am open to anything.”
She’s been especially open to, and has benefited from, off-days when she gets to pick the brains of Rush and Ervin. Kleinschmidt has already learned plenty from Rush, against whom she frequently played — and didn’t really care for — while in high school.
“Our high schools were kind of rivals in softball,” she recalled. “They always beat us but it was always fun to play them because Hope was so good. It’s cool playing with her now because she’s totally different than I thought she was because we were rivals. She gives me advice. We can joke around in the bullpen. I love Hope to death.”
Ervin also has been instrumental.
“Shaina has completely helped my pitching beyond what I could even imagine,” she said. “She’s changed a lot of things but for the good. She knows what she’s talking about. I really like the way she teaches.”
Kleinschmidt is looking forward to teaching some lessons in future games, starting this weekend at the Buzz Classic, which will be played at the Twin Creek Softball Complex in Woodstock. It’ll be the first weekend the Jackets won’t face at least one ranked team. That’s something that Kylie meets with mixed emotions.
“I don’t know. I think it’s fun to play teams in the top 25 just because you see them on TV and you’re, all of a sudden playing them,” she said. “Right now, any games we play are making us better and making us more prepared for the conference.”
Tech will face Winthrop at 5 p.m. on Friday, will play Western Kentucky at 1:00 then Tennessee-Martin at 4 p.m. on Saturday, then conclude the tourney with a twin-bill on Sunday, against Southeastern Louisiana at 10 a.m. and Elon at noon.
The Jackets are a combined 23-16 all-time against the four schools — (19-13 vs. Winthrop, 1-0 vs. WKU, 1-2 vs. Tennessee-Martin, and 2-0 vs. Elon — and is 6-1 in the Perkins Era (5-1 vs. Winthrop and 1-0 vs. Western — the other teams they have yet to face).
Regardless, competition is competition and for Kleinschmidt that means continuing to live the dream.
“It’s really exciting because I always wanted to play in college,” she said. “So now that I’m finally doing it, it’s a very cool experience to be able to say `I’m playing on the Georgia Tech softball team.'”
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