Feb. 25, 2010
2010 NFCA Leadoff Classic (Columbus, Ga.)
#11/8 Georgia Tech Heads To NFCA Leadoff Classic
After winning its home opener Wednesday night over Kennesaw State, No. 11/8 Georgia Tech (9-1) heads 90 miles south down I-85 for the 2010 NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga.
The Yellow Jackets will play Central Florida (5-5), Nebraska (7-4), Arkansas (5-4), No. 18/20 Louisiana-Lafayette (8-2) and Iowa (6-3) in the three day event held at the site of the softball portion of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
This is the seventh straight year that Georgia Tech has played in the prestigious NFCA Leadoff Classic. The Jackets are 10-12 (.455) all-time in the event despite having all five of its games rained out last year.
The Jackets were co-champions of the Leadoff Classic in 2006 with Michigan and were runner-up in the Silver Championship back in 2004. The event is now a round-robin format with all teams playing five games.
Live audio and stats will be available for every Georgia Tech game this weekend. Seth Gerard has the call beginning approximately five minutes before the scheduled first pitch.
Against The Field
Georgia Tech has limited experience against its five foes this weekend in Columbus. Central Florida holds a 2-1 lead in the series with the Jackets as Tech is looking to overcome a 7-1 loss to UCF which eliminated it from the 2008 NCAA Tournament in Gainesville, Fla.
Georgia Tech and Nebraska have each won a game in its brief series. In the last meeting, Tech dropped a 9-1, five-inning decision to the 17th-ranked Huskers at the 2005 Leadoff. The year prior, Georgia Tech upset 14th-ranked Nebraska 1-0, also at the Leadoff.
The all-time series with Arkansas is also tied at one apiece. The two teams split a doubleheader at Glenn Field on March 18, 2003. Each squad won by a 3-2 score.
The Jackets are 1-0 all-time against Louisiana. The two schools were supposed to play at last year’s Leadoff Classic before rain washed it away. Tech’s win over the ninth-ranked Cajuns on Feb. 8, 2004, had been the highest ranked opponent beaten in school history until the win over No. 3 Florida earlier this season.
Finally, the Jackets hold a 2-0 series advantage over the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa was in the Atlanta Regional of the NCAA Tournament but the two schools did not face each other. In the last meeting, the Jackets defeated the Hawkeyes, 6-0, on March 4, 2007 at the Buzz Classic.
Climbing the Rankings
Georgia Tech debuted at 13th in the preseason NFCA/USA Today top 25 poll and 14th in the ESPN.com/USA Softball preseason top 25 poll, both school highs.
Currently, the Yellow Jackets are 11th and eighth, respectively. This is the first time the Georgia Tech softball program has been ranked in the top 10.
Tech and Florida are currently the only schools in the nation with both the baseball and softball teams ranked in the top 10.
Dating back to last season, the Yellow Jackets have been ranked in eight straight NFCA polls and 11 consecutive ESPN.com polls.
Yee Is An On-Base Machine
You can’t get off to a better start to the season than what redshirt senior second baseman Jen Yee has done this far. The North Delta, British Columbia native has hit safely in all 10 games this season and is batting .643 with a 1.357 slugging percentage and a .730 on-base percentage.
Yee has scored 17 runs and has three doubles, a triple, 13 RBI and five home runs, although she’ll be the first to tell you that she’s not a home run hitter.
Yee, a member of the USA Softball Preseason Player of the Year Watch List, has also drawn nine walks and struck out just once in 28 official at bats.
Yee was not a NFCA All-American in 2009 despite hitting .415 with 16 home runs and 43 RBI. She ranks among the ACC leaders in nearly every offensive category and her 30 career home runs are sixth on the all-time Tech charts despite only being here two-plus seasons now.
Bombs Away In 2010
In Sharon Perkins’ first year of 2007, the Yellow Jackets set a school record with 96 home runs. Through 10 games in 2010, Tech has 24 already, on pace to hit 134 and shatter that record.
Georgia Tech has hit multiple home runs in a game seven times already this year, including a game-high five against Hawai’i on Feb. 20.
It is not just concentrated on one part of the order either. With the exception of the slapper Christy Jones in the No. 9 spot, every member of the Tech line-up has at least one home run and six of the regular starters have gone yard at least twice.
In a four-day stretch of the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas Feb. 19-20, the Yellow Jackets hit 15 home runs.
Freshman Hope Rush reads the team and ACC with six long balls. She has two homers in two of her last three games (2/20 vs. Long Beach State and 2/24 vs. Kennesaw State). Yee is second on the club and ACC with five long balls, while sophomores Jessica Sinclair and Kelsi Weseman have three apiece.
Rush Makes Immediate Impact
You can’t really ask for a better way to start a career than what Tech freshman Hope Rush has done over her first two weeks.
In her first career at bat, Rush hit a two-run home run in the first inning of the season-opener against Canisius Feb. 13 at the Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Clearwater, Fla.
Later that afternoon, Rush made her first start in the circle and tossed a five-hit shutout of the No. 3 Florida Gators. Rush struck out seven Gators in their first day of action since losing to Washington in the National Championship series a year ago.
For good measure Rush hit a two-run home run against UF All-American pitcher Stephanie Brombacher in the sixth inning of a 1-0 game as well. That turned out to the the first career loss for the junior Brombacher in 43 decisions.
The following day against East Carolina, Rush was one out away from a no-hitter and settled for a two-hit shutout. Her first two career starts were shutouts en route to being named the first ACC Pitcher of the Week of the season on Feb. 16.
Offensively, Rush is second on the team with a .394 batting average and has an ACC-best six home runs and 14 RBI. She has two multi-home run games already this year and has hit some tape measure shots.
Sinclair Likes To Clean Up
Tech sophomore Jessica Sinclair had just two home runs and seven RBI all of last season, but quickly made her presence felt this year and is now the every day clean-up hitter.
On Opening Day against Canisius, Sinclair had a career day with a grand slam and six RBI from the No. 8 spot in the order.
Sinclair is now batting clean-up for the Jackets and has nearly doubled her power numbers from a year ago. She is currently batting .257 with three home runs and 12 RBI.
Kuzma Quietly Gets It Done
As a freshman last year, Kate Kuzma had an injury-plagued season but still managed to compile a .363 on-base percentage despite hitting just .212.
This year, the Sharpsburg, Ga., native has found a home in the No. 5 spot in the order and is batting .320 with a .433 on-base percentage.
Kuzma had probably the biggest hit of her career against Florida on Feb. 13. In a scoreless game in the fifth inning, Kuzma came up with two outs and runner on second base. She promptly tripled into the gap in right-center field giving the Jackets a 1-0 lead.
Kuzma has hit safely now in five straight games at a .462 clip since moving up to the No. 5 spot in the order and is one of the most patient hitters on the team. Kuzma has five walks so far this season and is seeing over five pitches an at bat.
ACC Freshman Of The Year Back In Form
2009 ACC Freshman of the Year Kelsi Weseman, who broke her arm in the title game a year ago and was forced to miss all of the NCAA Tournament, has returned and quickly found her groove.
The Hutto, Texas, native went hitless in her first three games of 2010, a slump by her standards, but broke out for a 3-for-3 day against Florida Gulf Coast (Feb. 14) and has not looked back.
Weseman homered in three straight games out n las Vegas including a game-winning grand slam in the sixth inning against No. 21 Northwestern (Feb. 19) helping Tech overcome a 5-0 deficit and win 9-6.
For the season, Weseman is hitting .290 with three home runs and 12 RBI. She is slugging .677 with a .371 on-base percentage.
Priebe Fitting Right In
After the smooth transition of Florida transfer Kristen Adkins a year ago, its no surprise that its been just as easy for Kristine Priebe.
Priebe, a Moorpark, Calif., native became the second transfer from the Gators to arrive at Tech in as many years and has found her home at first base for the Jackets.
After a slow start, Priebe has hit over .400 in her last six games and is now batting .280 on the season with a couple of doubles and a home run. Like so many of these Tech hitters, Priebe is an on-base machine. She has drawn eight walks, second on the team to Yee, and has a .455 on-base percentage.
Down Goes Brombacher, Gators
Georgia Tech quickly legitimized its high preseason ranking when it knocked off No. 3 Florida, 3-0, on Feb. 13 at the Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Clearwater, Fla.
It was also the first career loss in the circle for Florida junior All-American Stephanie Brombacher who entered the game 42-0.
The win over No. 3 Florida marked the highest ranked opponent that the Yellow Jackets had ever beaten in program history. The previous best was a 4-1 triumph over No. 9 Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 8, 2004.
That loss for the Gators (9-1), who went to the national championship series a year ago, is their only blemish of the season.