Feb. 7, 2008
#17/18 Georgia Tech Opens 2008 Season At The Georgia State First-Pitch Classic
The Georgia Tech softball team begins the 2008 season this weekend by participating in the Georgia State First Pitch Classic. The Jackets will face Lipscomb, Georgia State and Tennessee-Martin in pool play as well as a game in the championship bracket.
The Yellow Jackets begin the new season ranked No. 17 in the USA Today/NFCA poll and No. 18 in the ESPN.COM/USA Softball poll, both the highest preseason rankings in school history.
Tech is 2-0 all-time against Lipscomb and defeated the Lady Bisons 11-1 in five innings last year at the Buzz Classic. In that game, Sarah Wood and now junior Tiffany Johnson combined for a no-hitter, Tech’s first in a year.
An error and three straight walks off Wood gave Lipscomb a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but Johnson came in and retired 15 straight batters, including 10 strikeouts, to end the game.
Tech is 33-17 all-time against Georgia State and have won 13 in a row and 18 of 19 in the series. Last season, Tech swept a doubleheader from the Panthers 6-2 and 4-1 on the road.
Johnson enetered both games in relief and recorded a win and a save for the Jackets. Then junior Stephanie Butler went 4-for-6 in the doubleheader while then sophomore Whitney Haller and senior Caitlin Lever homered for the Jackets.
Tech and Tennessee-Martin have split their previous two meetings. The Jackets won the last game, 3-0, back in 2001, while the Skyhawks won 1-0 in nine innings during the 1996 season.
Brown And Haller Named To Player of the Year Watch List
The 2008 Pre-Season Watch List is comprised of 50 players representing 34 schools and 14 different conferences. Haller was selected to the initial watch list last season as well while recent graduate Caitlin Lever was one of 10 finalists in 2007.
Brown and Haller join Virginia Tech’s Angela Tincher as the ACC’s representatives while Tech is one of just 15 schools with at least two players on the list.
The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) will announce the 25 finalists on April 9. A player does not have to appear on the initial watch list to be considered as a Top 25 finalist, but once the Top 25 is named the remaining finalist must be selected from that list. Just days before the start of post-season play, a list of 10 finalists will be named and released on May 7. The final three finalists will be announced May 21 while the winner of the 2008 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award will be announced prior to the start of the 2008 NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Jackets Coming Off One Of The Best Offensive Seasons In NCAA History
The 2007 Georgia Tech Softball team put together one of the most prolific offensive displays in NCAA history under first-year head coach Sharon Perkins and will look to build up on that for this year.
The Yellow Jackets posted a school record 54 wins in 2007, made their sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament, shattered several Atlantic Coast Conference offensive records, and made their third appearance in the last four years in the ACC Championship Game.
Amongs the dozen or so accomplishments are the 96 home runs, surpassing the 75 Tech hit in 2006, breaking its own record. That mark led the nation and finished as the ninth-best all-time total in NCAA history.
The Jackets set a new ACC record with 451 runs scored, tied for 11th best all-time in NCAA history. Tech also went on to set new league season records in batting average (.322), total bases (1,027), RBI (416) and slugging percentage (.536).
Another first for the softball program was two All-Americans in the same year. Lever became just the second Jacket to garner first team accolades, after setting a new single-season Tech record with 94 hits. A native of Amherst, N.Y., she won the ACC batting crown with a .452 mark and signed to play professional softball with the Chicago Bandits.
Aileen Morales had her finest season as a Jacket, earning third team All-America honors. The shortstop from Columbus, Ga., hit .339, with an ACC record 73 runs scored and finished second in the league with 34 stolen bases and is now just three away from setting the all-time school record.
The Yellow Jackets also tallied top 25 wins over eight opponents, including two over College World Series participants Baylor and DePaul. Another first was a sweep of archrival Georgia, 5-4 and 4-1, in Athens.
Joining Lever and Morales in All-America ranks was Haller. A Marietta, Ga. native, Haller earned Academic All-America honors after posting another solid season. She hit .372, with 15 home runs and 62 runs batted in. Haller stands third all-time in ACC history with 39 dingers.
Brown also broke an ACC record for the Jackets, knocking in 76 runs, second-most in the NCAA. She hit a career-high .330 and was named to the All-ACC and All-Southeast Region first teams.
Then junior Brittany Barnes drove in 73 runs, second-best in ACC history and finished third in the nation with that total en route to being named to the All-Southeast Region second team.
The Yellow Jackets finished the year No. 16 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll and No. 17 in the RPI rankings, the two highest rankings in Tech history.
Three Jackets Gaining International Experience
Three members of the Georgia Tech Softball family are playing internationally and two will be participants in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
Lever and Yee are on the Canadian National Team and ranked fifth in the world heading into this summer’s games.
Yee will red-shirt this season like many other collegiate players across the country, and will have two years of eligibility remaining.
The Canadian National Team is currently in Las Vegas, Nev. for centralized training and play several games against NCAA competition this spring.
They will then travel to Australia in March to continue their training at the site of the 2000 Olympic Games in Blacktown, Australia, and will play against the Australian and Japanese national teams. April and May are set aside for specialized training before the team re-groups in early June. The exact schedule from that point on is in the process of being finalized but will include the Canada Cup in Surrey, BC from July 12-20.
Yee is keeping a blog of her Olympic journey that will be updated frequently from now through the Olympic Games at www.ramblinwreck.com. Tech fans can get an inside look at what it’s like to be an Olympic athlete and what goes into preparation.
Morales, meanwhile, spent last summer with the Puerto Rican National Team. They lost in the championship game of their Olympic qualifier, but Morales has brought a lot of her experience back to Atlanta and that is going to go a long way this season according to Coach Perkins.
Yellow Jackets Picked Third In ACC Preseason Poll
Georgia Tech was picked third in the annual ACC preseason poll voted upon by the league’s coaches.
The Yellow Jackets and Florida State were tied for third-place with 45 points. Defending champion Virginia Tech was selected to repeat while North Carolina was picked second, receiving three more points than Tech and FSU. Maryland, NC State, Virginia and Boston College round out the prognostication.
Tech Inks Five During Early Signing Period
On Nov. 14, 2007, Perkins announced that five student-athletes signed national letters of intent during the early signing period. Jessica Coan (Duluth, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian), Danielle Dike (Scottsville, Va./Fluvanna), Kate Kuzma (Sharpsburg, Ga./Northgate), Jessica Sinclair (Marietta, Ga./Lassiter) and Kelsi Weseman (Hutto, Texas/Hutto) will each join the team in the fall.
Coan was just recently named the Atlanta Journal Constitution Pitcher of the Year after going 29-2 in 2007 with a 0.32 ERA and 463 strikeouts in 212.2 innings pitched. She had 18 shutouts and walked just 34 in the circle while also batting .361 with a .459 slugging percentage and 23 RBI. Coan finished her career with 106 wins, over 80 shutouts, over 20 no-hitters and three perfect games. According to rivals.com, Coan’s 1,743 career strikeouts are the third-most ever in high school behind just Alicia Hollowell (Arizona) and LaTonya Coates (Texas). She is ahead of former UCLA standout and Team USA member Lisa Fernandez as well as Anjelica Seldon (UCLA), Holly Currie (Auburn), Erica Strutz (Michigan State), Michelle Granger (Cal) and Kirsten Shortridge (Baylor) among others.
Coan was a four-time all-County, all-State, AJC first-team, and Gwinnett Daily Post first-team. She was also a three-time team MVP and co-MVP for a season while being named Gwinnett County Pitcher of the Year twice. Coan helped lead team to three regional championships and two runner-up and two third-place finishes in the state tournament. She plays summer ball for the East Cobb Bullets Gold team.
Dike, a third baseman and outfielder, plays travel ball for the Richmond Ruckus 18-under elite team. She is a three-time all-district member as well as a two-time All-Central Virginia. Dike, who will play her senior season this spring, batted .339 as a junior with two home runs, 26 RBI, 22 hits, 22 runs and 39 total bases. She also had a .600 slugging percentage and a .482 on base percentage.
The 2007 Offensive Team MVP was a 2005 All-Academic softball pick and received honorable mention honors in 2006 while also earning multiple letters in volleyball and basketball.
Kuzma is a catcher who has played summer ball for the Atlanta Vipers Gold team. A four-year letterwinner, Kuzma led Northgate to a 2007 AAAA state title as well as a 2006 runner-up finish. She is a two-time all-county selection and received the 2007 Student-Athlete Award for highest GPA, Best Offensive Award in the post-season (batted .471) and co-MVP.
Kuzma is also a member of the Spanish Club, International Club, National Honors Society and Spanish National Honors Society. In addition, Kuzma was elected secretary of the Spanish National Honors Society.
Sinclair, an outfielder, plays her summer ball with the East Cobb Bullets Gold team. She helped lead her team senior year to the 5A State title last month while batting .369 with eight home runs and 49 RBI. A two-time all-county, all-region and all-state member, Sinclair was named the team’s Best Offensive Player in 2006 and 2007 while batting .300 with two home runs. She also hit .340 with three more round-trippers as a junior in 2006. In addition, she is a four-time Lassiter Scholar Athlete.
Weseman is a shortstop who plays her summer ball with the Texas Round Rock Blaze Gold. A two-time, first-team all-district and academic all-district, Weseman was named the Newcomer of the Year in 2006. She batted .619 with four home runs, 25 RBI and a 1.204 slugging percentage. She was also voted a first-team all-state in 2006 by the Texas Sports Writers as well as MVP. Weseman will play her senior season this spring.