April 24, 2009
20 Georgia Tech Closes Out Regular Season Home Slate Against #12/13 North Carolina
20th-ranked Georgia Tech (35-13, 12-3 ACC) looks to rebound after getting swept by #6/5 Alabama Wednesday night when #12/13 North Carolina (44-7, 15-2) comes to town for a crucial ACC weekend series. Georgia Tech’s three seniors — Whitney Haller, Tiffany Johnson and Blair Shimandle — will be honored before game one on Saturday.
The Tar Heels bring a 23-game winning streak to Atlanta and are sitting atop the league standings.
Georgia Tech begins the weekend one game behind North Carolina in the loss column. This will be the last ACC series of the season for the Tar Heels who have also had a game rained out. Tech, meanwhile, closes out the regular season at Maryland next weekend following final exams.
On the heels of the Yellow Jackets, however, is Florida State. The Seminoles are 11-4 in ACC play this season, but Georgia Tech holds the tie-breaker by virtue of its series victory last month.
All three games this weekend will be streamed live on ACC Select for a small fee. Live audio and stats will be available free of charge at www.ramblinwreck.com.
The Yellow Jackets have now won five straight ACC series’ to open this season and eight in a row dating back to last year. Last weekend’s three wins at Virginia marked the second straight series sweep for Georgia Tech as it is off to the best start in ACC play in school history. With six conference games left, the Jackets are within two league wins (14) of the most in program history.
North Carolina leads the all-time series, 25-22, and won both games in Chapel Hill last year. The two teams had one game rained out.
Behind two of the league’s top pitchers, Lisa Norris and Danielle Spaulding, Tech has won just twice in the last eight games against North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets have only scored 10 earned runs in those eight games.
Back In the Rankings
For the first time since last year’s preseason poll, the Yellow Jackets are ranked in the top 25. After receiving votes for most of the season, Tech cracked the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll at No. 24.
This week, the Yellow Jackets are up to No. 20 as they have been in the poll for four straight weeks now.
In the NFCA/USA Today poll, the Jackets are the first team receiving votes.
Perkins Wins Number 100
Georgia Tech Head Coach Sharon Perkins won her 100th career game on March 8 in the championship game of the Buzz Classic. Perkins is now 121-60 (.669) in her third season in Atlanta.
Perkins came to Tech after being an associate head coach and assistant coach at Georgia. Since taking over the reigns at Tech, Perkins is 4-1 against UGA. Before Perkins came to Tech, the program had beaten the arch-rival Bulldogs just five times.
Switch At The Top Just What The Doctor Ordered
Head Coach Sharon Perkins has tinkered with the top of the line-up for most of the season, but her latest change looks like it might stick for a while.
Redshirt junior Jen Yee was moved to the leadoff spot for the Yellow Jacket’s game at No. 7/9 Georgia , trading places with senior Blair Shimandle.
A career .321 hitter, Shimandle had been in a mild slump until the switch and saw her average dip to .260 as a result. In the 11 games since then, she has batted .471 with 12 runs scored, three doubles and nine RBI.
Yee, meanwhile, is hitting at a .400 clip with 12 runs scored, three doubles, two home runs and seven RBI.
Haller Is Now Tech, ACC Home Run And RBI Queen
Senior Whitney Haller came into the season needing just one home run for the ACC record and she wasted no time in taking care of business on opening day, Feb. 7. Haller took Georgia State pitcher Madi Gore deep on the fourth pitch of her at bat in the top of the first inning for her 50th career home run surpassing NC State’s Jen Chamberlin.
For good measure, Haller added a three-run home run later in the game for her fourth career two-homer game. All this in the first game of the season.
With a three-RBI game at Kennesaw State on Feb. 25, Haller became the school and ACC leader in RBI as well as she passed former teammate Savannah Brown.
Haller Off To Much Better Start
In 2008, Whitney Haller spent the first half of the season in a slump, but has picked right up this year where she left off in the second half of last season.
Haller has hit safely in all but 10 games this year and is first on the team and second in the ACC with a .410 batting average. She has 10 home runs, which is fourth in the ACC, and a league-high 47 RBI as well as a 1.198 OPS.
Haller began the season on an eight-game hitting streak, but was held hitless for three straight games at the Cathedral City Classic. It’s worth noting, that Haller, like many of the players, had the flu on the trip to the West Coast. When she felt better, Haller had a three-hit game against Oregon State.
That eight-game swing represented the fourth- longest hitting streak to begin a season in Yellow Jacket history. Laura Williams enjoyed a 15-game hitting streak to begin the 1997 season as well as a nine-game hitting streak to open up 1996.
In 2006, Tara Knudsen hit safely in her first 11.
Weseman Enjoying Solid Freshman Season
Freshman Kelsey Weseman knew she had big shoes to fill replacing All-American shortstop Aileen Morales, but the Hutto, Texas native has fit right in.
Weseman has started all 48 games at shortstop and is second on the team and third in the ACC batting .409 with a 1.222 OPS.
Weseman has an ACC-high 14 doubles, two triples, six home runs and 38 RBI.
Weseman has reached base safely in all but six games this season, while scoring 37 runs and striking out just 12 times.
Weseman has an on-base percentage of .519 (second in the ACC) and don’t say she’s not afraid to take one for the team. Weseman is currently 28th in the nation after getting hit by a pitch 13 times.
Yee Is An On-Base Machine
Redshirt junior Jen Yee was one of 50 players named to the USA Softball Player of the Year Watch List last month and while she didn’t make the cut down to 25 which was announced in early April, she has certainly made her presence felt in the line-up this season.
Yee’s name can be found all over the ACC leaders this season as she is fourth in batting (.406), tied for second in hits (56), first in runs scored (48), tied for seventh in home runs (8), tied for first in doubles (14), tied for seventh in triples (2), first in total bases (98), third in walks (28), first in on-base percentage (.517) and third in slugging percentage (.710).
Yee has struck out just 10 times all season and four of her team-high 28 walks have been intentional.
Yee has come around to score 54 percent of the time she reaches base, 48 times in 89 chances. In addition, she has just three errors at second base in 148 chances.
Tightening Up The Defense
Georgia Tech is on its way to shattering the school record for fewest errors in a season. In 2003, the Jackets committed just 50 errors but have only 33 through 48 games this season.
Tech is first in the ACC and sixth in the nation with a .975 fielding percentage.
Since Sharon Perkins arrived in Atlanta she has stressed the fact that defense wins championships and the numbers back it up. In 2006, the year before Perkins took the Tech job, the Jackets committed 94 errors.
The Yellow Jackets made just 56 errors in each of Perkins’ first two seasons and have only half of that so far in 2009.
What’s even more impressive this season is that Tech’s pitchers have just 275 strikeouts which means a lot of balls are put in play. Kristen Adkins, for example, is a drop ball pitcher and more than 70 percent of the outs she has recorded are ground balls.
Three starters, including senior center fielder Blair Shimandle, have not committed an error all season. Shimandle has now gone 138 straight games without an error, a school record.
Adkins, who plays third base when not pitching, as well as freshman Jessica Sinclair in right field are also perfect on the season.
Johnson, Adkins Provide 1-2 Punch In The Circle …
Sophomore Kristen Adkins, who transferred from the University of Florida, has been the work horse so far for the Georgia Tech pitching staff.
Adkins is currently 18-7 with a team-best 1.77 ERA. She currently ranks fifth in the ACC in ERA and is tied for third in wins. In addition, her ERA is the 25th-lowest in the nation. Adkins has held opponents to a .244 batting average while picking up four solo shutouts.
The McKinney, Texas, native is at her best when getting ground balls and quick innings, but recorded a career-high nine strikeouts in the March 28 win over No. 19 Florida State. It was a gutsy start that saw her throw 158 pitches, but give the Jackets a much-needed win to open up the crucial series at Mewborn Field.
Johnson, meanwhile, is 12-3 this season with a 1.84 ERA. She has four shutouts and 123 strikeouts in 114.0 innings pitched and has held opponents to a .175 batting average which is second-best in the ACC.
Johnson had a string of 24.0 straight scoreless innings snapped in the fourth inning of game three against Florida State on March 29.
… And At The Plate
Johnson and Adkins are not limited to just pitching duties. They have quickly become two of Tech’s most consistent hitters.
A career .147 hitter heading into this season, Johnson is currently batting .313 with 34 runs scored, 12 doubles, 11 home runs and 44 RBI. Several of her home runs have been tape measure shots.
The Atlanta native did not have a home run in her Tech career heading into 2009, but took Georgia State’s Madi Gore deep on opening day in her first at bat of the season and has not slowed down since then. Johnson’s 11 round-trippers are tied for second in the ACC this year and 24th-most in the nation.
Adkins, meanwhile, was batting .115 with no home runs or RBI heading into the March 10 home opener against UT Martin.
She hit the game-winning, two-run home run in game one that day and has been on fire since then.
Sad To See March Go
As the calendar turned to April, March proved to be a very successful month for the Yellow Jackets. Tech went 17-4 in the month while out-scoring its opposition, 131-41, and out-hitting them, .327-.226.
The Yellow Jackets compiled a team slugging percentage of .559, including 29 home runs in the 21 March games. They also had 35 doubles and a .408 team on-base percentage.
The pitching staff compiled a 1.81 ERA as sophomore Kristen Adkins and senior Tiffany Johnson combined to go 15-3.
Freshman Kelsi Weseman led the offense with a .467 batting average. She had 20 runs scored, seven doubles, three home runs and 19 RBI. Senior Whitney Haller (.433) and redshirt junior Jen Yee (.411) also hit over .400 in March.
Johnson led the squad with seven home runs, while she and Adkins each drove in 21 runs. Six of Tech’s nine regular starters batted over .300 in March.
As The Weather Heats Up, So Do The Bats
Look at the team leaders in offense for most ACC categories and you will find the Yellow Jackets at or near the top throughout.
The Yellow Jackets currently rank first in the ACC and 14th nationally in batting average (.315), first and sixth in fielding percentage (.975), first and 13th in slugging percentage (.516), first and 27th in doubles (74) and first and 17th in home runs (54). Tech is also first in the ACC in on-base percentage (.401), runs (286), hits (396) and RBI (260).