April 16, 2009
#21 Georgia Tech Heads To Virginia Looking For Fifth Series Win in `09
21st-ranked Georgia Tech (32-11, 9-3 ACC) hits the road again for a weekend series in Charlottesville against the University of Virginia (25-14, 2-9). The Yellow Jackets are coming off an 8-6 win over Kennesaw State Tuesday night at Mewborn Field while the Cavaliers last defeated Hampton 4-2 on Wednesday. Virginia had three games this week rained out.
After sweeping NC State last weekend, the Yellow Jackets have now won all four of their ACC series’ this season and seven consecutive dating back to last year.
All three games from UVA this weekend will be broadcast for free on www.ramblinwreck.com. Seth Gerard will have the call beginning approximately 10 minutes before the scheduled first pitch.
Virginia leads the all-time series against Georgia Tech 33-23, but the Jackets are 5-2 against UVA under Head Coach Sharon Perkins. Both of those losses came last season when the Cavaliers took two out of three at Glenn Field in March. The Jackets came back to beat Virginia, however, 5-3 in the ACC Tournament.
Georgia Tech is currently in second place in the ACC with the 9-3 conference record. North Carolina leads the way with a 12-2 mark. Georgia Tech and North Carolina will meet next weekend, April 25-26, in Atlanta.
Next week is shaping up to be a busy week at Mewborn Field. On Wednesday, the Yellow Jackets will host No. 7/6 Alabama (4/6 p.m.) before the No. 13/15 Tar Heels make their first visit to Mewborn Field in a series that could go a long way in determining the ACC regular season champion.
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. 21 as they have been in the poll for three straight weeks now.
In the NFCA/USA Today poll, the Jackets are the fourth 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 118-58 (.670) 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 that saw her average dip to .260. In the six games since then, she has batted .316 with six runs scored and four RBI.
Yee, meanwhile, is hitting at a .524 clip with seven runs scored, two doubles, two home runs and six 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 nine games this year and is third on the team and fourth in the ACC with a .411 batting average. She has eight home runs, which is tied for fifth in the ACC, and a league-high 43 RBI as well as a 1.171 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 Fitting Right In
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 43 games at shortstop and is second on the team and third in the ACC batting .419 with a 1.213 OPS.
Weseman has an ACC-high 13 doubles, two triples, five home runs and 33 RBI.
Weseman has reached base safely in all but four games this season, while scoring 32 runs and striking out just 11 times.
Weseman has an on-base percentage of .521 (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 12 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 third in second (.427), second in hits (53), first in runs scored (43), tied for fifth in home runs (8), tied for first in doubles (13), tied for seventh in triples (2), first in total bases (94),tied for second in walks (26), first in on-base percentage (.535) and third in slugging percentage (.758).
Yee has struck out just seven times all season and four of her team-high 26 walks have been intentional.
Yee has come around to score 52 percent of the time she reaches base, 43 times in 83 chances. In addition, she has just three errors at second base in 142 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 28 through 43 games this season.
Tech is first in the ACC and sixth in the nation with a .976 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 253 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 133 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 17-6 with a team-best 1.23 ERA. She currently ranks fourth 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 .237 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.
Adkins has been a magician many times this year getting out of jams. Opposing hitters are batting .283 against her with the bases empty this year, but just .226 with runners on. When there are at least two base runners on, Adkins is limiting opponents to a .093 average. Of the 151 base runners she has allowed via a hit, walk or hit batsman, only 25 (17 percent) have come around to score.
Johnson, meanwhile, is 11-2 this season with a 1.63 ERA. She has four shutouts, 105 strikeouts in 103.0 innings pitched and has held opponents to a .169 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 .315 with 33 runs scored, 10 doubles, 11 home runs and 41 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 second in the ACC this year and 24th-most in the nation.
Johnson is also tied for eighth in the ACC in hits (41), third in runs scored (33), third in doubles (10), tied for fifth in triples (3), second in RBI (41), second in total bases (90) and tied for fourth in slugging percentage (.692).
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.
Since that twinbill against the Skyhawks, Adkins is hitting at a .392 clip with six doubles, seven home runs and 29 RBI.
Shimandle Steady As They Come
If senior Blair Shimandle was in the Majors, she would likely be labeled a professional hitter. The LaGrange, Ga., native has been about as steady as you can be in her first three years at Georgia Tech.
After hitting .305 as a freshman, Shimandle has batted .330 in each of her last two seasons for a .321 career mark heading into her senior year.
Shimandle went through a minor slump (by her standards) for a few weeks in March, but seems to have turned it around. In game one of a doubleheader against Georgia Southern on March 24, Shimandle was 2-for-3 with three runs scored and two walks. She set a Tech single-game record with four stolen bases in the game.
Defensively, Shimandle has moved from right field to center field this year but not missed a beat. She has not committed an error since April 1, 2007. That is a span of 133 games. Shimandle has made a couple of highlight reel catches in center field this year and has thrown out a runner at the plate as well.
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.
Lovin’ The New Digs
On March 10, the Yellow Jackets opened the nearly $5 million Shirley Clements Mewborn Field on a beautiful 80 degree afternoon and it has been nothing short of a hitter’s paradise for the Tech hitters.
The Jackets are 15-2 so far at “The Mew” and have a team batting average of .342 en route to a +74 scoring margin (108-34).
The Tech offense has compiled a .591 slugging percentage, including 30 doubles, 25 home runs, and an on-base percentage of .414.
While the offense has found the new field to its liking, the pitchers have been able to shut down the opposition. Johnson and Adkins have combined to go 13-1 with a 1.14 ERA.
Seven of Tech’s nine starters are batting over .300 at Mewborn Field, including three over .400. Haller has enjoyed it the most, posting a .511 batting average with three home runs and 15 RBI.
Jen Yee is hitting a robust .422, while Kelsi Weseman is hitting at a .404 clip.
Six of Tiffany Johnson’s team-leading 11 home runs have been hit at Mewborn Field, while she and Kristen Adkins lead the Jackets with 21 RBI at home.
Tech has also hit two grand slams this season at Mewborn Field, including Haller’s first-inning blast in game one of the series against No. 19 FSU, March 28.
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 (.316), first and sixth in fielding percentage (.976), first and 13th in slugging percentage (.516), first and 27th in doubles (67) and first and 17th in home runs (48).
Tech is also first in the ACC in on-base percentage (.403), runs (254), hits (360) and RBI (232).