May 12, 2012
Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –
When a team plays with confidence, especially at tournament time, everything works as planned and seems so easy.
Georgia Tech Softball is playing with that kind of confidence right now and thus everything is working and looks so easy.
It looked really easy on Friday afternoon, as Hope Rush threw six innings of one-hit, shutout ball and Kate Kuzma went 3-for-4, with a homer and two RBIs, as the Yellow Jackets crushed second-seeded Florida State, 9-1, in the ACC Semifinal game. No. 3 Tech meets fourth-seeded Virginia Tech in today’s Championship game (first pitch is at 4:00). The Hokies upended top-seeded North Carolina, 4-1, in Friday’s second game.
“We’re being aggressive but picking a good pitch to hit,” said Head Coach Sharon Perkins. “I’m definitely proud of them. We did a good job of getting our hacks in. I’d rather they do that then sit there and take pitches.”
As on Thursday, Tech followed the formula of being aggressive at the plate and, jumping out to an early lead, but this time, had no seventh-inning jitters. Again they took advantage of an opposing miscue to take the early lead but this time there also was some strategy involved.
In the second inning, Rush and Shannon Bear led off with singles, then Florida State third baseman Briana Hamilton hesitated on Katie Johnsky’s smash, then threw the ball into the dirt for an error, allowing Rush to rumble home, giving Tech a 1-0 lead and putting runners on second and third.
“It was a really big at-bat,” said Dike. “I knew going into it that I needed to swing at anything close to me. I just wanted to make contact with the ball. I wasn’t trying to do anything special.”
She did, however, lining a 2-2 pitch into left field, scoring two runs and giving Tech a 3-0 lead. The hit knocked starter Lacey Waldrop out of the game. Thomas, who re-entered the game, scored when the next hitter, Kelsi Weseman, singled up the middle and Tech was on its way.
“I love when Danielle or any of them pinch-hit for me because I know they’re going to get a base hit or they’re going to hit something in the gap and score those runs and I’m going to get back in there and I get to run,” said Thomas. “I love to run. So it worked out perfectly because they get to do their job, get up and knock people in and I get to run the bases. So I enjoy it a lot.”
Perkins knew the odds of Dike doing her job at the plate and liked them.
“She’s clutch. She’s been clutch the entire time she’s been here,” said Perkins. “We weren’t in a situation where we needed a home run. We were in a situation where we just needed a ball in play. We had good base runners on. They knew what the plan was. She got a good pitch and hit it. I’m proud of her. She’s hit against that pitcher, she knew what was coming and she did a good job with that.”
Spotted a 4-0 lead, Rush shut down the powerful Seminoles, limiting them to one hit, a sixth-inning ground single. Most important she kept their speedy 1-2 punch of second baseman Tiffani Brown and right fielder Shayla Jackson off the bases. The duo was 0-for-7.
‘Hope contained their offense,” said Perkins. “They have a lot of speed and it kills. If one of them gets on base it can change the whole outlook of the inning. I’m proud of her for keeping everybody off the bases. She did a great job of that.”
Thomas was kept especially busy, making four putouts and assisting on six others.
“She has a ton of range,” said Perkins. “It’s kind of crazy, but she can get to just about anything. She’s just so fun to watch out there. Her and [first baseman] Karly [Fullem] have done a good job. Karly does a good job of realizing it’s not hers and getting back to the bag. Those two are doing a great job together.”
Thomas expected a busy day.
“The last time we played Florida State they put a lot of balls in play and I had gotten lot of balls from them when we played them in the series,” recalled. Thomas, who didn’t see any ground balls on Thursday against Virginia. “So I was ready for them to put the ball in play. It’s a lot more fun when you’re involved. Just standing out there and looking around and everybody else is getting balls, it’s not fun. It was really fun today.”
The Jackets hope to continue their fun in the championship game against the Hokies, who they beat two-of-three, both by 5-0 scores, at The Mew on the season’s final weekend.
Their approach will be the same today as it has been the last two days.
“We just have to have the same mindset as we had today,” said Dike. “We just want to win. We go in with a care-free attitude. We play like we have nothing to lose and we just take chances. That mentality’s good for us and that’s what our mentality is going to be tomorrow.”
“We’ve had so much fun during this trip. So if we keep the same mindset and not let them intimidate us going into the game tomorrow we’ll be fine,” said Thomas. “If we keep hitting like we’ve been hitting, Hope keeps pitching like she’s been pitching and everybody keeps playing defense like we’ve been playing we’ll be fine.”
Perkins wasn’t going to lose any sleep about their opponent.
“It’s not really about who we’re facing. We just need to focus on our approach and control what we can control,” she said. “IWe’re ready to roll.”