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Slapping At Numbers

Jan. 4, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Christy Jones has made a very big change at the plate before, and as she prepares to begin practice prior to her senior season at Georgia Tech, the outfielder wants to make another.

She wants to go back a bit, and put up numbers more like those of her freshman and sophomore seasons.

Jones hit .293 in her first season playing for the Yellow Jackets while a part-time starter, .322 as a sophomore while starting every game, and then hit .280 last spring. It was a weird season; she got a little more comfortable as the season wore on, but never really hit a stride like the one she had in mind.

“I’m going to work on making contact, and putting the ball in play,” Jones said. “It was an interesting year. The first part of season wasn’t what I planned. As the season went on, I made adjustments. Toward the end I was better.”

Jones has an unmistakable hitting style, starting toward first base from the left batter’s box at about the same time she swings. It’s called slap hitting. It’s not exactly common, but it’s not rare, either.

Except for her – up to a point.

Growing up in Wichita, Kan., Jones was always a good, right-handed softball player. So how has she come to hit left-handed now?

“I was a right-handed hitter until junior year of high school. My travel coach realized I had speed and didn’t have a ton power,” Jones said of her change in style. “It was difficult for the first two weeks swinging left handed. I would go home and swing the bat 100 times just to get the muscle memory.”

When the softball team begins practice next week, they’ll get together and vote on team goals. They’ve been busy for months already, working in small groups and individually in the cages at Mewborn Field and while at home over semester break.

The Jackets didn’t lose a lot by way of numbers, if you’re counting bodies. But this team will have to go a long way to replace second baseman Jen Yee, who set a slew of offensive records at Tech and was a national player of the year candidate. Part-time outfielder Kelly Eppinger also was a senior.

Top newcomers include pitcher Lindsey Anderson, middle infielder Ashley Thomas and outfilelder-infielder Hayley Downs, the latter two being slap hitters, by the way. “I think we have a little of everything,” Jones said. “We have depth at a lot of positions. We’ve definitely added speed.”

The Jackets have also added a pitching coach. Shaina Ervin was the ACC Tournament MVP as a senior when she pitched NC State to the title in 2006, and she has coached already at UNC-Greensboro and UT-Chattanooga.

Jones, who is on track to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering in December, has quite a story to tell just to be part of all this.

Former Tech coach Ehren Earlywhine was recruiting her as a senior in high school, but then he left to take over at his alma mater, Missouri, and there was a lull before and even after Sharon Perkins was hired to coach the Jackets.

Lost in transition?

“I kept e-mailing them and I wasn’t getting any response,” Jones said. “I called the Tulsa coach and told him I wasn’t interested. He asked where I was looking and I said Georgia Tech. He said, `Oh, there’s a coaching change there.’ He called coach Perkins, and she flew to Kansas City and drove up two hours to a podunk city, and I ended up at Tech.”

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