March 9, 2008
MACON, Ga. – The Georgia Tech softball team (8-15) split a pair of one-run games Sunday afternoon at the Mercer Spring Break Invitational. This tournament was added yesterday to replace the Buzz Classic which was canceled due to unplayable field conditions. Tech overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat Vermont (2-5) 5-4 in eight innings during game one, but lost to host Mercer (13-8) in the night cap.
Senior Aileen Morales had four hits and four stolen bases as well as the game-tying RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh inning against UVM for Tech. Freshman Christy Jones also had four hits for the Jackets while senior Savannah Brown and freshman Jessica Weaver each hit a solo home run.
In game one, Vermont struck first for three, two-out runs off Tech freshman pitcher Stephanie Morris in the top of the first inning. Elena Rizza had a RBI single up the middle and then Alison Daggett hit a two-run home run over the fence in left-centerfield.
The Yellow Jackets got one of the runs back in the bottom of the first inning as senior Aileen Morales led off with a single and then stole second base, her 11th of the season in as many chances. After moving to third on a ground out by junior Blair Shimandle, Morales scored Tech’s first run on a ground out to the right side by junior Whitney Haller.
Vermont had two runners on base in the second, third and fourth innings, but Morris was able to get out of the jams without allowing another run. Tech, meanwhile, was kept off the scoreboard in the second and third innings by Vermont pitcher Alison Daggett.
In the bottom the fourth, Tech continued to chip away when senior Savannah Brown took the first pitch of the inning over the fence in dead centerfield making it a 3-2 game. For Brown, it was her second home run of the season and 39th of her career.
In the top of the fifth, Vermont loaded the bases with two outs on a walk, hit batsman and a single knocking Morris out of the game. Senior Whitney Humphreys came in and got Kate Haber to pop up to Morales at shortstop and the Jackets dodged the bullet.
In the sixth, Vermont got two more runners on base with one out, but Humphreys used back to back strikeouts to get out of the jam. Vermont had many chances to break the game open but had left 11 runners on base through the first six innings.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Yellow Jackets looked to make the Catamounts pay for all the stranded base runners. Brown legged out an infield single with one out, but could not advance so they moved to the seventh inning with Vermont still clinging to the 3-2 lead.
Humphreys pitched Tech’s first 1-2-3 inning with two more strikeouts so the Jackets came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning needing at least one run to tie.
Senior Becky McCraw scorched the first pitch of the inning, but Vermont centerfielder Laura Stagliano made a lunging catch to her right robbing McCraw of extra bases. Freshman Christy Jones got the tying run on base when she just beat out an infield single by a half step with one out and that proved to be a big play.
After freshman pinch hitter Amanda Crow flied out to left, Jones stole second base and went to third with two outs on a passed ball and senior Aileen Morales at the plate. Morales delivered in the clutch for the Jackets as she hit a towering fly ball out to left-centerfield. UVM left fielder Rachelle Eloschuck was playing very shallow and went back and to her left in a hurry, but had the ball glance off the webbing of her glove. When the dust settled, Jones had scored the tying run and Morales was at third base with a triple. Shimandle grounded out to end the inning, but the Jackets sent the game into extra innings for the first time this season.
With the international tie-breaker rule in effect, Vermont scored a run in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of the frame, Shimandle was placed at second base to start the inning and was bunted over to third by junior Whitney Haller. Brown walked to put two on and then senior Brittany Barnes perfectly executed a suicide squeeze. Not only did Shimandle score the tying run, but new Vermont pitcher Jocelyn Abaray did not have a play so Barnes was able to beat it out. After Brown and Barnes moved up a base on a wild pitch, Weaver ended the game when she hit a ground ball to the shortstop. Kate Haber threw home, but too late and Brown slid in with the winning run.
Humphreys (3-6) got the win as she pitched 3.1 innings allowing just the unearned run in the eighth. She gave up two hits and a walk with five strikeouts. Morris gave up three earned runs on five hits and four walks in 4.2 innings. She struck out four batters.
Game two against Mercer was scoreless through the first two innings. In the first, Morales singled and stole second but could not score as she did not advance past second base. Then in the second, freshman Jessica Weaver was hit by a pitch and Jones singled later in the inning to put two on with two outs. Butler hit a shallow fly ball to left-centerfield that Mercer centerfielder Crystal Condra made a nice running catch to end the inning.
The Jackets had another runner in scoring position with less than two outs in the third as Shimandle singled to left field and then stolen second base, but Mercer pitcher Jenni Holtz recorded back-to-back strikeouts of Brown and Barnes.
In the top of the fourth, Mercer made the Jackets pay for the squanders. Jamie Madruga led off with a double to right-center and then Jena Ellis crushed a two-run home run to the same spot, the first long ball allowed by Humphreys this year. She came back to strike out the next three batters in the inning, but the damage was done and now the Bears took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth.
The Jackets had another chance in the bottom of the fourth as junior Kelly Eppinger and Jones each singled to put two on with two outs, but Holtz struck out Butler on a 3-2 pitch to get out of the jam.
Humphreys began to settle down and worked an easy 1-2-3 fifth keeping the score at 2-0 Mercer with the jackets coming to bat in the bottom of the inning with the top of the order up. Morales led off with an infield single and then stole second base. Shimandle sacrificed her over to third and then Brown hit a rocket line drive right at Mercer second baseman Page Raynor for the inning’s second out. Barnes popped out to first base ending the inning for the Jackets.
Tech began to come back in the bottom of the sixth. Weaver led off the frame with her team-high fifth home run of the season on a 1-2 pitch, a towering fly ball that just snuck over the fence in left field. That would be it in the inning, however, as Holtz got two strikeouts and a pop-up to send the game to the seventh and Mercer clinging to a 2-1 lead.
Humphreys did her part as she easily retired the Bears in the top of the seventh so Tech came up looking for at least the tying run and 9-1-2 in the order. After the home run, Humphreys retired 12 of the final 13 batters with just a leadoff walk in the sixth inning.
Butler reached on an error to begin the inning when the third baseman dropped a pop-up, but Morales lined into a double-play as her shot to the right side was caught by first baseman Jamie Madruga who doubled off Butler. Shimandle then flied out to left field to end the game.
Humphreys (3-7) took the loss as she allowed two runs on three hits and two walks. She had seven strikeouts. Holtz gave up seven hits, but Tech left seven runners on base. She had nine strikeouts.
The Yellow Jackets will next play a doubleheader at Kennesaw State on Wednesday, March 12. Game one is set to begin at 4:00 p.m. and live stats for both games is available via Gametracker at www.ramblinwreck.com.