June 2, 2004
ATLANTA – After making its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance and finishing third in the Athens Regional, the Georgia Tech softball team appeared in the final rankings in both the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball Polls, announced on Wednesday afternoon. The Yellow Jackets moved up to No. 22 in the NFCA Poll after being unranked and finished No. 23 in the ESPN.com poll.
“We had a great season,” said head coach Ehren Earleywine. “Although we didn’t go as far as we would’ve liked, we really started playing some great softball in the postseason and made some good runs at ACC’s and NCAAs. The seniors deserve a ton of credit for building this program to where it is now and have paved the way for a bright future.”
Tech finished the season with a record of 47-19. The Jackets gained their highest seed ever in a regional, No. 3, and finished third at the Athens Regional. Tech defeated UMass, 1-0, and upset No. 10 Georgia, 3-2, before dropping two straight games, including a 2-0 loss to eventual regional champion, No. 8 Washington. The top-seeded Huskies advanced to their second straight Women’s College World Series.
At the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, the Rambling Wreck had another strong showing, making their second championship game appearance in the last three years. After falling to No. 4 Florida State in the quarterfinals, 3-2, in dramatic fashion, the Yellow Jackets won three straight games in the elimination bracket on Saturday, downing No. 3 seed Virginia (4-1), No. 6 seed Maryland (6-4) and No. 2 seed North Carolina (4-0), to make it to the finals against the top-seeded Seminoles. The Jackets dropped another close ballgame to the Tribe, 3-1.
The Rambling Wreck ended the season with national rankings of No. 4 in team earned run average (0.97) and No. 23 in winning percentage (.712). Junior pitcher Jessica Sallinger finished eighth in the nation in strikeouts per game (10.3), ninth in wins (31) and 16th in ERA (0.82). Senior pitcher Erin Voeltz ended the year with the country’s 35th best ERA (1.15), while senior shortstop Tara Knudsen finished 49th in the NCAA in batting average (.392).
The Yellow Jackets broke two hitting records in 2004, including team on base percentage (.355) and walks (213). Tech also set a new single-season record with 89 stolen bases.
Along with the hitting records, Tech set eight new team marks this past season in pitching. The Jackets had new marks in team earned run average (0.97), shutouts (29), strikeouts (536), strikeouts per 7 innings (8.65), lowest opponent batting average (.171), complete games (48), fewest hits allowed per game (4.2) and consecutive scoreless innings pitched (45.0). The Jackets also allowed the fewest earned runs (60-66 games) and runs (102-66 games), since the 1989 (46-36 games) and 1991 (101-51 games) seasons.
Tech finished the regular season 41-15 and had four wins over ranked opponents. The Jackets faced one of the tougher schedules in the country, taking on eight of the top 15 teams in the country, according to the final rankings. Tech picked up the program’s first win over a top-10 opponent, beating then-No. 9 Louisiana-Lafayette, 4-1, on Feb. 8. The Rambling Wreck faced three teams that advanced to the CWS; Florida State, Michigan and Washington.
Sallinger became just the third Yellow Jacket, first pitcher, to earn NFCA All-America honors as she was selected to the third team. The Kennesaw, Ga., native broke Tech single-season records in wins, ERA, shutouts (15), no-hitters (3) and consecutive scoreless innings pitched (39.2). Sallinger also became the second pitcher in ACC history to surpass a 1,000 strikeouts, ending her junior campaign with 1,025, 29 shy of becoming the strikeout queen in the ACC. She was also named to the All-ACC team for the second straight season and was tabbed All-Southeast Region first team for the second time in her career (2002).
Knudsen earned all-conference honors for the third straight year after finishing second in the ACC in batting average (.392). The Thornton, Colo., native led the Tech squad with 42 runs batted in, 15 doubles and 12 home runs. Knudsen broke the single-season school record with 39 walks and ended her career as the all-time home run champion (46) in the ACC. She became the first Tech player to play softball professionally as she was the No. 1 pick in the supplemental draft of the National Pro Fastpitch League by the New England Riptide.
Junior Liz Bartle garnered All-ACC honors for the first time in her career this past season. Bartle finished the regular season with a .309 batting average and finished the season second on the Tech squad with six home runs, 12 doubles and 35 RBIs. The Coral Springs, Fla., native tallied 28 walks and finished the year with a .458 slugging percentage.
Collecting the team awards for the Yellow Jackets were Sallinger, Knudsen, senior Soraya Reddick and freshman Kristina Hull. Sallinger earned team Most Valuable Player and Pitcher awards, while Knudsen was selected as the team’s Most Valuable Hitter. Reddick was tabbed Defensive Player of the Year, while Hull won the Hardest Worker of the Year award.