May 8, 2003
ATLANTA – In a rematch of last year’s championship game, the third-seeded Georgia Tech softball team (35-21, 3-4 ACC) opens defense of its Atlantic Coast Conference title at 5 p.m. Friday against No. 2 seed North Carolina (39-18-1, 4-3 ACC) at the 2003 ACC Softball Championship at Florida State’s Seminole Softball Complex.
No. 4 seed Virginia and fifth-seeded Maryland open the double-elimination tourney at 3 p.m., with the winner advancing to play top-seeded and 10th-ranked Florida State at 7 p.m.
Tech defeated the Tar Heels, 6-2, last year to claim its first-ever ACC crown. This season, North Carolina topped the Jackets, 3-1, on April 17 at Glenn Field with three runs in the top of the seventh. The teams’ second game was rained out and not made up. UNC leads the all-time series, 17-15, but the Jackets have won three straight against the Heels in ACC Tournament play and own a 4-2 advantage in the postseason.
Senior Tiffany Tolleson, who owns a .420 batting average and 43 stolen bases, leads North Carolina. Freshman Jaclyn Holden is the Heels’ top run-producer. She is batting .393 with 12 home runs and 47 runs batted in, while Emily Price is hitting .335 with eight home runs and 25 RBI. As a team, UNC is batting .282. Freshman Crystal Cox (24-10) leads the Tar Heel pitching staff with a 0.86 earned run average and 239 strikeouts.
Sophomore pitcher Jessica Sallinger (20-13) leads the Jackets with a 1.13 ERA and an ACC-best 303 strikeouts. She ranks sixth nationally with 10.0 strikeouts per seven innings. The 2002 ACC Rookie of the Year, Sallinger was the catalyst for last year’s title run, as she tossed every inning in the ACC Championship en route to tourney MVP honors.
Junior All-American Tara Knudsen paces the Tech offense, as she leads the Jackets in 10 offensive categories. She is batting .302 and is tied for the ACC lead with 12 home runs and ranks fourth with 36 RBI.
Friday’s game marks the Jackets’ first in Tallahassee since the 2002 NCAA Regional Final, which Tech dropped to Florida State. Overall, the Jackets were 6-4 at the Seminole Softball Complex a year ago, including a six-game winning streak over the ACC Championship and the first three games of regional play. Tech learns Sunday if it will make a second-consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, as the 64-team field will be announced at 10 p.m. Eastern. The selections will be broadcast on ESPN News.