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Tech Softball Optimistic about Start of 2002 Campaign

Feb. 1, 2002

ATLANTA – With the hopes of an improved offensive attack, paired with a strong pitching staff and defensive corps, Georgia Tech softball head coach Kate Madden is optimistic about a run toward the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference and a possible at-large berth to the NCAA Softball Championships in 2002.

“I definitely expect to be at the top of our conference,” Madden says. “I think with the improved offense and the pitching and defense that we had last year, I think we can expect to do that well.”

“Our main focus this season has to be in bettering our hitting,” adds Madden. “Based on our fall season and looking at our lineup and what we’ve put together, I’d say we’ve done a great deal to improve ourselves offensively. So that’s the big change that I’m looking for. I think if we can just add some RBIs, we can have a lot better season.”

The Yellow Jackets open their season on February 10 at Glenn Field when they host Gardner-Webb at 1 p.m. The team began practice on January 21.

A year ago, Tech finished 24-29 and 2-6 in conference play. Gone from that team are five seniors, but senior third baseman Jamie Frost and a talented group of veterans pair with five newcomers to create a talented nucleus for the 2002 Yellow Jackets.

“If we can get our offense going, I think we can be a very competitive team this year,” concludes Madden.

PITCHING

Sophomore Erin Voeltz heads a Tech pitching staff, which should rank as one of the ACC’s deepest and most talented.

Voeltz logged one of the Jackets’ most impressive campaigns of all-time as a rookie hurler a year ago. Her totals of 12 wins, 200.0 innings pitched, 26 complete games and 119 strikeouts rank among the highest single-season totals in Tech history. She also tallied four saves, which led the ACC, and posted an ERA of 1.72.

“One of our top pitchers right now is Erin,” Madden says. “She pitched a lot of innings for us as a freshman, and she’s going to be great again.”

Joining Voeltz in the rotation will be junior Tiffany Goodman, who posted a 1.13 earned run average in 2001. That mark stands as the second-lowest single-season total in Tech history. She was also 8-8 and logged 111.1 innings.

According to Madden, “she’s good at keeping the ball down and hitting her spots, so Tiffany will definitely get plenty of pitching time.”

Adding depth at pitcher for the Jackets will be junior Mimi Utt, who went 2-3 in 10 appearances a year ago after returning from shoulder surgery in 2000.

“Mimi is still continuing to come back from this injury, but she will give us some good innings,” says Madden. “She has great movement.”

Freshman Jessica Sallinger, who was the 2001 Georgia high school pitcher of the year and did not allow an earned run as a senior, will provide an additional arm for the Jackets.

“Jessica probably throws the hardest and has a ton of movement,” says Madden. “She’s a strikeout pitcher, so she will certainly add to us this year.” Overall, Madden is impressed with Tech’s array of arms.

“I think it’s good for every team to have three pitchers. We have four, but our pitchers are all very different. I think that’s what every staff needs. We also have pitchers that are better as starters and some that are better as relievers. That’s what makes a complete pitching staff, and I think we have that.”

CATCHER

Madden also has a lot of options behind the plate, which include sophomores Erin Glantz and Tasha Waugh, as well as junior Lindsay Wood. According to Madden, who plays at “this position is really going to come down to who can hit.” As for Glantz, she is also still recovering from a shoulder injury in 2000.

“Erin is a great catcher, but she’s probably going to be limited still by her shoulder,” Madden adds. “I still expect her to play quite a bit behind the plate. Erin is very good mechanically and very smart behind the plate.”

Waugh returns after a solid rookie campaign, which saw her post Tech’s fifth-highest batting average and tie for the team’s home run lead with five.

“Tasha is very good mechanically and good with blocking balls,” says Madden. “She’s also a very good hitter. She’s a powerful hitter, so as long as Tasha is hitting we’d like to have her in the game somewhere.”

Also coming off an injury year, Lindsay Wood adds depth behind the plate. “She played shortstop her freshman year, and she’d like to come back to catching, as she did in high school, but she had a knee injury,” Madden says. “We’re hoping that her knee injury will allow her to squat, so we can get her back there as well. She’s also a great leader.”

FIRST BASE

Tech’s first basemen will likely come from the trio mentioned as possibilities behind the plate.

“First base will also rotate among the catchers,” Madden says. “If there is a catcher that is not behind the plate, she could be at first.”

Madden views Wood as the likely starter. Limited in action due to her knee injury, Wood made the most of her opportunities a year ago. In just 19 at bats, she posted nine RBI and two home runs.

Waugh and Glantz will also see some time at first base, as will Utt when she is not pitching since she “offers a ton offensively.”

“I’d like to see all of them in the lineup quite a bit,” adds Madden.

SECOND BASE

Junior college transfer Felicia Coursey, who earned all-region honors at Young Harris College a year ago, will occupy second base for the Jackets.

“She’s great,” says Madden. “She has quick feet, is very smart, very intense and very aggressive.”

Also very consistent at the plate, Coursey is slated as the team’s leadoff hitter. She has proven herself to be an offensive threat, winning Young Harris’ offensive player of the year award in 2001.

SHORTSTOP

Sophomore Tara Knudsen, Tech’s leading hitter a year ago, will be the starter at shortstop.

“Tara is a very good all-around player,” says Madden. “We want to see her there as long as she can keep up the defense and hitting.”

As a rookie, Knudsen posted a .259 batting average and displayed tremendous power with five homers. She also added 12 RBI and tied for the team lead with 35 hits.

THIRD BASE

Tech’s lone senior and a key leader, Jamie Frost will anchor third base for Tech. Known as a strong defensive player, Frost also contributed at the plate last year, posting the team’s fourth-highest batting average. She also ranked third with 34 hits and second with eight doubles. However, Madden would like to see more offensive production from her third baseman.

“Jamie is a defensive specialist,” Madden says. “She’s probably one of the best defensive players on the team. She has very quick feet, great hands and great reactions. Hitting, we need her to pick it up a little bit. She’s great with seeing the ball. She’s very smart and always takes the bad pitches. She just needs to be more consistent for us.”

OUTFIELD

A pair of sophomores, as well as two newcomers will man Tech’s outfield. The second-year standouts are Sara Wissmann and Soraya Reddick, who each offer a great deal of speed and solid defense, but need to be more consistent at the plate.

Wissmann made 40 starts a year ago, mostly in center field. According to Madden, she has very quick feet, gets a great jump on the ball and has the strongest arm on the field, but she is expected to hit better this season. “She’s got a ton of power and we’ll really need that in the lineup this year,” Madden adds.

Reddick is similar in that she has “very good foot speed and gets a good jump on the ball” but needs an improved year offensively.

“As a hitter she’s very powerful with great mechanics, and she offers so much at the plate,” says Madden. She is slated to play in right and left field.

Freshman Kirin Kumar of Santa Ana, Calif., should see plenty of action in left field and may get some time in center.

“It’s kind of important that she’s in our lineup because she’s got so much speed at the plate,” Madden says. “She’s a slapper and is also a very good left-handed hitter. She’s a great outfielder with a good arm and great mechanics.”

Tara Neff, a teammate of Coursey’s at Young Harris and another NJCAA all-region choice, rounds out the quartet of outfielders.

“Tara does more of the short-game slapping to the infield, but we’re working on her hitting, so that she can give us more at the plate,” says Madden. “She’s a hustler, and a very aggressive, hard worker.”

SCHEDULE

The 2002 Yellow Jackets will face a challenging schedule with several quality opponents. In addition to the always-strong ACC slate, Tech will travel to Southeastern Conference opponents Auburn and Mississippi State, as well as Georgia Southern, St. Mary’s College, Troy State, Jacksonville State and Samford.

At Glenn Field, Tech will host Gardner-Webb, Furman, Georgia State, Jacksonville State, Princeton, Georgia Southern, Chattanooga, Mercer and rival Georgia.

The Jackets will also see several quality teams in the five in-season tournaments in which they will play. The events are: the FAU Worth Invitational, LSU Purple & Gold Challenge, San Jose State’s National Invitational Softball Tournament, the Buzz Classic and the Tar Heel Invitational.

Prior to bracket play in these events, Tech is slated to take on teams such as Rutgers, 2001 Women’s College World Series participant LSU, Arizona State, Iowa and Illinois. Possible opponents for the Jackets include California, UCLA, Syracuse, Ohio State and Michigan State.

The Tar Heel Invitational will allow Tech to play in an event that features only ACC teams: Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.

“The biggest deal for us is to get a tough enough schedule where we can play some big teams, those with a high RPI, beat them and hopefully at the end of the year get an at-large bid to an NCAA regional,” says Madden.

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