May 15, 2002
ATLANTA – Fresh off its first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference title, the Georgia Tech softball team (49-16) returns to Tallahassee, Fla., the site of the conference tournament, for its inaugural appearance in the NCAA Championship. The Jackets open the tournament against No. 18 Alabama (46-19) at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Seminole Softball Complex, where the Jackets have a three-game winning streak.
The No. 2 seed Crimson Tide is the only team in the regional field that fifth-seeded Tech has not faced this season. Alabama owns a 3-0 lead in the all-time series, having swept a doubleheader in the teams last meeting in 1998. The Jackets are 4-4 against the rest of the teams in the regional in 2002. Top-seeded Florida Atlantic, No. 3 seed Florida State, fourth-seeded Auburn and No. 6 seed Chattanooga round out the field.
With a victory over Alabama, Tech would face the FSU-Auburn winner at 5:30 p.m. Friday, while a loss would send the Jackets into an elimination game versus the FAU-Chattanooga loser at 8 p.m. Thursday.
ACC Rookie of the Year and conference tournament MVP Jessica Sallinger leads the Jackets to Tallahassee for the third time this season. She pitched all 23 innings of the tournament allowing just one earned run and fanning 29. Sallinger stands 25-7 on the season with a 1.17 earned run average and a Tech career record 287 strikeouts.
At the plate, sophomore Tara Knudsen leads the team with a .381 average, a conference record 16 home runs and 50 runs batted in. Right fielder Soraya Reddick ranks second on the team with .290 average.
The Alabama lineup is potent, as the Tide has four batters with an average over .300 and one at .299. Freshman outfielder Ashley Courtney leads the team with a .410 average, while sophomore Jackie McClain is hitting .390 with eight homers and 43 RBI.
In the circle, Shelley Laird, who is 24-11 with a 1.74 ERA and 277 strikeouts, leads Alabama. Erin Wright is 13-4.