Jan. 27, 2012
ATLANTA – Coming off of a 45-12 showing in 2011, the Georgia Tech softball team will return to the diamond for their first games of 2012 in Tempe, Ariz., against a tough field at the ASU Kajikawa Classic. Last year, Tech, who is currently ranked No. 23 in the USA Softball preseason poll, won its third straight ACC regular season title in 2011 but was upset in the first round of the ACC Tournament and then went 1-2 at the NCAA Knoxville Regional after earning its 10th straight postseason bid.
The Yellow Jackets lost four seniors but return several starters including 2011 ACC Player of the Year and All-American Kelsi Weseman as well as 2010 ACC Freshman of the year and All-American pitcher Hope Rush.
With the final schedule set for 2012, Tech will take on three Women’s College World Series teams in Alabama, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma during the ACC/SEC/Big 12 Challenge and will compete against 15 different schools, in 22 different games, who earned a spot in the 2011 NCAA Softball Championship.
The Jackets will see a new look to their infield and some fresh faces in their outfield this season.
After sitting down with Head Coach Sharon Perkins, here is what she had to say about the 2012 Georgia Tech softball team.
“Hope [Rush] is picking up where she left off her freshman year. She looked great all fall and she has looked really strong in game play during the spring so far. We are excited to have her back this season. Lindsey [Anderson] was about to fill a void that we needed her to fill in her freshman year. She stepped right in and showed strong leadership on the mound and it is nice to have her back and healthy this season. She came off of a great year last year and we are looking for her to step in and pick up where she left off last season. She threw really well in regionals last year. Kylie Kleinschmidt, a new addition to the pitching staff for 2012 will also be coming in to throw some innings for us this season. Kleinschmidt comes to Tech from Providence Christian Academy where she helped her team to a region championships and a state runner-up in 2010.”
“I am excited about the infield. We did a switch to try things out this fall. It is like pieces to a puzzle, you are trying to make everyone fit where it is going to help the whole team. We decided that with the incoming freshmen and the personnel that we have returning that Kelsi is by far the best third baseman. She has quick hands over there and it is nice because everyone fits into place after that. Ashley Thomas, who was at second base in 2011, moved over to shortstop. She has great read, a strong arm and it is nice to have her with her range over there. Chelsie Thomas, a newcomer, really had great range and we anticipated her coming in and playing third, but she looks the best at second. We are rotating a bunch of people in at first base. [Alysha] Rudnik will see some time there, we have Danielle Dike, Caroline Hilton and Karly Fullem as well and we can just base who is starting there off of who has the hot bat right then.”
“The biggest thing in the outfield is having Hayley Downs in centerfield. She has stepped in and done a great job. She covers ground. It is tough to lose Christy Jones but if we are going to fill it with somebody I am glad that person is Hayley. In left field we have options with Kate Kuzma when she is not catching, Shannon Bear who had a hot bat last year and Kaitlin Kates. In right field, we are losing Jessica Sinclair to a knee injury for this season. It is tough to not have her back this year as she has been a great leader out there for us and held down the right field position. To have a freshman in Katie Johnsky coming in and really having the opportunity for Sinclair to work with her out there, Sinclair has been a great mentor to her. Johnsky has done a great job in right field. We also have Kelly Delaschmit to play any of the outfield positions.”
“Rudnik and Kate [Kuzma] have had the most experience behind the plate. The catcher decision will probably be based on who is pitching this season and how the other positions are going to fill in. We had another addition to the catching corps in Caitlin Coffey this season so she is in the mix too.”
With the skill sets of each Tech softball player, the team appears very versatile in 2012.
According to Perkins, “It is nice to have people that can play different positions. It is hard to catch every game, and we are in the position where we don’t have to do that and we can kind of base off who is playing against who’s pitching, who’s hitting and that type of thing.”
Tech will play in four tournaments in 2012 beginning with the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. from Feb. 10-12 where they will face Oregon State, No. 8/8 Arizona, Cal Poly, RV/RV San Diego State and No. 20/21 Nebraska.
After that weekend, Tech will face quite the test when they head to Auburn, Ala. for the Big 12/ACC/SEC Challenge. The Jackets will take on No. 2/3 Alabama and No. 6/5 Oklahoma in back-to-back Friday night games, No. 16/11 Oklahoma State on Saturday and the host team in RV/- Auburn to round out the weekend.
The Jackets continue on the road to Clearwater, Fla. for the NFCA Leadoff Classic where they will see RV/RV DePaul, No. 9/14 Tennessee, RV/RV UMass, Mississippi State and Illinois State. Tech finally returns home where they will host the Buzz Classic in Woodstock, Ga. from March 2-4.
The rest of Tech’s non-conference schedule includes a couple games against No. 12/10 Georgia and two road tests in No. 20/22 LSU and No. 24/23 Louisiana-Lafayette. Tech will also play on the road against Florida State and North Carolina in one of their most difficult weeks of the year at the end of the season.
Perkins had this to say.
“We are excited about the season. It is going to be a nice change of pace starting out. It is always fun to get on the road right when the season starts. We are looking forward to the competition and we have been working hard to prepare for the teams that we have to face this season. It is fun to have the opportunity to play teams that have been in the Women’s College World Series. Our tournament in Auburn will be an early test for this team. Right out of the gate we are playing Pac-12 schools in the home of the reigning national champions (Arizona State). It is exciting to be in different venues and play in front of the host team’s fans in their stadiums. It is a fun atmosphere when there is a lot of fans and a big scoreboard. That whole environment is just fun to play in and I think it will prepare us for conference play and the ultimate goal, postseason. When you are playing these teams early on it sets the tone to know where you need to be. You just keep progressing throughout the year to get to that point and play at that level.”