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#TGW: A Grand Tradition Returns

By Jon Cooper | The Good Word

“The Buzz” is back regarding Georgia Tech Softball.

No, it’s not the aggressive, fiery, winning brand of softball that became synonymous with the Yellow Jackets during the program’s glory days of the early 2000s and 2010s. Head Coach Aileen Morales re-established that when she took over in 2018.

It’s not GT’s big, fuzzy, adorable, yet ultra-cool mascot. That “Buzz” never left.

“The Buzz” that’s back is “The Buzz Classic,” a highly competitive, season-opening tournament that was a fixture on the Yellow Jackets’ schedule from 1993 through 2012.

Beginning Thursday, the event is back in a big way. It’ll be a five-team round-robin that features Georgia Tech, NFCA No. 1 Washington of the Pac-12, MAC power Ohio, Conference USA’s Alabama-Birmingham and Furman of the Southern Conference.

Tech begins play Thursday at 5 p.m. against the Blazers of UAB, meets the Huskies Friday at 6 p.m. and again Saturday at 3:30, hosts the Paladins at 6 p.m., then closes its portion of the event Sunday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. against the Bobcats. The Jackets are a combined 34-22 against the four teams all time (4-0 vs. UAB, including 1-0 in the Buzz Classic (an 8-0 win in 2011), 0-3 vs. Washington, 5-1 vs. Ohio, with a 1-0 mark in the Buzz (7-3 in 2004) and 25-18 vs. Furman).

Making this year’s “Buzz” extra special is that for the first time it will be held on campus, being played at Mewborn Field. It had been played at Al Bishop Park in Marietta from 1993 through 2006, then at Twin Creeks Softball Complex in Woodstock from 2007 through 2012.

Morales couldn’t be happier to bring back the event and hold it in Atlanta.

“It’s really cool,” she said. “There weren’t big tournaments when ‘The Buzz’ started. That was one of the premier tournaments that colleges came to. For us to bring that back and kind of tie some of our history to the present, I know I have had a lot of alumni reach out that played in ‘The Buzz.’ They were excited. They were like, ‘It’s so cool that you’re bringing ‘The Buzz’ back.’ It lets our current players know that there’s a history here. We want to recognize and appreciate those people that came before us. It’s cool to kick it off. We have some great opponents coming. It’ll be fun and will be a great challenge for us.”

Bringing back the Classic was a challenge for Morales from the day she came back to coach the Yellow Jackets.

“It was one of those things where, when you get hired, there are goals and things you want to accomplish, there are things you want to put in play. To me, bringing ‘The Buzz Classic’ back was one of those things,” she said. “Obviously, you have to have the right timing to do that but where our program is right now, we were able to attract some high-level competition to come down here and want to play. I’ve played in ‘The Buzz Classic.’ I’ve coached in ‘The Buzz Classic.’ To bring it back, it’s an honor.”

Morales and the teams with which she’s been involved have performed quite honorably in the past — as a student, from 2005-08, as a student-assistant coach in 2009 then as an assistant from 2010-13, including 2012, the last year the event took place. The Jackets went a combined 34-4 in the Buzz Classic during her years in the dugout, going 18-2 as a player and 16-2 a coach.

While the Jackets’ success in the Classic ended with Morales — it was halted prior to the 2013 season — it hardly began there. The program has won at a .745 clip overall (73-25) and has had a winning record in 16 of the 19 previous Classics (16-1-2). The one Classic in which Tech finished under .500 came in 2001, a 1-3 mark as the team dropped a pair of one-run, extra-inning games.

Tech bounced back from that by losing only eight games over the event’s final 11 years, going 46-8 (an .852 winning percentage) and winning at least three games in each Classic. The only thing that kept the Jackets from recording at least three wins was Mother Nature, which caused a postponement in 2008, sadly for Morales, her senior year.

Morales does want her players to know the history of the event and be motivated to play with the kind of pride that comes with continuing that legacy of success.

“I want them to take pride in that,” she said. “People are coming to play in your tournament, it’s your field and you want to win that tournament. You want to be successful in that tournament.”

Morales will also use the final game of the final Classic, in 2012, as motivation. It’s a game that shows the kind of competitive fire still burns inside her.

“Ooooh. It was (a loss) to Elon!” she said of the 6-3 loss to the Phoenix, which ended the team’s 15-game Classic win streak. “I remember that.”

She also remembers the last time she saw the Huskies, which holds a similar sore spot.

“We hosted a Super Regional in 2009,” she said of the series, won by the Huskies, 7-1 and 7-0. “It’s kind of cool how some of these things come full-circle. They’re coming back here now. That was a team that year that won the World Series and they had to come here and play us.”

UW comes here again to play the Jackets, and, with its top ranking, presents a special opportunity for the Jackets to gauge themselves and create new Buzz Classic memories.

“To be the best you have to play the best. It’s that simple,” she said. “Washington is a premier team, one of the best teams in the country. They’ve consistently done that. Any true athlete, any true competitor wants to go up against the best and see how you match up. They’re the team that our team and our coaching staff are so excited about the opportunity to compete against. Programs like that, they’re where we want to go. That’s what we want our program to be.

“The game doesn’t know who is supposed to win and who isn’t supposed to win. You have to do it,” she added. “That’s the beauty of sports. The scoreboard reflects who was better that day. We’re excited for the opportunity to show what Georgia Tech Softball is about.”

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