May 4, 2018
The Good Word | by Jon Cooper
While there’s no place like home, student-athletes grow immune to homesickness, especially by senior year. However, every now and then there’s still a test to that.
This weekend provides such a test for Georgia Tech softball, as it plays a season-closing weekend series against Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
No one would blame the Yellow Jackets’ seniors for having Georgia on their mind, especially on Saturday, as the Institute will hold its Spring Commencement at McCamish Pavilion.
For seniors Malea Bell, Kendall Chadwick, Kelsey Chisholm and Draven Sonnon, the only walks they’ll know are the ones they get at the plate while, in Emily Anderson’s case, it’s the ones she looks to not allow.
“It’s our last ACC series that we’ll be playing. We know, especially from the past, how important that series is,” said shortstop Kelsey Chisholm. “So probably we won’t be too concerned about the fact that it’ll be graduation. We’ll just go out there and play and get the job done then do whatever we need to do about graduation afterwards. It was an adjustment but it’s not anything that we’re too upset about.”
Just as with last weekend’s final home series and senior day weekend, emotion will be abundant — Tech actually plays the senior day villain on Sunday — and the stakes remain high, if not higher as far as positioning for next weekend’s ACC tournament, being held at Mewborn Field.
Georgia Tech begins play 12-9 in conference action (27-23 overall), third in the Coastal division but still within reach of second-place North Carolina (15-8, 28-24) and even first-place Pittsburgh (14-6, 29-17-1).
Boston College also is very much in the mix, coming in at 11-9 (27-21), third in the Atlantic, with a chance to catch Notre Dame (13-10, 31-20) for second.
A series win not only would give the Jackets the tiebreaker over the Eagles in tournament seeding — they’ve already earned tiebreakers over North Carolina and Duke with series wins (Pittsburgh has it on them) — but would be Tech’s sixth series win this season in conference play, their third straight and fourth in five to finish the season.
It also would put the brakes on a rough stretch against the Eagles. Georgia Tech holds a 30-12 overall edge in the series, 12-6 on the road, but Boston College has won eight straight games — five straight in Chestnut Hill — and 10 of 12 since 2014. However all the road games were at Shea Field. This weekend’s series will be the first at Harrington Athletics Village at Brighton Fields.
Having so much at stake makes it easier for the Jackets to focus on where they can be next weekend rather than where they can’t be this weekend. Nor does it take away from what they’ve already accomplished.
“It’s sad that we won’t be there, but, I think just being able to be with our team in that position is the more important thing,” said infielder Kendall Chadwick. “Yeah, it’s disappointing that we won’t be able to walk across the stage but it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that we earned the ability to graduate from one of the best colleges in the country. It just means a lot just being able to graduate.”
Being together on the field then off the field also in Boston also goes a long way morale-wise. In fact, all five seniors said separately that they would have made the trip north with their teammates even if they had been offered the opportunity to stay in Atlanta for graduation.
“It would be weird if only a few of us could go and everyone else couldn’t. But we will all be together in Boston, hopefully we’ll win that series,” said infielder Malea Bell, who blasted her first homer of the season last Friday, two-run shot to give the Jackets a 2-0 lead in a game they’d win 3-2. “I’m sure we’ll go take pictures and celebrate while we’re there. We’re all excited because we’ll all be together.”
“Being with our teammates will make it a lot more bearable having to miss that big moment,” said centerfielder Draven Sonnon, Tech’s leader in slugging (.553, 12th in the ACC), co-leader in homers (9, with Katie Krzus, tied for sixth in the conference) and walks (29, fourth in conference — two of those resulting in runs last Sunday). “I talked with Kelsey. We’re the first in our families to graduate from college, which is a huge deal. But at the same time, knowing that we have that diploma waiting for us at home is something that’s exciting.”
Pitcher Emily Anderson is excited about the series, primarily for where it can get the Jackets but also for the milestone she can earn. Anderson, who is in the top 10 in the ACC in wins, innings pitched, appearances, starts, shutouts, strikeouts, strikeouts looking, complete games and ERA (she’s top-15 in opposing batting average), has won four straight ACC starts, including a complete-game shutout of Virginia Tech last Sunday, and enters the weekend one win shy of her first 20-win season and the Jackets’ first since Hope Rush won 26 in 2012.
She’s ready to celebrate graduation weekend, even if it is in a different city.
“It would be really cool to walk across the stage just because of how awesome it is to graduate from Georgia Tech,” Anderson said. “But I think we’re all bringing our caps and gowns to Boston and our parents are going to do something. We’ll have fun with it.”
And while it’s not Atlanta, Boston’s still a pretty cool city to hold a celebration.
“We’ve been there for three years now, so we’re really familiar with it and they’ve got a new field so that’s going to be exciting to play on,” said Sonnon. ”I think a lot of our parents are coming so it won’t be as sad having to miss it having our parents there and being together.”