April 27, 2018
The Good Word | By Jon Cooper
There’s no need to tell a senior class when senior weekend, or how special that weekend is.
Softball’s senior class of 2018 is completely aware.
The quintet of pitcher Emily Anderson, infielder/outfielder Malea Bell, infielder Kendall Chadwick, shortstop Kelsey Chisholm, and outfielder Draven Sonnon recognize that it’s a bittersweet three days.
That weekend is here for them, as Georgia Tech hosts Virginia Tech for a three-game set beginning Friday night.
“It’s kind of surreal. It’s seemed like it’s dragged on but also gone by really fast at the same time,” said Sonnon. “We have something special going and I hope we can continue to build on the momentum from last weekend with North Carolina and bring it into this weekend with Virginia Tech.”
“It’s going to be very weird and very exciting,” added Bell. “I’m very excited for this weekend. It’s been a great season with all the girls and getting to know the freshmen, and everyone, new coaches. It’s been a great season. I’m really excited for it.”
“It’s definitely a big weekend. Senior weekend means a lot to us seniors, being able to celebrate that and the hard work we’ve put in these past four years,” agreed Chadwick. “It’s really important that we win the series going into the last weekend of ACC play, especially in hopes of making to the tournament and getting the best seed we can for that. So winning two is our top priority, if not getting a sweep.”
While the sweet sentiment is obvious, the bitter part is noticeably absent. None of the class expressed that emotion, and with good reason.
“It’s technically not our last home game,” explained Anderson. “We get to play on our field for ACC’s which is awesome. But I’m looking forward to this weekend and just putting together a good series against Virginia Tech.”
“We still have the ACC Tournament, which is at home so it’ll kind of be another home weekend for us,” said Chisholm. “This weekend, it’s crazy to think that it’s here already but we’re excited for this weekend and to play the games.”
The Jackets should be excited as they still have plenty to play for.
They enter the weekend 25-22 (10-8 in ACC play), and sit in third in the Coastal Division, sixth overall, only two games out of fourth. Tech is two wins away from securing its first winning season since 2012, and has four ACC series wins, the most in a season since winning four in `12.
The program’s fans know that 2012 was the last time the Jackets claimed an ACC Tournament title, winning it with a coaching staff that included then-assistant coach Aileen Morales, now Tech’s head coach, and sparked by senior catcher/OF Kate Kuzma, now Kate Kantor, the Jackets’ current volunteer assistant coach.
The players also know.
“We’ve never made it to (the ACCs) while I’ve been at Tech,” said Chisholm, who can recite the parallels. “So I’m super-excited about it because this is the first year that we actually have a shot.”
The Jackets have given themselves a shot and gave themselves a shot in the arm last weekend, winning a character-building series over North Carolina. After losing Friday’s series opener, they swept Saturday’s double-header to snap a nine-game series-losing streak.
Anderson and Sonnon called the series win, Tech’s first over the `Heels since 2014, their favorite career Georgia Tech moment.
“We hadn’t won a series against them in so long,” said Sonnon. “It was such a team effort. People stepped up in different situations. It was just a fun series to play in. This year there’s a lot more good things to look back on. Overall it’s something I’ll remember moving forward.”
The Jackets plan to similarly reverse their recent fate against the Hokies. Tech leads the all-time series 23-22, but has dropped the last four series, last beating them in a home series in, you guessed it, 2012 — they are 1-5 in the last two series at Mewborn. Last season, the Jackets dropped the first two games to the Hokies, 6-5 in eight innings, then 13-6, before winning the finale, 7-3, behind Anderson’s complete game, and Chisholm’s two-hit, four-RBI day. Bell reached twice, on a single and a walk, and scored twice.
Finishing their final regular season with one final home series win would mean so much to this class, which has gone through so much but has gotten that much stronger because of it.
“We’ve had to deal with a lot of adversity,” said Sonnon. “Having to build each other up when it seems like nothing’s going our way and to go through a coaching change and to buy into that I think has brought us a lot closer as a unit.”
“We’ve become really close,” said Chadwick. “I mean there are only five of us so we’re a pretty small, close-knit group. I think all the challenges that we’ve faced and all the good times that we’ve gone through these past four years has helped bring us closer.”