May 21, 2010
By Jon Cooper
It’s a sudden-death pressure cooker that, for better or worse, can render the three-month regular season that preceded it meaningless.
Some athletes thrive come prime time. They can seemingly “smell the money.”
Kristen Adkins is one of those people.
“That’s what it’s looking like,” said Adkins. “I never really considered myself to be that person but that seems to be the truth that’s holding on.”
That truth was never more evident than in last weekend’s ACC Tournament, when she was on a three-day search-and-destroy mission.
It started on Friday when Adkins, who was 7-2 with a 2.39 ERA in 2010 (she also saw action at third base), took the mound in Tech’s Tournament opener and, nearly single-handedly took care of Boston College. She threw five shutout innings, allowing only three singles, while also belting a line-drive, three-run homer in Tech’s 8-0 victory, the first of back-to-back run-rule wins (it would have been three straight, but the rule is waived in the championship game).
“I knew that having the ball in my hand for that first game, it was going to kind of set the tone,” she said. “To be in there and be strong and competitive and come out with an 8-0 win right off the bat, to run-rule the team, with our defense making phenomenal plays behind me, was huge.”
Two days later, in the Championship game, Adkins was in the center circle in the bottom of the seventh inning, dropping the hammer on Florida State with her signature drop-ball, completing Tech’s 8-4 victory, with a 1-2-3 inning that sealed the Yellow Jackets’ second consecutive ACC Tournament Championship.
Being huge in the ACCs is nothing new for Adkins, who was MVP of the 2009 Tournament, where she allowed one run in 13 innings. That’s a two-season ACC Tournament ERA of 0.37.
Adkins’ heroics at the plate also were nice to see, especially coming off a season where she batted below .200.
“It was great,” said catcher Kate Kuzma. “I feel like she should definitely come off of that weekend knowing that she’s a really great asset to our pitching staff and our team. Her confidence level is way up. Throwing a three-hitter against Boston College and hitting a home run was amazing.”
It’s been an amazing year for Adkins, who played third in Tech’s first win ever over Florida – the school from which she transferred last year – then got the chance to play and pitch in her home state of Texas pitching well against Houston, but suffering a hard-luck 2-1 loss.
She’s not quite ready to see this year end and will do what she can when Tech takes the field in the Atlanta Regional, beginning Friday evening when the Yellow Jackets play Jacksonville State in their opener. First pitch is scheduled for 8:00.
After last year’s Super Regional loss to eventual champion Washington, Adkins feels the Jackets have plenty of extra motivation heading into this year’s NCAAs, and maybe even a little luck, courtesy of the selection committee.
“I think it’s nice to see that Washington’s on the opposite side of the bracket this year,” she said with a laugh. “But we expect to come through regionals. It’s going to be a tough regional, Auburn (who, coincidentally, lost to Tech in last year’s Atlanta Regional) and Oregon are both really good teams and Jacksonville State, they’re really scrappy, too. So we’re going to have to be on our “A” game all three days this weekend to come out on top.”
The key to the Jackets getting to the top and to the College World Series will be to continue to do whatever it takes to win, with, seemingly, a different hero every day.
“Our team is loaded with a lot of talent,” she said. “We come from all across the country, we’ve played competitive ball against one another growing up. I think that has a lot to do with it, just being able to step up to the plate one day and say, ‘Okay, I”m going to be the one. If it’s up to me I’ll get the job done.’ I think anyone on this team, off the bench, starting nine, has the ability to do that.”