The Georgia Tech softball team returns most of the components that led them to the ACC title last season. Gone are starting centerfielder Blair Shimandle, career home run leader Whitney Haller and third baseman/pitcher Tiffany Johnson.
The Lady Jackets blitzed through the ACC regular season schedule finishing with a 19-2 conference record and the number one seed in the single elimination tournament being held at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. The girls open with a game against Boston College.
The replacements for the three graduating seniors have come from different places. Newcomers Hope Rush and Catlin Jordan have made significant contributions to the team in their first year. Rush has been the number one pitcher and has added power to the lineup with eighteen home runs. Jordan has played third and the latter part of the season she was the team's DP.
Three other players are taking different routes to the ACC tourney for the team this year. Junior Kristine Priebe transferred from Florida and will be playing in her first ACC tournament. Priebe has been the starter at first throughout the season and has been one of the clutch power hitters on the team. She's looking forward to playing in her first tournament. "It's going to be just as intense as the SEC," said Priebe. "Everybody is out there to win and the single elimination is different but the level of competition will be the same."
Danielle Dike has seen her role increased the last half of the season as the starter at third. She was named the ACC player of the week following the Florida State series. This will be her first start in the tournament. "It's just another game," said Danielle. "That all I think about every game and we're going to go in and do our thing because we're tough and it's just what we do."
The third member of the group is catcher Kate Kuzma. Kate has caught a majority of the games this season and has been in the outfield when she's not catching. "As regular season champion, there's a lot we're being held accountable for," said Kate. "I think we know we have a job to do and it's something we're not going to take for granted because it's something everyone wants."
Kuzma has gained experience this year behind the plate that she feels will help her in this year's tournament. "We have to remember that we've played these teams three times and in most cases swept them," said Kate. "We have to remind ourselves that they're the ones that are scared of us."
The success in the regular season gives the team confidence going into the tournament. "We have a huge target on our backs but our goal hasn't changed," said Priebe. "We're still going to be ACC champs." The team took care of business with Boston College in the regular season but they realize the importance of the first game. Its single elimination so every game is the most important game," said Priebe.
The team has played over fifty games this season against tough competition. Most of the games have been on the road. This will go a long way in preparing the team for the post –season. "I think they've had to prove themselves all season," said Coach Sharon Perkins. "We've been put in against some tough teams in some tough situations."
This should give the team an advantage going into the ACC tournament. "I think they know what they're capable of and they've seen these teams a couple of times this season," said Perkins. "I think they're pretty excited to get the tournament underway."
Coach Perkins is confident that the new faces like Priebe, Kuzma, and Dike will take advantage of their new opportunity to contribute in this year's tournament. "I think we've had different people step up in different situations and they took advantage of their opportunity and came in and won a position," said Perkins. I'm kind of excited to get into this tournament and see who does well."
The ladies begin the defense of their title Friday afternoon in Blacksburg with a 5pm scheduled start against Boston College. Live audio and video will be available on ramblinwreck.com with Seth Gerard and Caroline Hilton describing the action.
|Danielle Dike||Kate Kuzma||Kristine Priebe|