No. 8 Softball wins seven of nine, now 29-5 overall

No. 8 Tech faced its sixth ranked opponent of the year during a weekend series at No. 16 North Carolina on March 20-21. The Jackets took two out of three in the weekend set; they won Saturday’s opener 16-1 before falling in the second game 8-3, and Tech rebounded with a 5-0 victory in Sunday’s finale.

The highlight of Sunday’s game came in the circle, as freshman pitcher Hope Rush delivered the first no-hitter of her career and led the way to a shutout that clinched the series. Rush walked four, but only one of those came in the final five innings.

She got all the support she would need in the top of the first, when sophomore shortstop Kelsi Weseman drilled a three-run homer, and the Jackets added a pair of runs in the seventh to pad the lead.

Tech’s road trip continued in the Southwest on March 23-24 with three games in the state of Texas.

Tech got a stellar performance from Rush and five RBIs from junior first baseman Kristine Priebe en route to a 7-1 win over Houston in the first game of a doubleheader. The Jackets lost game two, though, dropping a 2-1 pitchers’ duel.

March 24 saw Tech face a fellow ranked opponent in No. 17 Texas A&M. Behind a Rush shutout and a three-RBI performance from redshirt senior second baseman Jen Yee, Tech won 4-0.

As Tech’s second ACC series of the year began on Friday, the Jackets fell into an early hole and were forced to battle back from a six-run deficit. They did just that, as Tech’s offense came through late in the game to pull off a 9-8 comeback victory.

The 17 combined runs came on 16 total hits—eight for each team. Tech rode a balanced attack to victory, as seven players had an RBI. Redshirt senior second baseman Jen Yee had four plate appearances and was intentionally walked all four times.

Rush, who entering the game had an ERA of 1.05, had a rough start as the Terrapins struck for five runs in the first two innings. She pitched the full seven frames, but gave up seven earned runs on eight hits, two walks and two hit batsmen. She struck out seven batters in a 149-pitch outing.

Rush allowed two runs in the first inning, and Maryland got a leadoff home run in the top of the second and proceeded to load the bases with one out. Three more runners crossed the plate, and Maryland led 5-0 after two innings.

An RBI double by Maryland pitcher Kerry Hickey in the top of the fourth increased the lead to 6-0, but Tech responded in the bottom half and cut the lead to 6-4.

Tech added three runs over the next two innings, but Maryland got a two-run homer from Hickey and led 8-7 heading into the bottom of the seventh.

Weseman walked and Jordan doubled to open the inning, giving Tech runners at second and third. After Sinclair popped out, junior designated player Kristen Adkins attempted a squeeze bunt. The play worked, as Weseman scored and Jordan moved to third. With two down, junior center fielder Christy Jones singled in Weseman for the winning run.

Friday’s second game featured a pitching duel between Adkins and Maryland’s Kristen Knight. Both pitchers went the distance, and Kuzma’s two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth powered a 3-1 Tech victory.

Adkins’ control was shaky in the early innings. She walked in a run in the fourth but did not allow a Maryland runner to get past second base the rest of the way, getting the win even though the Jackets recorded just four hits.

In Saturday’s series finale, Rush entered the circle again and rebounded in a big way. The freshman hurled a complete-game shutout, striking out 10 while allowing six hits and two walks to win a 1-0 pitchers’ duel.

The Jackets scored their lone run in the first inning. It was unearned, as Yee was intentionally walked and scored on an error.

Rush only let one batter reach third base and escaped a two-on, two-out spot in the seventh to seal the no-hitter and the victory.

As a team, Tech had only three hits—a double by Jordan and singles by Kuzma and Rush. Yee ended the series with a season on-base percentage of .698, easily top in the ACC, and she has 39 walks against just two strikeouts this year.