Softball struggles in Nutter Classic

Senior Hope Rush delivers the pitch to home. Rush threw a complete game shutout with five strikeouts in a victory over Illinois. / Photo by Josh Sandler

The Tech softball team played in the five-game Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, Calif. on from Feb. 22-24. The Jackets played two teams ranked in the top 10 and finished the weekend with a 1-4 record.

The Jackets opened their play against the Northwestern Wildcats on Friday afternoon. The first six innings saw strong defensive efforts from both teams and left both teams tied at zero going into the last inning. At the top of the seventh, the Jackets scored two runs to take a late lead. The lead would be short- lived, however, as Northwestern’s bats came alive in the bottom of the seventh as well. An error by the Jackets’ junior shortstop Ashley Thomas would allow the Wildcats to score their first run of the day, and a double just a couple of batters later would help Northwestern seal the 3-2 victory.

Tech next played No. 8 ranked California in the evening game. The Bears got on the board quickly and took a 3-0 lead in the first inning.

The Jackets would get their only hit of the game in the fourth inning, when Thomas connected and beat out the throw for an infield single to extend her hitting streak to 12 games. The Bears would add two more runs in the fifth inning before scoring the final three runs of the game in the sixth inning. Those final three scores would end the game as an 8-0 run-rule loss for the Jackets.
The team’s first game on Saturday was against No. 5 Florida. The Jackets played a close game against the Gators and held a 1-1 tie through four innings. The Jackets then struck for two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 3-1 lead.

The advantage did not last for long, as the Gators would come back with four runs in the top of the sixth inning to take the lead for good on their way to a 5-3 defeat of the Jackets.

On Saturday afternoon, the Jackets played the Oregon State Beavers in their second game of the day. Tech fell behind early and committed two errors in the first inning that ended with the Beavers leading 2-0. The Beavers’ offensive efficiency would continue throughout the game, with their nine runs coming off of 10 hits. The Jackets scored their only run of the game in bottom of the seventh on the final play of the game as they fell 9-1 against Oregon State.

In their final game of the Mary Nutter Classic, Tech faced Illinois in a close game. The Jackets scored the lone run of the game in the fifth inning; Ashley Thomas belted a two on and two out line drive to give the Jackets the lead and to extend her hitting streak to 15 games.

The Fighting Illini nearly came back in the very next inning, but sophomore Katie Johnsky’s threw the Illini runner out at home to help retain the Tech lead.

Senior Hope Rush pitched her seventh complete game of the season, and third of the weekend, in the winning effort, allowing seven hits, no walks and striking out five Illinois batters.

Hope’s strong pitching would preserve the Tech lead, and the Jackets finished off the weekend with a 1- 0 victory.

The Tech softball team will head to Orlando, Fla. to play in the Citrus Classic on March 1. Tech will have the oppurtunity play some big names including Michigan, Notre Dame, Lousivlle and Temple.