The Jackets’ softball team finished a three-game series against the Syracuse Orange on a high note after dropping the first two in a conference matchup last weekend. Syracuse won the first game 1-0 on Friday before taking the first of Saturday’s two games by a score of 5-4. However, the Jackets exploded offensively in the third and final game of the series for a 15-3 five-inning, run-rule victory.
The Jackets are now 19-10 overall and 8-8 in conference play. Tech currently sits at sixth in the ACC standings, with Florida State in first. The series was originally planned to be played in Syracuse, but due to inclement weather the teams decided to move the series down to Atlanta.
Syracuse starting pitcher Sydney O’Hara was the story of the first game. O’Hara pitched the full seven innings and held the Jackets to just a single hit. She threw 125 pitches and struck out 12 while only walking three. Tech junior Kylie Kleinschmidt pitched a solid game over six innings, giving up six hits and striking out nine. However, the only run she gave up over 127 pitches would be all it would take for her record to drop to 11-5 on the season.
The Jackets would get on the scoreboard in the first of two games on Saturday, but the result was the same as Friday afternoon. O’Hara once again started the game for Syracuse, but was not as effective. She gave up 10 hits and four runs in yet another complete game, needing only 96 pitches and walking none but striking out just four Tech batters.
Tech freshman starter Kanani Cabrales lasted 4.1 innings that ended in a lost decision. Cabrales gave up just 5 hits and threw 52 of her 80 pitches for strikes but ended up give up five runs to drop her season record to 7-5. Kleinschmidt came in for 1.2 innings of shutout relief in her second appearance of the weekend.
Tech jumped out to an early lead only to struggle to get additional hits near the end of the game. Four first inning hits helped the visiting Jackets take a 3-0 lead in the first frame. Senior catcher Alysha Rudnik drove in one run with a double before Cabrales added a double of her own to score Rudnik. Junior Chelsie Thomas’ double in the 3rd would extend Tech’s lead to 4-0. However, Tech would have just two additional hits the rest of the game.
“We came out fired up in the first inning, but then we did a rollercoaster,” said Tech coach Shelly Hoerner, via ramblinwreck.com. “We have to cash runners in. We left runners on base in key situations and that’s been our Achilles’ heel for most of the season.”
Syracuse scored in the 3rd and 5th innings to take the second game 5-4.
The Jackets redeemed themselves in the last game of the series with a surge of offense. Tech scored 15 runs on 13 hits, jumping out to a 7-3 lead after three innings before scoring eight in the fourth inning. Seniors Ashley Thomas and Rudnik lead the way with two hits and three RBIs apiece. Sophomore Maddie Lionberger matched their efforts with a two hit, three RBI game of her own and junior Karly Fullem brought in another two runs.
“I though the seniors did a good job of leading in the third game. They’re a good group and a good group of leaders,” Hoerner said.
Kleinschmidt made her second start and third appearance of the weekend and kept Syracuse’s offense in check. She did give up eight hits, but held the Orange to just three runs and struck out 10 batters. Syracuse used three pitchers, but each fared poorly against a determined Tech squad. They gave up seven, five and three runs respectively and managed to strike out just one Jacket. The Jackets’ 15-3 lead at the end of the fifth inning ended up standing as the final score, as the game was ended due to the run-rule.
Hoerner seemed happy with the effort in the third game but emphasized the improvements Tech will have to make as the season progresses.
“I look for us to continue being better overall. We’re starting to score runners more, but not all the time. We need to continue to execute better. There’s still a lot of season left and it’s a process,” Hoerner said.
The Jackets will return home and continue their ACC-heavy schedule on April 5 with a weekend series against Virginia Tech during Alumni Weekend, beginning with a double header on Friday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.