Tough stretch for softball after hot start

Crosby Huckabay, pictured here, has been one of Tech’s better players during the young season. Batting over .400 and totalling six extra base hits, she has been a consistent offensive presence to complement her work in right field. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

After a blazing start to the season, Tech softball is amidst a ten-game losing skid. Only three of their losses have been by more than four runs, but their opponents have found a way to win each game.

After six straight losses to open ACC play, a four-game weekend could have been a chance to bounce back and regain a winning record. Instead, Miami (OH), Kennesaw State and archrival U(sic)ga all came to Mewborn Field and left with wins.

Miami came to town first on February 26 for a doubleheader. The Redhawks were hot first, building a 4-0 lead by the middle of the fourth inning before fifth-year senior Crosby Huckabay’s home run put Tech on the board.

The Jackets’ bats caught fire in the fifth scoring five, and had a one-run lead into the last inning after a Miami home run in the top of the sixth.

Two more solo home runs in the seventh put Miami back on top 7-6, which would hold as the game’s final margin.

Freshman Jin Sileo started the scoring in game two of the doubleheader with a bases-loaded RBI.

Tech held a 2-0 lead after a walk drove the second run in the next at-bat, but the floodgates opened for the Redhawks after that. They scored eight runs in the next three innings, seven of which came from extra-base hits.

Tech drew another walk with the bases loaded in the fourth, making the score 7-3 at that point, but ultimately only scored three runs on three bases-loaded situations.

Miami added a ninth run for insurance in the top of the seventh, and the Jackets dropped the second game of the doubleheader 9-3.

Kennesaw State came to Mewborn Field the next day, and Tech scored first in the second inning on a solo bomb from fourth-year junior Tricia Awald, beginning and ending the Jackets scoring on Saturday, as the Owls were the only ones to reach home thereafter. KSU scored a pair to regain the lead in the third, and a two-run homer in the sixth gave them insurance and set the final score at 4-1.

UGA was the final opponent of the weekend for Tech, and things went poorly from the first inning.

The Bulldogs scored on a wild pitch before a two-run homer on the very next pitch.

After keeping it 3-0 for the next two innings, a six-run Bulldog fourth inning blew the game open.

After another two runs in the top of the fifth and another scoreless inning for Tech, the game ended on the fifth inning run rule.

Looking at the season as a whole, it may seem odd where Tech’s record stands.

Their overall batting average is higher than opponents, their fielding percentage is better, almost every baseline stat shows a season-average advantage for the Jackets.

The stats are significantly more skewed when the first five games — all blowout wins — are factored out. Tech won those games by 8.2 runs per contest; since their win streak ended they have lost each game by an average of 3.9 runs.

Tech has still generally fielded well, with defensive standout Jin Sileo recording multiple highlight plays from shortstop.

No starting pitcher has an ERA worse than 5.00, though none have one better than 3.40 either. The bullpen rarely has a complete collapse in any inning, but teams have been able to chip away frame by frame as games wear on.

The offense has been the critical difference in most of the losses. After scoring 44 runs in the first five games, the Jackets have only managed 27 since.

They are facing much better pitching and are still getting on base at a reasonable rate, but have had trouble stringing multiple hits together that leave runners on base.

They have left 30 more runners on base than their opponents over the course of the season, and that number swelled to a nearly 2-to-1 discrepancy over the past week’s games.

15 games into the season, the Jackets have already left 100 runners stranded.

Going forward, those numbers will have to change if the Jackets want to be competitive again.