Softball starts 14-2 entering ACC play

Senior outfielder Kennedy Cowden loads up during an early-season at-bat. Tech has won 14 of their first 16 games behind a combination of hot bats and stingy pitching. The six-win week featured three mercy rule wins as Tech prepares for ACC play. // Photo by Dani Sisson Student Publications

Tech softball played six games in five days from Feb. 22–27, winning all six to move their season record to 14-2. Weekday wins over Furman and Georgia State plus sweeps of Penn State and East Tennessee State over the weekend gave the Jackets a boost as they approach conference play.

Tech started the week with a win over Furman on Feb. 22, beating the Paladins 5-0 as junior pitcher Chandler Dennis recorded a complete game shutout and allowed only two baserunners. Junior catcher Emma Kauf scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the third on an RBI by sophomore catcher Sarah Beth Allen, and the Jackets added four more runs in the sixth inning to put the game away. Head coach Aileen Morales picked up her 100th win as Tech’s coach with the victory.

Tech beat crosstown rival Georgia State in a 9-1 mercy rule win the next night. Junior pitcher Blake Neleman allowed only one run in her five innings of work, collecting the complete game win. Tech scored nine runs despite only four hits due to four Panther errors and seven drawn walks.

The Jackets hosted Penn State for the first day of the I-75 Tournament at Mewborn Field on Feb. 25. Game one of the doubleheader saw no runs by either team through the first six innings, with Dennis dominating the circle for Tech during that stretch. Senior Ariella Jackson’s pinch-hit home run broke the tie in the bottom of the seventh, walking the Jackets off with a 2-0 win.

Game two saw another pitcher’s duel early, with the score tied 1-1 through five frames. A five-run sixth inning for Tech proved to be enough as the Jackets escaped with the 6-4 win. Sophomore shortstop Jin Sileo drove in a pair of the sixth inning runs, and Neleman picked up her eighth win of the season as Tech moved to 12-2.

Tech opened the Feb. 26 doubleheader against ETSU with a 10-0 win. Senior Lexi Ray and freshman Kinsey Norton combined for the shutout in the circle, while junior designated player Caroline Davis went 3-3 at the plate with two RBIs and three runs scored. A seven run third inning provided the bulk of the runs as the game ended in five innings due to the mercy rule, Tech’s first mercy rule win of the weekend.

The Jackets completed a mercy rule sweep of the day against ETSU with a 13-1 win on the heels of the early afternoon victory. Freshman Sophia Voyles handled the bulk of the pitching work, allowing only three baserunners and no runs through four innings. An 8-0 lead after two innings ballooned to a 13-run difference after four, and the lone ETSU run in the top of the fifth was not enough to prevent the run rule from taking effect. Senior infielder Bailee Zietler led Tech at the plate, going 2-2 with an RBI, a walk and
three runs.

The final matchup of the tournament was scheduled to take place on Sunday, Feb. 27, but rainy conditions forced the cancellation of what was originally set to be a doubleheader with Jacksonville State. Following the Wednesday, March 2 game at Kennesaw State, Tech enters ACC play with a home series against Duke on March 4-6. The Jackets will enter the conference slate with their best start since 2010, when they won 20 of their first 22 games.