Tech softball returns to the mound on Friday, Feb. 10, to host the annual Buzz Classic. The Jackets are coming off a stellar 2021-2022 season, posting a 38-18 overall record that included a 24-6 home record and a pair of ranked wins on the season. The team reached benchmarks that no other Tech softball team achieved, such as run ruling No. 16 Georgia in Athens (12-3) for the first time ever. The team bowed out of their best season since 2011 in the NCAA Regionals against third seed Wisconsin, so hopes are high for the Jackets coming into this year.
Tech returns a decent amount of starters from last season including senior catcher Emma Kauf. Kauf has been receiving a lot of attention in the offseason, posting several top 10 NCAA rankings at her position from multiple media outlets. Last season Kauf earned First Team All-ACC Honors as she led the conference in hits (71) and led the nation in doubles per game, hitting 25 doubles throughout the year. Kauf also knocked down six home runs with 37 RBIs to share, so she is set to have another outstanding year both from behind and on the plate.
The Jackets fielding is punctuated by an incredibly experienced infield, highlighted by junior Jin Sileo who can make any catch on the field, cashing in a .947 catching percentage last season matched with a .287 batting average: the fifth highest last season. Sileo was unstoppable at the plate, hitting in 23 runs in just 150 at-bats.
The outfield also showcases great talent with breakout sophomore Auburn Dupree leading the way. Having started 40 of the 49 games she has played in, Dupree posted a .333 batting average in her first season with the Jackets. She batted in 10 runs off of 34 hits in 102 at-bats. She also posted a .983 catching percentage from the outfield, creating a no-fly zone for the Jackets.
Besides Kauf and Sileo, junior infielder Mallorie Black is the only other returning Jacket to have started every game last year. Black had a tremendous season with 181 at-bats, the second most of anyone else, where she posted 43 hits, three home runs and 30 RBIs, the third most on the team last year. The batting game will rely largely on Black and Kauf’s ability to make contact in key moments as they are statistically the most reliable batters in the RBI category. Batting will look very different this season with the graduation of former first base Tricia Awald, who contributed 43 RBIs and nine home runs on the season. Awald had been the best statistical player from the plate for awhile, so this season will see opportunities for someone new to grab that title.
All but one of the five Tech pitchers are returners this season. This is a talented group that contains a good amount of depth and has the capability to keep them in any game they play this year. If the pitching can stay consistent this season, the Jackets can go far with their schedule. The Jackets will be starting the season on a pair of games against the UConn Huskies which will be the first two of six games on the weekend for the ladies.
Tech went perfect at the Buzz Classic last year, stringing together four straight wins, and will look to do the same as they welcome UConn, North Texas, Saint Francis and the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) to Atlanta. The rest of the schedule features big home matches such as a pair of games against both Wisconsin and Illinois in the ACC/B1G Challenge, Clean, Old Fashioned Hate against Georgia, a series with Clemson, and a late April showdown with North Carolina. Tech looks to have an even better season than last year, but must take down several ranked teams to get there. With the right momentum and the right offensive fire power, the Jackets can achieve this.