Softball opens with Buzz Classic Tournament

Senior pitcher Chandler Dennis releases a pitch at the Buzz Classic. Dennis finished Sunday’s game against Saint Francis with eight strikeouts, one hit and three walks. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

Tech softball officially started the 2023 season last weekend. The Jackets hosted and played in the Buzz Classic at Shirley Clements Mewborn Field. During the weekend, the ladies went 2–2. On the first day of the tournament, the Jackets split with UConn and on the second day, they defeated Saint Francis but lost to North Texas. 

In their first game against UConn on Friday, Tech had loads of offensive production, shown by the five runs they scored. Heading into the top of the fourth inning, Tech had the lead, 3–1, but the inning slipped away from senior starting pitcher Chandler Dennis, who gave up five earned runs before being pulled two-thirds of the way into the inning. Dennis finished the day giving up seven hits, six earned runs, four walks and five strikeouts. She was replaced with sophomore pitcher Kinsey Norton, who finished the game without any additional runs. The final score was 6–5 in favor of UConn.

For the Jackets offensively, freshman right fielder Paige Vukadinovich had a stellar start to her collegiate career. Vukadinovich went two-for-three with three RBIs and a walk. Starting catcher Emma Kauf also had a productive day at the plate, drawing three walks. Junior third baseman Mallorie Black also started her season in a big way blasting her first home run of the season in the opener versus UConn. 

The Jackets won game two versus UConn with a final score of 2–1, but their approach looked very different. While game one was full of offensive production, the pitcher was the star of game two. Tech senior pitcher Blake Neleman had one of the best games of her career. Neleman pitched all seven innings and finished the game with two hits, one earned run, four walks and a casual thirteen strikeouts. Black batted in Vukadinovich and Kauf for the two runs that sealed the win for Tech. 

After inclement weather pushed the final two games in the tournament to Sunday, the Jackets combined their production from game one and pitching from game two to shut out the Red Flash 7–0. Dennis had quite the bounceback performance with eight strikeouts, one hit and three walks through seven innings. Tech’s offense jumped on Saint Francis starter Grace Vesco quickly in the first inning. Vesco left the first inning with one out and four earned runs awarded to her. 

The Jackets had offensive production from multiple athletes, but an important stat to remember throughout the season is that they drew 10 walks as a team. Tech’s last game of the Buzz Classic did not go their way with a 3–1 loss to North Texas. The Jackets could not find ways to get players on base with only three hits total. Neleman and Norton combined gave up seven hits and two walks to the Mean Green, and the Jackets could not overcome the lopsided numbers. 

If the Jackets continue to play like they did in their wins at the Buzz Classic, they will be a fun team to watch develop during the 2023 season. 

The Lady Jackets will play at home once again on Friday, Feb. 17 to take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the ACC/B1G Challenge.