Softball beats Auburn, series win over Virginia

Freshman catcher Reese Hunter looks for the ball in Tech softball’s game against No. 18 Auburn. Hunter made the game-winning home run, ending the day with a 2-1 upset victory. // Photo courtesy of GTAA via Danny Karnik

After multiple convincing weekend shutout wins against Southern Miss. and Brown in the I-75 tournament, the Jackets hosted the No. 18 Auburn Tigers at home on Wednesday, March 8. 

Coming in as the underdog in this matchup, the Jackets were glad to trade scoreless innings through the first five innings. Senior pitcher Blake Neleman threw six and two-thirds of one run softball, striking out seven and walking four. 

Neleman’s outing gave the Jackets what they needed and kept the game within reach heading into the bottom of the seventh. The Jackets came to the plate with a chance to get their first ranked victory of the season. Freshman designated player Reese Hunter stepped up to the plate with the bases empty, hoping to start a rally for the team. She blasted her second career home run to walk it off for the Jackets and gave them a 2-1 victory. 

Following the walk-off win against the Tigers, the Jackets traveled to Charlottesvillle, Va. to face the Virginia Cavaliers and start off conference play. Neleman continued her success on the mound, pitching four and two-thirds of one hit ball. With four strikeouts in the outing, Neleman moved into a tie for second for career strikeouts in program history with Tech legend Erin Voeltz (2001-2004). The Jackets wasted no time getting on the board in this affair, scoring a first inning run from a RBI double by junior designated player Sara Beth Allen. After the Cavaliers took back control of the lead in the third, the Jackets hit right back with a solo shot from junior third baseman Mallorie Black and a two-RBI double from sophomore second baseman Grace Connelly. The Jackets capitalized on these middle inning runs and won the game 5-2. 

Needing a rest after starting consecutive games, senior pitcher Chandler Dennis started the first of two in a Saturday doubleheader against the Cavaliers. Dennis, with an 8-3 record on the season, pitched to contact and it worked to perfection. While only fanning three batters, Dennis pitched five innings of one run softball. On the offensive side, the Jackets were led by junior first baseman Abby Hughes who knocked in two runs on a single in the sixth. Right after, the Jackets called to the bench with hopes that freshman pinch hitter Jayden Gailey could extend the lead. On a full count, Gailey ripped a double to the outfield, scoring two more and extending the Jackets’ lead to three. Even after conceding a run in the bottom of the sixth, the Jackets found themselves victorious, winning the contest again 5-2. The second game in the doubleheader and final game of the weekend was not how the Jackets wanted to end their series.  After clinching the series victory over the Cavaliers, the Jackets wanted to come out and finish off the sweep. While it was a disappointing way for Tech to end the week, the Jackets picked up their first ranked win of the season against Auburn and a series win over ACC foe, Virginia. The Jackets are next in action at home in a three-game series against the Virginia Tech Hokies on March 17, 18 and 19.