Jackets softball begins their run at home

Head coach Aileen Morales addresses the team following a 6-1 April home win over local rival Georgia State. 2024 will be Morales’ seventh as the head coach and fourteenth as a coach. // Photo by Danny Karnik GTAA

In their first slate of games in the 2024 season, Tech softball will host the Villanova Wildcats, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Longwood Lancers for a pair of games each during the homestand.

Last season saw the Jackets post a 26-27 record — including a six-game win streak. In the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship tournament, Tech took down the No. 7 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a commanding 8-1 on the back of then-senior right-hand pitcher Blake Neleman. 

They held off the Fighting Irish to a single score off five hits and four strikeouts in a complete game. Unfortunately, their tournament run ended in the quarterfinals against the No. 2 seeded and No. 6 ranked Duke Blue Devils with a 1-7 score. 

The Jackets could not  overcome a three-run homer in the bottom of the first as they left 10 runners on base. This game was Tech’s fifth consecutive quarterfinal finish in the ACC tournament led by head coach Aileen Morales since her return to Atlanta. 

Morales graduated from Tech in 2009 as one of the most decorated Jackets student-athletes in Tech history.

In her four seasons as a student-athlete between 2005 and 2008, she contributed to four straight regional appearances, an ACC regular season championship and an ACC title. Approaching her seventh season as head coach with a group of new assistant coaches, Morales looks to continue her success after collecting the second-most conference wins in program history. The team has cultivated a secure defensive identity, ranking No. 11 in the nation and No. 2 in the ACC last season with a 0.978 fielding percentage.

The 2023 bullpen return highlights the Jackets’ bullpen.  Fifth-years Neleman and Chandler Dennis headline the unit, rounded out by juniors Kinsey Norton and Sophia Voyles and sophomore Jaidyn Studebaker. Freshman Makayla Coffield adds some depth to the team. Coffield, a left-handed pitcher, was rated as the No. 21 prospect after a successful high school career.

According to junior Bailey Chapin, the goal this year for the Jackets is simple — return to the NCAA Regional Tournament. 

“My freshman year, we made a regional for the first time in a while and that was awesome,” Chapin  said in an exclusive phone interview with the Technique. “The goal is to make a run in the ACC Tournament this year, and then definitely try to get back to a NCAA Regional.” 

Chapin described the team’s 2024 mindset this year as “be ready to show up and do a job.” She continued on to say that, “Whether you’re starting every game, or you’re a pinch hitter, or you’re a pitcher, you just need to be ready.” 

Chapin is the team’s first baseman and describes herself as a power hitter. In the process of hitting home runs and playing winning softball, Chapin said, “I really just want to enjoy these last two years.” This statement comes alongside the team’s selection of walkup songs. Laughing, Chapin claims her teammate Sara Beth Allen has the best choice —“Down With The Sickness” by Disturbed. Tech fans should pack the stadium for ACC matchups and the opening weekend to hear the rest of the team’s walkup songs. 

Chapin made a point to highlight senior Abby Hughes, who was responsible for 224 putouts last season. “She has done mechanical engineering all four years … Not only is she great on the softball field, a great student, she’s just a great overall person and is someone everyone on the team can count on,”  Chapin said. 

Tech will host the Pittsburgh Panthers, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Louisville Cardinals and the Virginia Cavaliers this season. 

“We just want to come out hot,” Chapin said of the upcoming Villanova matchup. Opening the weekend against the Wildcats will serve as a tone-setter alongside playing the softball powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide.

Jackets softball fans can keep up with the team by following them on their Instagram and X accounts. The ACC Network and ESPN+ carry the away games on their networks. 

Tech plays the Villanova Wildcats this Thursday, Feb. 8, and Friday, Feb. 9, in their first matchup since 2022 in the Buzz Classic. 

Just like in 2022, the Jackets look  to start the season strong by sweeping both games against the Wildcats. 

Tech follows games against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday, Feb. 9, and Saturday, Feb. 10, with a doubleheader against the Longwood Lancers on Sunday, Feb. 11. Fans are in store for an exciting, action-packed weekend at Mewborn Field.