Tech softball splits opening weekend series

Senior infielder Jin Sileo hits a homerun during the Jackets’ opening weekend at Mewborn Field. Sileo started all 53 games in 2023 for the Jackets as the starting shortstop and led the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in sacrifice bunts at 0.18 bunts per game. // Photo courtesy of Tyler Parker, Student Publications

The Jackets kicked  off the softball season with two games against Alabama, Villanova and Longwood. 

Tech took the first game with a nail-biting  3-2 victory over Villanova. Tech then lost three consecutive games against Villanova and two against No. 14-ranked Alabama. The Jackets finished their first weekend of play by getting the sweep in a double-header victory against Longwood. 

Tech started their season with a game against Villanova. The Jackets started the game well, holding the Wildcats scoreless for the first two innings. Tech would get on the board first thanks to a two-out RBI from senior shortstop Jin Sileo to drive in senior catcher Sara Beth Allen. 

The Jackets continued to hold Villanova scoreless thanks to junior pitcher Kinsey Norton, who pitched three scoreless innings. Tech would build on their lead at the bottom of the third, with Allen providing the RBI for senior outfielder Abby Hughes. Sophomore pitcher Jaidyn Studebaker would enter the game in the fourth inning and hold Villanova scoreless. Sophomore catcher Reese Hunter was the first base runner for Tech at the bottom of the fourth and one out. Junior outfielder Ella Edgmon knocked Hunter in with a single down the middle of the field to extend Tech’s lead to 3-0. 

The Wildcats and Jackets kept each other scoreless in the fifth and sixth inning. Tech needed three more out to secure a win in their first game of the season. Villanova scared the Jackets by securing two runs in the seventh, but fifth-year pitcher Chandler Dennis would close out the game strong to secure a save and a 3-2 victory for the Jackets.

The Jackets started the next day with a game against the Crimson Tide. Junior pitcher Sophia Voyle began the game for the Jackets, going through two and two-thirds innings before giving up her first run and escaping the third inning with Tech only down one. 

Alabama continued  to be aggressive against Voyle and notched two more runs to extend the lead 3-0. Fifth-year pitcher Blake Neleman would take over for Voyle and deliver three scoreless innings. Tech mustered a single run against Alabama’s freshman pitcher Jocelyn Briski thanks to a home run from senior infielder Mallorie Black. The Jackets would fall to the Crimson Tide 3-1.

Tech’s second game of the day was a rematch against Villanova. After defeating the Wildcats for the third time in a row, the Jackets were confident heading into the game. Dennis would start the game for Tech and  secure two outs before giving up a two-run home run to Villanova. Neleman would enter the game in relief of Dennis and kept further runners from scoring. The Jackets responded immediately thanks to aggressive base running from Sileo and Edgmon to tie the score at 2-2. The Jackets would give up one run in the third and two more in the sixth inning and fall to the Wildcats 5-2.

The Jackets’ only game on Saturday was a highly anticipated rematch against Alabama. Unfortunately, the match-up proceeded similarly to the first with the Crimson Tide getting a lead in the third inning and holding it throughout the game. Alabama would take the victory 5-1.

Tech would finish the first slate of games with a doubleheader against Longwood. Due to an unusual error to make the score 1-0, the Jackets fell behind early. 

The Jackets put together an offensive masterclass in the third, scoring seven runs while sending up 12 batters in the inning to make the score 7-1. Junior second baseman Grace Connelly sent one more run with a sacrifice fly to make the score 8-1. Black ended the first game of the doubleheader due to mercy rule thanks to a solo home run. 

Neleman started the second game of the header for the Jackets.Tech fell behind early in the top of the first inning with a score of 1-0. The Jackets responded immediately, thanks to a solo home run by junior outfielder Madison Dobbins. Tech added to their lead thanks to RBIs by freshman shortstop Gracyn Tucker and Allen to make the score 3-1. Dobbins added four more runs thanks to a fourth-inning grand slam, the first of her collegiate career, to make the score 7-1. 

Tech yielded a run in the fifth to make the score 7-2 but would promptly end the second game of the doubleheader due to mercy rule. Hunter scored two runs on a home run blast, and Tucker capped the game by securing the first home run of her collegiate career and ending the game early 10-2 in dominant fashion.

Tech ended the first slate of games with a respectable 3-3 record but will look to improve with a tough set of games taking place from Feb. 15 to Feb. 18. The Jackets are set to take on No. 3 ranked Stanford, No. 15 ranked LSU, Minnesota, Northwestern, No. 11 ranked Oklahoma State and No. 2 ranked Tennessee. The Shriners Children’s Clearwater Invitational will host the highly contested games in Clearwater, Fla, and ESPNU, ESPN+ and ACC Network will stream the matches. Softball is finally back and Jackets fans should make sure to keep up with the action at Mewborn Field.