Tech softball stumble in Clearwater Invitational

Tech look to hit a critical run against the ninth-ranked Stanford Cardinals during the Clearwater Invitational as they attempt to extend their winning streak to three games. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

The Jackets softball team traveled to Clearwater, Florida, to take on the annual Shriners Children’s Clearwater Invitational this past weekend. The Eddie C. Moore Complex is the host site for 16 programs including ranked No. 2 University of Tennesee Lady Volunteers, the No. 4 University of Georgia Bulldogs and the No. 5 Florida State University Seminoles. 

Tech’s opponents include the Lady Volunteers, the No. 8 Oklahoma State University Cowgirls, the No. 9 Stanford Cardinal, the No. 12 Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers, the Northwestern Wildcats and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Defeating the Lady Volunteers, the Cowgirls, the Cardinal or the Tigers would mark the highest ranked opponent beaten in head coach Aileen Morales’ tenure.

The Jackets had the first pitch of the tournament on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 15 against Stanford. A pair of Stanford two-run homers in the first and third innings put the Jackets in an early deficit. Starting right-handed pitcher junior Sophia Voyles was relieved by right-handed sophomore Jaidyn Studebaker to retire the top of the third. Senior shortstop Jin Sileo sent a two-run blast in the bottom of the third off right-handed Stanford senior Regan Krause, who boasts a 2.33 earned run average (ERA). The Cardinal’s three-run fourth inning ended Studebaker’s two strikeout appearance. 

Tech paced the Cardinal behind sophomore catcher Reese Hunter’s second home run of the season . Fifth-year righty Chandler Dennis took the circle in the fifth to stall Stanford down 4-7. Tech scored two runs before Stanford answered with six runs in the sixth inning. The Jackets were unable to rival the Cardinal’s hot bats behind another Hunter homerun and a double by Sileo to score right fielder Paige Vukadinovich. The game was called at 7-15 after the sixth inning.

Right handed junior Kinsey Norton got the start for the Jackets in their 2:00 game against the LSU Tigers. Tech retired the top of the first in order. After LSU committed two errors with the bases loaded, designated hitter Sara Beth Allen and third baseman Mallorie Black scored for a 2-0 lead. LSU’s right handed pitcher,3.00 career ERA junior Raelin Chaffin, stifled the Jackets’ offense through the fifth inning as she struck out five Jackets while keeping Tech off the scoreboard. The Tigers then tagged Norton, Studebaker and fifth-year Blake Neleman for nine unanswered points, putting the Jackets down 2-9.

This deficit became eight points before Black went yard for one run and freshman Gracyn Tucker drove in graduate student Tiffany Domingue. The Tigers returned with two of their own against left-handed freshman Makayla Coffield, leaving the Jackets down by eight points in the bottom of the seventh inning. Black sent a run home on a single before a late three-run homer by Domingue, however Tech fell to LSU by four runs, dropping 8-12.

The Jackets looked to carry their strong offensive showing into their Friday, Feb. 16 game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Minnesota took a 0-1 lead in the bottom of the second. Junior center fielder Ella Edgmon batted in Vukadinovich with a single in the top of the third inning. Studebaker collected a career-high four strikeouts in the 2.1 innings of her first start as a Jacket, however she surrendered four runs in the bottom of the third and Coffield came in to relieve her. Coffield retired the side with another run scored. Tech rallied in the fourth to cut the 1-6 deficit to 5-6.

The next two sides saw the Gophers and the Jackets trade two runs, one being a two-run homer by Allen to bring Tech back within a single run, 7-8, in the top of the fifth inning. Minnesota extended their lead by three in the bottom of the sixth. Junior right fielder Madison Dobbins stole home off an error and junior pinch hitter Emma Minghini sent an inside pitch to the fences to tie the game. The Gophers hit a walkoff single to take the game 11-12.

Saturday, Feb. 17 saw a hot Northwestern Wildcats collect their third win in 5 innings this season. Tech scored a run in each of the first four innings with three in the fourth but Neleman gave up nine runs before being relieved by Coffield in the third. Coffield only gave up one run in the fourth before the Wildcats offense piled on nine runs in the fifth inning against Coffield, Dennis and Voyles. Graduate student Ashley Miller closed the game for the Wildcats, holding Tech to one hit and striking out three before the game was called at 6-19.

The remaining games against the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers and the Oklahoma State University Cowgirls were cancelled due to inclement weather conditions. The Jackets showed grit and offensive prowess at the Clearwater Invitational, putting up nine home runs despite stuttering to a 3-7 record. Tech returns home to reset and rebound before hosting the I-75 Tournament this coming weekend.