Jackets pulverize Panthers in three-game sweep

Senior infielder Jin Sileo gets a hit in a weekend series against the Pittsburgh Panthers. Sileo got two hits and scored two runs of her own thanks to some impressive baserunning. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

The Jackets softball team kicked off their Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) season in spectacular fashion this weekend, securing a historic run-rule sweep against the University of Pittsburgh at Mewborn Field. The Jackets’ powerful display on both Saturday and Sunday left the Panthers struggling to keep pace, as Tech won 14-5 and 10-1 on Saturday, followed by an 8-0 victory on Sunday to seal a dominant performance against their ACC rival.

Tech’s lineup launched seven explosive home runs in Saturday’s doubleheader, the most against an ACC opponent in one day since 2010. This impressive show of power put the Jackets at a Division I leading 42 runs and tied the 2011 Jackets squad for the most home runs through the first 20 games in program history. Additionally, junior infielder Madison Dobbins, senior third baseman Mallorie Black and senior catcher Sara Beth Allen all have more than five homers on the season in only the first week of March.

Junior Madison Dobbins led the charge for Tech in its first game of the doubleheader on March. 2. She set a new career-high with seven runs-batted-in (RBIs), thanks to a grand slam and three-run homer, marking the most RBIs in a single game by a Jacket since the program record was set in 2017. Graduate senior Tiffany Domingue also contributed to the team’s dominant series performance with two home runs, one in each game of the Saturday doubleheader. 

The team’s success was a collective effort, with five different Jackets contributing home runs over the weekend: Dobbins, Domingue, Black, Allen and junior infielder Abby Hughes. This offensive firepower is part of a longer trend for Tech, which has hit at least one home run in 16 consecutive games, the longest streak since the 2011 season. The Jackets’ 10-game winning streak, the longest of coach Aileen Morales’ tenure, and their 12-game home winning streak highlights the team’s formidable presence at Mewborn Field. 

Demonstrating resilience, the Jackets came from behind to win the second game on Saturday, overturning a 0-1 deficit with 10 straight runs. This comeback spirit has been a hallmark of the team this season, with nine of their 13 victories involving overcoming opponent leads. On the mound, Tech’s pitchers played a pivotal role in securing the weekend sweep. Fifth-year senior Blake Neleman and junior Sophia Voyles picked up victories on Saturday, with Neleman moving closer to becoming one of the top five winningest pitchers in program history. Junior Kinsey Norton continued her excellent form, contributing significantly across both games without allowing a run.

Sunday’s shutout victory was a combined effort from fifth-year senior Chandler Dennis — who delivered a strong four-and-one-thirds innings start — and Norton, who sealed the win with her relief pitching for the final two-thirds innings of the game, maintaining her impressive ERA at home.

Tech’s aggressive baserunning and strategic plays were evident throughout the series. In the final game, senior shortstop Jin Sileo’s impressive base-stealing, including swiping third and home in a single inning, underscored the team’s dynamic approach to generating offense and speed. Junior center fielder Ella Edgmon’s consistent performance at the plate and on the bases contributed significantly to the team’s scoring opportunities, exemplifying the Jackets’ multifaceted offensive firepower at the plate.

Dobbins continued her impressive run, becoming the first ACC player to surpass 30 RBIs this season, a feat she achieved with a sacrifice fly in the first inning. Abby Hughes kept the home run streak alive, hitting her second in as many games, contributing to Tech’s aggressive offense. Sunday’s 8-0 victory over Pittsburgh was historic, marking the first time Tech has swept an ACC series with all three games ending in a run-rule. 

Tech has now won 11 straight on its current 12-game home stand, with its sights set on extending their winning streak against Jacksonville State on Tuesday. The team’s blend of high-octane hitting, smart baserunning and pitching makes them a formidable force in the race for the 2024 ACC Championship as they look to sustain their hot start.