ON THE DIAMOND
The Virginia Tech softball team (6-0) travels to the Plains of Auburn, Ala., this weekend to participate in the ACC/Big 12/SEC Challenge, hosted by Auburn University at Jane B. Moore Field. It shapes up to be the toughest regular-season weekend in program history as three of the teams (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Alabama) all advanced to the Women’s College World Series last year and Auburn made it to the Regionals, as well. Georgia Tech will also represent the ACC along with the Hokies. Four of the six teams competing are ranked in the top 25 and all six teams are receiving at least one vote in one of the two major polls.
THE WEEKEND SCHEDULE (All times listed are Central)
Friday, Feb. 17
10 am: Virginia Tech (Home) vs. #15 Oklahoma State
12:30 pm: Virginia Tech (Home) vs. # 4 Oklahoma
3 pm: Auburn (Home) vs. #15 Oklahoma State
5:30 pm: #23 Georgia Tech (Home) vs. #2 Alabama
8 pm: #4 Oklahoma (Home) vs. #23 Georgia Tech
Saturday, Feb. 18
10 am: #2 Alabama (Home) vs. Virginia Tech
12:30 pm: #4 Oklahoma (Home) vs. #2 Alabama
3 pm: Auburn (Home) vs. #4 Oklahoma
5:30 pm: #15 Oklahoma State (Home) vs. #23 Georgia Tech
Sunday, Feb. 19
9 am: #15 Oklahoma State (Home) vs. #2 Alabama
11:30 am: Auburn (Home) vs. Virginia Tech
2 pm: Auburn (Home) vs. #23 Georgia Tech
This weekend’s action will take place at the Jane B. Moore Complex on the campus of Auburn University. It is located at 795 W. Samford Ave. and directions, as well as other info on the venue, can be found here. Parking will be at a premium as there are several other events going on this weekend. Admission to the action is free. A tournament central website site will be set up on Auburn's website.
AGAINST RANKED TEAMS
The Hokies will face three top-15 teams this weekend in No. 2 Alabama, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 15 Oklahoma State. Auburn is receiving votes in the USA Softball/ESPN.com poll. Tech is 31-63 all-time against ranked teams, 9-32 against top-15 opponents and 4-19 against top-10 opponents. The highest-ranked opponent Tech has ever beaten was No. 4 Michigan in 1999. Tech beat No. 6 Michigan twice in the 2008 Super Regionals to advance to the WCWS and beat No. 8 Northwestern 1-0 in 2008. The last time the Hokies played three different ranked teams in one weekend was in 1999 when they played No. 20 Florida, No. 4 Michigan and No. 3 Washington, going 1-4. Tech played four games against ranked teams in 2001 (twice against No. 24 Oregon and twice against No. 12 Iowa).
IN THE YELLOWHAMMER STATE
Virginia Tech has played just five games in Alabama since its inception as a varsity sport in 1996, sporting a 4-1 record. Tech played in the Tiger Invitational in 2007 at Auburn, beating Tennessee Tech, Tulsa, Auburn and Notre Dame behind a strong weekend in the circle from All-American Angela Tincher.
THE WEEKEND FORECAST
Here’s the early weekend forecast for Auburn, AL
Live stats for every Hokie softball game this season will be available on through hokiesports.com. It will always be this link.
Fans can follow Hokie softball online through Twitter as well. In game thoughts, stats and notes, as well as links to articles and other miscellaneous items can be found at the official Twitter page for Virginia Tech softball, @VT_Softball.
NEW FAN GUIDE
A new online fan guide replaces the printed media guide this year for the softball team. This guide includes videos, color photos, links and much more. It will change throughout the year with new items as they happen so bookmark it and come back as the season progresses. The guide can be found at this link.
WHAT A START
The Hokies are off to a 6-0 start, the best start since 2006 when the Hokies started 10-0. Tech went 5-0 at the Jacksonville University Opening Weekend Tournament and then beat Radford 9-1 in five innings on Tuesday at home. Junior Courtney Liddle is batting .684 with 11 RBIs while Dani Anderson is hitting .588 and Kristen Froehlich is batting .412 with 11 RBIs. Liddle hit .706 with 10 RBIs at the Jacksonville Tournament, helping earn her ACC Player of the Week honors. In the circle, Jasmin Harrell is off to a 3-0 start with a 1.65 ERA in 17.0 innings while freshman Bailey Liddle is 2-0 with a save and a perfect 0.00 ERA.
YEAR NO. 17
Scot Thomas is in his 17th season at the helm of the maroon and orange. He enters this weekend with a record of 579-287, needing just 21 victories to reach the 600-win milestone. In his career, he has led the Hokies to a berth in the Women’s College World Series (2008), two ACC titles (2007, 2008), four NCAA bids (2005-2008) and a win over the U.S. National Team (2008).
A HOKIE IN THE OTHER DUGOUT
When Tech plays Oklahoma State on Friday, there will be a familiar face in the opposing dugout in Clarisa Crowell. Crowell, who is in her sixth season as a member of the Cowgirl coaching staff, works primarily with the pitching staff and was a standout player for the Hokies. As a player at Virginia Tech, Crowell was a three-time all-conference selection. She earned her first honor as a freshman in the Atlantic-10 as a pitcher and third baseman. She again earned all-conference honors as a sophomore outfielder and pitcher, showing her versatility on defense. She moved back to the infield her senior season and was named second-team All-Big East, hitting .367 on the year. She is second at Tech with a 72.2 winning percentage in the circle and is third all-time in career earned run average, fifth in career strikeouts, third in wins, fifth in starts, fifth in innings pitched, fifth in appearances, fourth in complete games and third shutouts. Crowell graduated from Virginia Tech in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Alabama, a 2011 WCWS participant, started the season 4-0 with wins at the Mardi Gras Invitational in Mobile, Ala. All-America Pitcher Jackie Traina finished the tournament 3-0 with an unblemished 0.00 ERA. She allowed just four hits in 16 innings and struck out 30. At the plate, Amanda Locke led all Tide hitters over the weekend with a .636 (7-for-11) average and also smacked two home runs and tallied a team-high seven RBI. Sophomore Kaila Hunt smashed three home runs and drove in five with a .385 (5-for-13) average.
Tech is 0-1 all-time against Alabama, falling to the Crimson Tide 1-0 in eight innings in a 2000 tournament in Raleigh, N.C.
Alabama’s 2012 stats
Alabama’s 2012 roster
Auburn, a 2011 NCAA Tournament participant, went 5-0 at its own tournament this past weekend, beating Appalachian State twice and IPFW, Bowling Green and Wright State. The Tigers benefitted from the transfer of Caitlin Jordan, who was a first-team All-ACC selection last year for Georgia Tech. She hit .538 with a double and three RBIs to lead the way. In the circle, lefty Jenee Loree went 2-0 with a 0.58 ERA in 12.0 innings pitched and 12 strikeouts. Lauren Schmalz posted a 2-0 mark as well, striking out 19 in 11.0 innings with a 0.64 ERA.
Tech is 1-1 all-time against Auburn. The two teams last played in 2010 with the Tigers beating the Hokies 2-0 at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga. The Hokies beat Auburn 1-0 in 2007 behind a one-hit, 15-strikeout performance from Tincher.
Auburn’s 2012 stats
Auburn’s 2012 roster
Oklahoma went 5-0 at the Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas, beating CSU Bakersfield, UNLV and Weber State, along with Kent State twice. Allee Allen hit a blistering .875 in four games while Jessica Shults batted .611 for the Sooners. Lauren Chamberlain hit .357 with three home runs and 8 RBIs. In the circle, the Sooners are led by Keilani Ricketts, who helped lead the Sooners to the WCWS last year. She is 3-0 early on this season with a 0.45 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 20.0 innings.
This will be the first meeting on the diamond between the Hokies and Sooners.
Oklahoma’s 2011 stats
Oklahoma’s 2012 roster
SCOUTING OKLAHOMA STATE
Oklahoma State, another 2011 WCWS participant, went 4-1 last weekend at the Hilton Houston Classic. The Cowgirls beat North Texas, Sam Houston State and Texas A&M-CC twice, but lost to Houston. Tamara Brown led the way at the plate last weekend, batting .533 while Kelsey Anchors (.438) and Ari Morrison (.412) also had good weekends. The strength of the Cowgirls is the pitching staff, which is led by Crowell. Simone Freeman went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 14.0 innings while Morgan Hawkins (1-0, 1.29 ERA) and Kat Espinosa (1-1, 1.38 ERA) also contributed to a staff that put up a 0.79 ERA last weekend.
Tech is 1-1 all-time against the Cowgirls, last playing 10 years ago. Tech lost to OSU 8-2 in 2002 at a tournament in Plant City, Fla., and beat the 17th-ranked Cowgirls 2-1 in 2000 at a tournament in Tampa, Fla.
Oklahoma State’s 2012 stats
Oklahoma State’s 2012 roster
PRESEASON ACC POLL
The ACC coaches voted the Hokies sixth in the 2012 Preseason Coaches’ Poll, released last week. Georgia Tech is the preseason favorite, according to the coaches, followed by North Carolina, defending tournament champion Florida State, Virginia, Maryland, Virginia Tech, NC State and Boston College.
TECH SOFTBALL PARK
Tech Softball Park, home of Virginia Tech softball since 1998, has been a tough place for opposing teams to play of the years. Nearly 800 permanent seats have been added, along with lights, two more press boxes and a new sound system, making the facility a fine one for the Hokies to play. Over the years, Tech has posted a 187-73 record at home.
A NEW ADDITION
This past offseason, a new scoreboard and video board were also added to enhance the fans’ experiences at TSP. The new board features a scoreboard on the bottom portion like the old one, but this one has LED lights and is capable of putting team names on the board. The new addition will be something to behold as a video board, sound system, netting, side panels and a steel tress up top will all add to the project. Virginia Tech’s video board is the fourth-largest college softball display installed by Daktronics.
The overall dimensions of the structure is 28 feet wide by 21 feet tall, and includes the Sportsound-500HD sound system speakers in the board so the sound will be directed straight to the stands as opposed to over the fans’ heads now.
The 11x18 foot video board is a HD-15mm LED video display that has 216 lines of resolution high by 360 columns of resolution wide. The display can operate as an independent display showing single large images or be divided in multiple zones (windows) to show a wide variety of statistics, information graphics, animations, and live and recorded video.
It also has non-lit sponsor displays on the side and features the accomplishments of the program. The video board allows for an introduction video, player spotlights, replay and other in-game enhancements. The board is protected by a 21x28 foot net that drapes over the front.
Up top is a steel truss with “Tech Softball Park” illuminated for night games.
The Hokies will be back on the road next weekend, playing in the C of C Cougar Classic in Charleston, S.C. Tech will take on Lipscomb, Wagner, the College of Charleston, Louisiana-Monroe (ULM) and Middle Tennessee State.
RANDOM STATS AND NOTES
Did you know: Tech’s only win against Oklahoma State came in 2000 when the Cowgirls were ranked 17th in the country. Ironically enough, pitching for the Hokies that day was Clarisa Crowell, who went 7.0 innings, allowing one unearned run on three hits with a walk and six strikeouts. She also hit the game-winning solo home run in the fourth inning to break a 1-1 tie. She will be in the Cowgirls’ dugout Friday when the two teams meet as OSU’s pitching coach.
Career Grand Slams (active)
K. Froehlich vs. Charlotte, 2/12/11
K. Banks vs. UNCG, 3/29/11
B. Rose vs. Liberty, 3/27/11
Career Walk-Off Home Runs (active)
M. Hvozdovic vs. Western Michigan, 3/8/09 - solo home run in B7 with 1 out to win 1-0
Career Games Stated - by position (active)
K. Froehlich: 153 total - 46 2B; 38 RF; 20 1B; 20 3B; 16 LF; 12 DP; 1 SS
B. Smith: 120 total - 113 2B; 6 SS; 1 LF
C. Liddle: 106 total - 56 C; 43 1B; 7 DP
M. Hvozdovic: 65 total - 40 LF; 21 RF; 2 CF; 2 DP
B. Rose: 69 total - 56 C; 8 DP; 5 LF
D. Anderson: 57 total - 46 SS; 6 DP; 5 LF
K. Banks: 51 total - 48 CF; 3 RF
J. Harrell: 45 total - 45 P
L. Wolff: 8 total - 6 RF; 2 CF
L. Gaskill: 6 total - 6 CF
K. McGoldrick: 6 total - 6 2B
K. Mericka: 6 total - 5 3B; 1 DP
I. Corrao: 2 total - 2 P
B. Liddle: 1 total - 1 P
Hokies by States (22)
North Carolina: 4
New Jersey: 2
New York: 1
Hokies by Class (22)
For updates on Virginia Tech softball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Softball).