ON THE DIAMOND
The Virginia Tech softball team travels to Nashville, Tenn., to open the 2014 season at the Music City Classic, hosted by both Belmont University and Lipscomb University. The Hokies open the season on Friday at 4 p.m. local time (5 p.m. Eastern) against Lipscomb and then on Saturday play Miami University at 9 a.m. (10 a.m. Eastern) and then play Tennessee State at 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. Eastern). On Sunday, Tech plays Belmont at 1:30 p.m. local time (2:30 p.m. Eastern).
FACILITY AND TICKET INFO
There will be games all weekend at both Belmont and Lipscomb, who are co-hosting the tournament. On Friday and Saturday, Virginia Tech’s games will be at Draper Diamond on the campus of Lipscomb. The address of the facility is 1 University Park Drive; Nashville, TN 37204. Sunday's game at Belmont will be played at Rose Park. The address of that facility is 1000 Edgehill Avenue; Nashville, TN 37203. There is a parking lot out in front of a rec center that fans need to park in.
Here's the tournament site.
Senior Kat Banks will have no problem getting the Hokies around town as she heads back to her hometown area of Nashville. Banks, who is nearby Hendersonville, is a four-year starter in the outfield for Tech and will be headed home to play for the first time in her career. Her family has numerous ties to Lipscomb as well. Her father, Alan, was an All-American basketball player at Lipscomb who was inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996. Her brother, A.T., attends Lipscomb, and her sister, Alex, plays basketball for the Lady Bisons.
IN THE VOLUNTEER STATE
Virginia Tech has played 52 games in Tennessee since its inception as a varsity sport in 1996 and the Hokies sport a 29-23 all-time record in the Volunteer State. The last time Tech played in Tennessee was the 2012 NCAA Softball Tournament in Knoxville. Tech is 0-1 all-time in Nashville.
THE WEEKEND FORECAST
Here’s the early weekend forecast for Nashville, Tenn. Be sure to follow Virginia Tech softball on Twitter (@VT_Softball) for any potential schedule changes this weekend due to the weather.
This year’s 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.
YEAR NO. 19
Scot Thomas is in his 19th season at the helm of the maroon and orange. He enters this weekend with a record of 653-430. In his career, he has led the Hokies to a berth in the Women’s College World Series (2008), two ACC titles (2007, 2008), six NCAA bids (2005-2008, 2012-2013), eight conference championship games and a win over the U.S. National Team (2008) and the Dutch National Team (2012).
THE TINCH IS BACK
When Barb Sherwood left Blacksburg last summer to accept the head coaching position at Portland State, Tech head coach Scot Thomas had one phone call to make to try and replace Sherwood. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Angela Tincher O’Brien would be Tech’s new pitching coach. No stranger to Blacksburg, the former USA Softball Player of the Year and three-time ACC Player of the Year now is in her first year back in Blacksburg as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at her alma mater. She led the Hokies to their first College World Series appearance in 2008 and went 123-35 over four years with a 0.78 ERA and 2,149 strikeouts - the third most in NCAA history of softball at any level.
The Hokies return 16 players from last year’s squad, including seven starters (fielding and DP) and two pitchers. Offensively, three of Tech’s top four regular hitters in terms of batting average from a year ago return. While the Hokies will have to replace Courtney Liddle, Kylie McGoldrick (.344, 11 HRs), Lauren Gaskill (.299, 8 HRs, 20 SBs) and Dani Anderson (.285, 23 RBIs) return.
Tech welcomes seven newcomers to the program this spring, several of whom will be competing for immediate starting time. Here’s a look at each of them and where they might fit in:
Elizabeth Birle: a freshman first baseman/pitcher from Winter Springs, Fla.
Alyssa Clark: a freshman catcher from Wexford, Pa.
Toni Erwin: a freshman shortstop from Austin, Texas
Vanessa Gonzalez: a freshman outfielder from Torrance, Calif.
Cailey Isaacs: a freshman outfielder from Georgetown, Del.
Aysha Richardson: a freshman outfielder from Louisa, Va.
Michelle Prong: a redshirt junior who transfers in after graduating from Stanford in three years; she’s an infielder/catcher from Victor, N.Y.
MAKING THE MOVE
Lauren Gaskill has started all 122 games of her career and will continue that streak this weekend, but it will be in a different spot as the junior makes the move from center field to shortstop. A fleet-footed and sure-handed outfielder, Gaskill played shortstop in high school and travel ball and looks to fill the big shoes left behind by Bkaye Smith from a year ago.
After missing most of last season with a back injury, junior Kelsey Mericka will likely miss this season with a shoulder injury sustained this summer. She had surgery in the fall and will likely redshirt. The staff hope she returns in 2015 to full form, when she’ll be a redshirt junior with two years of eligibility left.
The Hokies are 11-7 all-time in season openers and will look to build on that mark when they take on Lipscomb Friday evening. Tech has won its last five season openers.
Belmont has been picked to finish in fifth place in the OVC East Division. The Bruins return seven starters from last season, headlined by two all-conference selections. They finished the 2013 campaign with a 17-33 record, including a 6-19 mark in the team's inaugural season in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Junior Kat Hollingsworth leads the 2014 Bruins as the outfielder returns for her junior season off a stellar sophomore campaign which earned her first-team All-OVC honors where she batted .390 with 11 home runs.Tech and Belmont have never met in softball before.
Lipscomb is coming off a 35-24 record from a year ago and was one win away from a conference title, but lost twice to USC Upstate in the A-Sun championship games. The Lady Bisons hit .273 with 51 home runs a year ago and return their top two power hitters in Kristen Sturdivant (13) and Paige Neely (10).
In the circle, Lipscomb relied on two pitchers for most of last season and both of them return. Heather Parker went 16-12 with a 2.29 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 186.2 innings while Tanner Sanders went 18-10 with a 3.02 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 190 innings last year.
Tech and Lipscomb have played just twice before with the Lady Bisons taking both contests. LU won 5-4 in 2009 in Nashville and 2-0 in 2012 in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
Miami returns all 14 letterwinners from last season’s 20-34 squad, including four regulars who hit over .300 for the season. Jenna Modic led the way last season with a .341 average while Kayla Ledbetter hit .336 with a team-high seven home runs.
The RedHawks platooned three pitchers last season and all three are back. Jenna Mattera (7-9, 3.60 ERA, 47 Ks) and Paige Myers (8-17, 4.15 ERA, 118 Ks) saw most of the action while Modic went 5-8 with a 5.45 ERA in 96.1 innings pitched.
Tech is 7-1 all-time against the RedHawks, winning the last seven. The two last met in the 2012 NCAA Regionals with the Hokies downing the RedHawks 6-0 in the first game of the Knoxville Regional.
Miami is coached by Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame member Clarisa Crowell, who is in her second year with the program. The Waldorf, Md., native played at Tech from 1999-2002, batting .289 for her career with 16 home runs and 35 doubles, while also going 65-25 in the circle with a 1.39 earned run average and 475 strikeouts. Crowell still stands second all-time at Tech in winning percentage as a pitcher (.722) and remains third in career ERA and shutouts (26), and fourth in wins and complete games (62). She is ninth in career runs batted in (103) and 10th in career hits (200), doubles and runs scored (104).
SCOUTING TENNESSEE STATE
Tennessee State, coming off a 14-35 record from a year ago , is picked sixth in the preseason OVC poll. TSU returns eight members from last season’s squad, including pitchers Shea Morris (10-18, 3.17 ERA, 195 Ks) and Olivia Gamache (4-17, 3.74 ERA, 63 Ks). The duo accounted for every inning pitched in 2013.
The Tigers lost their top hitter from a year ago, but return Kiarra Freeman and Ashley Haynes. Freeman was named to the OVC All-Newcomer team after posting a .361 average and Haynes hit .303 last season for a squad that hit just .240.
Tech and TSU met in 2001 with the Hokies beating the Tigers 10-1 in five innings in Rock Hill, S.C.
PRESEASON ACC POLL
The ACC coaches voted the Hokies fifth in the 2014 Preseason Coaches’ Poll, released earlier this week. Florida State is the preseason favorite, according to the coaches, followed by defending tournament champion NC State, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Maryland, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Pittsburgh and Boston College.
The ACC is now an 1-team league with the addition of Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse. Only the top eight teams in the league standings will make the conference tournament at Maryland in May.
Next season, Louisville joins the league while Maryland moves to the Big Ten.
TECH SOFTBALL PARK
Tech Softball Park, home of Virginia Tech softball since 1998, has been a tough place for opposing teams to play over the years. Nearly 800 permanent seats have been added, along with lights, two more press boxes, a video board and a new sound system, making the facility a fine one for the Hokies to play. Currently, the capacity is 1,024 for games. Over the years, Tech has posted a 204-85 record at home, but went just 6-11 last year at home, its first losing record ever at the facility.
Next weekend, the Hokies will head to Spartanburg, S.C., to participate in the Buffalo Wild Wing Spartan Invitational, hosted by USC Upstate. Tech is schedule to take on Appalachian State, Ball State, Presbyterian and the host Spartans.
RANDOM STATS AND NOTES
Career Grand Slams (active)
K. Banks vs. UNCG, 3/29/11
K. Mericka vs. Wagner, 2/24/12
L. Gaskill vs. Liberty, 5/1/12
K. Banks vs. Maryland, 5/10/12
K. McGoldrick vs. Long Beach St., 3/7/13
A. Ake vs. Georgia Tech, 4/6/13
Career Walk-Off Home Runs (active)
Career Games Started - by position (active)
D. Anderson: 162 total - 55 SS; 55 LF; 32 3B; 20 DP
K. Banks: 160 total - 77 RF; 48 CF; 25 LF
L. Gaskill: 122 total - 122 CF
K. McGoldrick: 113 total - 113 2B
K. Mericka: 85 total - 74 3B; 8 C; 5 DP
L. Spaw: 83 total - 83 DP
B. Liddle: 48 total - 20 P; 20 1B; 3 RF; 5 DP
A. Ake: 45 total - 30 LF; 7 SS, 4 3B, 2 RF, 1 2B; 1 DP
K. Heinz: 24 total - 24 P
L. Wolff: 11 total - 7 RF; 2 CF; 1 LF; 1 DP
J. McNamara: 10 total - 7 3B; 3 DP
M. Tyler: 6 total - 6 P
K. Smith: 4 total - 3 DP, 1 1B
K. Ota: 4 total - 3 LF; 1 DP
Hokies by States (23)
New Jersey: 2
New York: 1
Hokies by Class (23)
Juniors: 6 (1 redshirt)
Sophomores: 5 (2 redshirt)
Walk-Off Home Runs in Program History (14)
Bronwyn Blair vs. Charlotte, 3/25/98 - two-run home run in B8 to win 8-6
Tiffany Hurt vs. Radford, 2/21/01 - two-run home run in B7 to win 2-0
Amy Voorhees vs. Connecticut, 3/31/01 - solo home run in B10 to win 3-2
Megan Evans vs. Seton Hall, 5/5/02 - solo home run in B9 to win 1-0
Megan Evans vs. Virginia, 4/27/04 - grand slam in B8 to win 6-3
Stephanie Savre vs. Georgia Tech, 4/23/05 - grand slam in B7 to win 9-5
Caroline Stolle vs. Winthrop, 5/5/05 - solo home in B7 to win 2-1
Stephanie Savre vs. Radford, 3/1/06 - two-run home run in B9 to win 3-2
Beth Walker vs. North Carolina, 4/26/08 - three-run home run in B10 to win 5-2
Misty Hall vs. Louisville, 5/16/08 (NCAA Regionals) - solo home run in B7 to win 1-0
Jessica Everhart vs. Appalachian State, 2/21/09 - three-run home run in B8 to win 5-4
Misty Hall vs. Florida State, 4/17/10 - solo home run in B7 to win 5-4
Marra Hvozdovic vs. Western Michigan, 3/8/09 - solo home run in B7 to win 1-0
Betty Rose vs. Cornell, 3/20/12 - grand slam in B7 to win 8-4
Tech’s official record book, which includes game, season and career records, along with all of the no-hitters and perfect games in program history, can be found here.
For updates on Virginia Tech softball, follow the Hokies on Twitter Follow @VT_Softball