ON THE DIAMOND
The Virginia Tech softball team travels to Spartanburg, S.C., for its second tournament of the 2014 season as the Hokies participate in the Buffalo Wild Wings Spartan Invitational, hosted by USC Upstate. Due to wintry weather, the schedule has been adjusted to make it a two-day affair starting Sunday. Tech is now scheduled to play Ball State on Sunday at 10 a.m. and then the host Spartans at 2 p.m. All action for Saturday has been canceled.
FACILITY AND TICKET INFO
The entire tournament will take place at Cyrill Stadium on Upsate’s campus. You can find directions to the stadium here. Tickets are $8 per day. The tournament page can be found here.
IN THE PALMETTO STATE
Virginia Tech has played 62 games in South Carolina since its inception as a varsity sport in 1996 and the Hokies sport a 39-23 all-time record in the Palmetto State. The last time Tech played in South Carolina was in 2012 at a tournament hosted by The College of Charleston.
THE WEEKEND FORECAST
Here’s the weekend forecast for Spartanburg, S.C. 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 655-431. 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.
MAKING THE MOVE
Lauren Gaskill has started all 125 games of her career, but after starting the first 122 in center field, she’s made the move 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.
SCOUTING BALL STATE
Ball State is off to a 3-0 start after beating Southern Illinois, Texas A&M-Corpus Cristi and Texas State last weekend in San Marcos, Texas. The Cardinals hit .390 as a team with five home runs in three games with six starters batting .333 or higher Loren Cihlar is off to a hot start, hitting .545 while Audrey Bickel is batting .500 and Taylor Rager is hitting .429. The tandem of Kelsey Schifferdecker (2-0, 1.62 ERA, 8.2 IP, 5 Ks) and Nicole Steinbach (1-0, 2.03 ERA, 10.1 IP, 6 Ks) had a solid first weekend of action in the circle for the MAC squad that’s picked to finish second in the West Division under new head coach Tyra Perry.
Tech and Ball State have played just twice before, splitting a pair of games. Tech won the last meeting 6-5, which came in 2003.
SCOUTING USC UPSTATE
USC Upstate, the 2013 A-Sun champion and 2014 preseason favorite, is off to a hot 5-0 start. The Spartans scored 41 runs last weekend in five games and are hitting .404 as a team with eight doubles and eight home runs.
Expect to see Hannah Alexander or Lexi Shubert in the circle for the Spartans. Alexander went 3-0 last weekend and did not allow a run, finishing with 16 strikeouts in 10.2 innings of work. Her highlight win came Sunday when she pitched a perfect game in the 8-0, five-inning win over Virginia. Shubert is 2-0 wuth a 0.47 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 15.0 innings.
This will be the first meeting on the diamond between the Hokies and Spartans.
PRESEASON ACC POLL
The ACC coaches voted the Hokies fifth in the 2014 Preseason Coaches’ Poll, released before the season. 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 11-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.
On Tuesday, the Hokies will play a single game at UNC Greensboro (4 PM), before heading to Tuscaloosa, Ala., next weekend to participate in the Easton Bama Bash, hosted by the University of Alabama. Tech will play McNeese State twice, No. 4 Alabama twice and UCF once at Rhoads Stadium.
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: 164 total - 55 SS; 55 LF; 34 3B; 20 DP
K. Banks: 163 total - 80 RF; 48 CF; 25 LF
L. Gaskill: 125 total - 122 CF, 3 SS
K. McGoldrick: 116 total - 116 2B
K. Mericka: 85 total - 74 3B; 8 C; 5 DP
L. Spaw: 84 total - 84 DP
B. Liddle: 51 total - 23 1B; 20 P; 3 RF; 5 DP
A. Ake: 48 total - 30 LF; 7 SS, 4 3B, 3 CF; 2 RF, 1 2B; 1 DP
K. Heinz: 26 total - 26 P
L. Wolff: 11 total - 7 RF; 2 CF; 1 LF; 1 DP
J. McNamara: 11 total - 8 3B; 3 DP
M. Tyler: 7 total - 7 P
K. Smith: 2 total - 3 DP, 2 C; 1 1B
K. Ota: 4 total - 3 LF; 1 DP
V. Gonzalez: 3 total - 3 LF
A. Richardson: 1 total - 1 DP
M. Prong: 1 total - 1 DP
A. Barnes: 1 total - 1 C
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