ON THE DIAMOND
The Virginia Tech softball team travels to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for its third tournament of the 2014 season as the Hokies participate in the Easton Bama Bash, hosted by the University of Alabama. The Hokies will play a pair of games on Friday, taking on McNeese State at 1:30 p.m. local time (2:30 ET) and No. 9 Alabama at 4 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET). Tech will play the same two teams on Saturday (11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. local) before playing undefeated UCF on Sunday at 11 a.m. local time (noon ET).
FACILITY AND TICKET INFO
The entire tournament will take place at Rhoads Stadium on Alabama’s campus. You can find directions to the stadium here. Tickets are $5 per day.
IN THE YELLOWHAMMER STATE
Virginia Tech has played 14 games in Alabama since its inception as a varsity sport in 1996 and the Hokies sport a 10-4 record all-time record in the Palmetto State. The last time Tech played in Alabama was last season at a tournament hosted by Troy University.
THE WEEKEND FORECAST
Here’s the early weekend forecast for Tuscaloosa, Ala. 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 657-432. 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 127 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.
AKE OFF TO A HOT START
Senior Amanda Ake is off to a hot start this season, hitting three home runs in seven games already this season after hitting five home runs all of last season. The Carrollton, Ga., native transferred in to Virginia Tech last season after two years at Tallahassee Community College and hit .205 last season. This year, she is hitting .364 with nine RBIs and is holding down the centerfield spot.
Alabama is 8-2 on the season and ranked ninth in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll after dropping a pair of games to Arizona last weekend. Haylie McCleney is off to a blistering start at the plate, hitting .625 with three home runs, 12 RBIs and six stolen bases. The Crimson Tide has seven other hitters batting over .350 and bat .341 as a team with 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases.
In the circle, Alabama relies on a trio of pitchers who have split the innings pretty equally thus far. Sydney Littlejohn has a 1.09 ERA and is 3-0, throwing 19.1 innings with 22 strikeouts. Jackie Traina is 2-1 with a 1.24 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 17.0 innings and Leslie Jury is 3-1 with a 3.05 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 20.2 innings.
Tech is 0-2 all-time against the Crimson Tide. The two met in 2000 with Alabama scoring in the eighth inning to win 1-0 at Raleigh, N.C. In 2012, the two met in Auburn, Ala., with Alabama taking a 7-3 victory over the Hokies. Jury went 6.0 innings for the Tide, allowing three unearned runs on just two hits with three strikeouts in that game.
AGAINST TOP-10 COMPETITION
Virginia Tech has played 29 games all-time against teams ranked in the top 10, winning just five of those games. The last time Tech beat a top-10 team was last season when it beat No. 9 UCLA 2-1 in Lakewood, Calif. The last time Tech beat a ranked team on its home field was last season in the NCAA Regional when it beat No. 17 Kentucky 2-0. The last time the Hokies beat a top-10 team on its home field was in 2008 when Angela Tincher (now O’Brien) threw two gems to lead her team to wins over No. 6 Michigan to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
SCOUTING McNEESE STATE
McNeese State, located in Lake Charles, La., is 7-5 this season, but has some impressive wins, including victories over No. 8 Texas A&M, Syracuse, Oregon State and UAB.
Lauren Langer leads the way at the plate with a .439 average while three other regulars are hitting .300 or higher. The Cowboys are hitting .270 as a team with six home runs and nine stolen bases. In the circle, four pitchers have seen action, but Jamie Allred (4-2, 2.65 ERA, 41 Ks, 39.1 IP) and Emily Vincent (1-1, 3.71 ERA, 22 Ks, 22.2 IP) are the work horses.
Tech and McNeese State have never met before in softball.
UCF is off to a 7-1 start, but suffered its first loss of the season Wednesday night at Florida State (6-1). Linnea Goodman is leading the way at the plate, hitting .412 and Kahley Novak is batting .348. Shelby Turnier is 3-0 with a 1.03 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 20.1 innings. The Knights hit just .224 at the plate with no home runs and 10 stolen bases. Mackenzie Audas is 4-1 with a 1.71 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 28.2 innings pitched. The Knights have a staff ERA of 1.53 with 58 strikeouts.
Tech is 2-0 all-time against the Knights. Tech beat UCF 2-1 in 2007 at the Knight Games in Altamonte Springs, Fla., and beat the Knights 7-3 in 2011 at the Knights’ home field in Orlando.
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 on Tuesday at home against NRV rival Radford (5 PM), before hosting the University of North Carolina next weekend in its ACC opener.
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)
Katey Smith vs. Ball State, 2/16/14 - solo home run in B7 to win 5-4
Career Games Started - by position (active)
D. Anderson: 167 total - 55 SS; 55 LF; 37 3B; 20 DP
K. Banks: 167 total - 84 RF; 48 CF; 25 LF
L. Gaskill: 129 total - 122 CF; 7 SS
K. McGoldrick: 120 total - 120 2B
K. Mericka: 85 total - 74 3B; 8 C; 5 DP
L. Spaw: 84 total - 84 DP
B. Liddle: 52 total - 24 1B; 20 P; 3 RF; 5 DP
A. Ake: 52 total - 30 LF; 7 SS, 7 CF; 4 3B, 2 RF, 1 2B; 1 DP
K. Heinz: 28 total - 28 P
L. Wolff: 11 total - 7 RF; 2 CF; 1 LF; 1 DP
J. McNamara: 11 total - 8 3B; 3 DP
K. Smith: 10 total - 6 C; 3 DP, 1 1B
M. Tyler: 9 total - 9 P
V. Gonzalez: 7 total - 7 LF
M. Prong: 5 total - 4 DP; 1 3B
K. Ota: 4 total - 3 LF; 1 DP
E. Birle: 4 total - 3 1B; 1 DP
A. Richardson: 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 (15)
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
Katey Smith vs. Ball State, 2/16/14 - solo home run in B7 to win 5-4
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