ON THE DIAMOND
The Virginia Tech softball team travels to Boca Raton, Fla., for its fourth tournament of the 2014 season as the Hokies participate in the Parents’ Weekend Tournament, hosted by Florida Atlantic University. The Hokies will play a pair of games on Friday, taking on No. 14 South Alabama at 2:30 p.m., and the host Owls at 7:30 p.m. Tech will play Michigan State on Saturday at 11:15 a.m., before playing Hofstra at 1:30 p.m.
FACILITY AND TICKET INFO
The entire tournament will take place at the FAU Softball Stadium on Florida Atlantic’s campus. You can find directions to the stadium here. Tickets are $20 for the full tournament or $10 for a day. The tournament page, with GameTracker links to live stats, can be found here.
IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
Virginia Tech has played 165 games in Florida since its inception as a varsity sport in 1996 and the Hokies sport a 99-66 record all-time record in the Sunshine State.
THE WEEKEND FORECAST
Here’s the early weekend forecast for Boca Raton, Fla. 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 661-437. 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 137 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.
FRESH FACES OFF A HOT START
A pair of fresh faces in freshman Vanessa Gonzalez and redshirt sophomore Katey Smith have paced the Hokie offense this season. Gonzalez is a true freshman from Torrance, Calif., who is holding down the starting spot in left field. She leads the team with a .417 average with three doubles, two home runs and 6 RBIs. While Smith is in her third year with the Hokies, this is the first year she’s seen the field consistently. She was scheduled to redshirt in 2012, but was called upon late in the season to help out a struggling offense. She ended up playing in 15 games, starting four, including one at first base. With the injury to Mericka, she was moved to catcher this year, a spot she had never played before. While still learning that position, she’s thriving at the plate with a .333 average and 8 RBIs. She leads the team with five doubles and has one home run, a walk-off solo shot to beat Ball State.
DOING GOOD DEEDS
Junior Kylie McGoldrick personifies the Virginia Tech motto “Ut Prosim,” which translates to “That I May Serve.” Despite an intense academic and practice schedule, she still finds the time to give back to others and teach them about the game that has given her so much. McGoldrick and her brother, Ryan, found a way to incorporate their love of both softball and baseball when they founded “17K Diamonds For All,” in 2009 back in McGoldrick’s hometown of Stratford, N.J.
The foundation was named after the McGoldrick’s jersey No. 17. The “K” is for Kylie and “Diamond” is a reference to the baseball and softball fields. The two founded the charity with the help of their father, Kevin. The collections are normally held at McGoldrick’s showcase tournaments in Pennsylvania. McGoldrick said that before a showcase, she emails the coaches from the opposing teams and asks them and their players if they will bring any of their used softball gear to donate to the foundation.
The foundation’s first collection in the summer of 2009 was its biggest to date. This collection contributed over 65 bats, 18 helmets, a dozen gloves, new sets of numbered jerseys and several dozen pairs of cleats. McGoldrick had led several drives in Blacksburg and had rousing success with the baseball and softball teams, donating equipment to the Montgomery County Parks and Rec Department. Louisville Slugger donated a dozen new gloves and both squads came up with a carload of used equipment in the drive.
SCOUTING FLORIDA ATLANTIC
The host team, Florida Atlantic, is 13-9 this year playing its first season in Conference-USA. The Owls host Marshall Thursday night before hosting this weekend’s festivities. Whitley Herb leads the way at the plate with a .329 average and 11 runs scored while her teammate Melissa Martinez leads the team in doubles (4), home runs (1) and is tied for the lead in RBIs (10). The Owls are hitting .250 as a team with two home runs, 16 doubles and 59 RBIs. In the circle, the Owls are led by a trio of pitchers including Samantha Messer (6-2, 1.28 ERA, 40 Ks, 49.1 IP), who leads the team in wins, ERA and strikeouts. Kylee Hanson (3-5, 62.0 IP, 1.15 ERA, 43 Ks) and Amanda Wilson (4-1, 2.75 ERA, 22 Ks, 35.2) have also seen significant time in the circle. As a pitching staff, they boast a 1.91 ERA with 115 strikeouts.
Tech is 1-1 all-time against Florida Atlantic, but it’s been 14 years since their last meeting in 2000 when Tech won 1-0. Before that, in 1999, the Owls got a 1-4 win over the Hokies.
Hofstra is 9-1 on the season, riding a nine-game winning streak coming into this weekend’s tournament. The Pride have five players hitting above .400 this season. Becca Bigler is batting .462 with four doubles and nine RBIs, alongside Kim Smith who is batting .433 with five doubles, a triple and five RBIs. The team is batting .362 with five home runs and 19 doubles.
Two pitchers carry most of the load in the circle for the Pride. Taylor Pirone is 3-1 with a 1.27 ERA, throwing 27.2 innings with 15 strikeouts. Morgan Lashley has an undefeated 6-0 record with a 1.66 ERA, 38.0 innings pitched, five complete games, and 40 strikeouts.
Tech is 2-2 all-time against the Pride, but Hofstra has won the most recent games, winning 10-0 in 2012 in Kissimmee, Fla., on a no-hitter, and 3-2 in 2010 in Columbus, Ga. Prior to those meetings, the Hokies won 1-0 in 2007 and 6-0 in 2002.
SCOUTING MICHIGAN STATE
Michigan State is 5-11 this season, having participated in four tournaments already this year. Shanin Thomas is leading the way at the plate, hitting .304 with seven hits and five RBIs, and McKinzie Freimuth is batting .295 with six RBIs. The Spartans hit just .216 at the plate with seven home runs.
Two pitchers lead the way for Michigan State. Valeria Kaff is 3-5 with a 3.79 ERA having thrown 44.1 innings and 28 strikeouts. Kelly Smith is 2-4 with an ERA of 5.55 with 40.1 innings pitched and 29 strikeouts.
Tech is 2-1 all-time against the Spartans. The Hokies beat Michigan State twice in the same weekend in 2005 in Deland, Fla. Both games finished with a score of 2-1, one game needing eight innings and the other needing nine. They also played in 2000 when the Hokies fell 2-1.
SCOUTING SOUTH ALABAMA
South Alabama is 15-2 on the year and ranked 14th in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll. Their only losses are to Northwestern and No. 12 Baylor.
The Jaguars are led offensively by Stephanie Pilkington who is batting .377 with five doubles, three triples, and four stolen bases. The Jaguars have hit 11 home runs as a team, with four players having hit two or more. Their entire team is batting .255 with 32 stolen bases.
In the circle, South Alabama has two pitchers who have started the year in dominating fashion. Farish Beard is 9-1 with a 0.15 ERA, having thrown 47.1 innings, with 90 strikeouts. Hannah Campbell is 4-1 with a 0.75 ERA, having thrown 55.2 innings, recording 65 strikeouts. The team holds a 1.04 ERA with 163 strikeouts.
In 2011 the Hokies battled the Jaguars in a weekend tournament in Orlando, Fla., where South Alabama won both games.
AGAINST TOP-15 COMPETITION
Virginia Tech has played 51 games all-time against teams ranked in the top 10, winning just 12 of those games. The last time Tech beat a top-15 team was last season when it beat No. 14 Michigan 3-2 in Fullerton, Calif.
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 205-87 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 remain in Florida for a mid-week ACC doubleheader and a single game in Fort Myers. Tech will take on No. 9 Florida State (18-2) on Tuesday in a neutral site conference twinbill at Florida Gulf Coast at 5 p.m. and then will play a single game against FGCU on Wednesday at 4:45 p.m.
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
A. Ake vs. North Carolina, 3/1/14
Career Walk-Off Home Runs (active)
K. Smith vs. Ball State, 2/16/14 - solo home run in B7 to win 5-4
E. Birle vs. North Carolina, 3/1/14 - solo home run in B7 to win 4-3
Career Games Started - by position (active)
D. Anderson: 175 total - 55 SS; 55 LF; 45 3B; 20 DP
K. Banks: 174 total - 91 RF; 48 CF; 25 LF
L. Gaskill: 137 total - 122 CF; 15 SS
K. McGoldrick: 128 total - 128 2B
K. Mericka: 85 total - 74 3B; 8 C; 5 DP
L. Spaw: 84 total - 84 DP
A. Ake: 60 total - 30 LF; 15 CF; 7 SS, 4 3B, 2 RF, 1 2B; 1 DP
B. Liddle: 55 total - 27 1B; 20 P; 3 RF; 5 DP
K. Heinz: 31 total - 31 P
K. Smith: 18 total - 13 C; 4 DP, 1 1B
V. Gonzalez: 15 total - 15 LF
M. Tyler: 14 total - 14 P
L. Wolff: 12 total - 8 RF; 2 CF; 1 LF; 1 DP
J. McNamara: 11 total - 8 3B; 3 DP
E. Birle: 9 total - 8 1B; 1 DP
M. Prong: 8 total - 7 DP; 1 3B
A. Richardson: 5 total - 5 DP
K. Ota: 4 total - 3 LF; 1 DP
A Barnes: 2 total - 2 C
Consecutive Games Started (active)
L. Gaskill: 137 games
K. McGoldrick: 52 games
A. Ake: 15 games
V. Gonzalez: 15 games
K. Smith: 13 games
D. Anderson: 10 games
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
Elizabeth Birle vs. North Carolina, 3/1/14 - solo home run in B7 to win 4-3
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