Category archive: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Yet the imagination fails in trying to imagine what riches might await Yee if only she could mass-produce the traits no bat, no matter how exquisitely designed, can guarantee.
You might be able to swing the same bat as Yee, but few see what she sees at the plate.
"She just sees the ball so well; she sees it right out of the pitcher's hand," said Sharon Perkins, coach of sixth-ranked Georgia Tech. "She's pretty amazing with seeing the seams and seeing the ball out of the pitcher's hand, different grips and things like that -- knuckles and all kinds of different things. She's probably the most amazing hitter I've ever seen, ever had. She just picks it up so early, and she's able to get on time. I feel like she can get to any pitch."
With 14 games left in the regular season, Yee is hitting .577. She has recorded 102 official at-bats and come away with a hit 60 times. Her on-base percentage is .720, and she has struck out a grand total of two times. And all this from a hitter who comes no closer to slapping -- the favored technique of the occasional .500 hitter -- than slapping hands with teammates at home plate after hitting one of her 21 home runs.
And if you think that Perkins has a rooting interest in the debate or that the numbers aren't enough evidence, Virginia coach Eileen Schmidt added her endorsement when asked whether she has seen anyone better than the Yellow Jackets' redshirt senior star.
"No," Schmidt conceded. "That's not taking anything away from against [Arizona All-American Brittany] Lastrapes or the entire Michigan lineup. She's got the swagger that everybody wants."
Schmidt had just watched Yee deny her team a victory on the road by hitting a tying home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh that set the stage for teammate Kristine Priebe's walk-off home run in a 5-3 win. The Cavaliers didn't take the route many others have this season of intentionally walking Yee -- Maryland did it six times in one three-game series, including to lead off each game -- but Schmidt admitted that the Cavs also hadn't intended to come quite that close to the plate in the final at-bat.
It's how Yee keeps piling up numbers long after opponents stopped pitching to her, to the extent they ever did. Against Virginia, she saw a steady diet of outside pitches, occasionally nicking the corner of the strike zone but largely ensuring Yee would only get to first base with a walk instead of taking extra bases with a hit (of course, as if opponents needed further frustration, she also has stolen 15 bases in 16 attempts).
How many good pitches does she see on average?
"In an at-bat, maybe one -- in a 3-0 count, and I'm not going to swing 3-0," Yee said. "It's hard to create hits for yourself and to be ready to swing when you're getting so many balls, but I really have to get on myself and be focused and be ready for the mistake."
Watching Yee's swing, a sudden snap of violence interrupting her otherwise casual movements, it looks as if she could launch balls into the gap using a frying pan. But she's as interested in how bats do what they do as in showing off the end result. A native of British Columbia who sat out the 2008 college season to train with the Canadian Olympic team (she also spent her freshman season at Niagara University before she transferred to Georgia Tech), she'll spend her one remaining semester in Atlanta next fall working on a research project for the Canadian sporting goods company, Combat, running impact tests as part of a study geared at finding ways to prolong bat life.
Opponents have plenty of time to worry about Yee helping future hitters; right now, they're just glad Danielle Lawrie isn't the only Canadian who will be riding off into the sunset after this season.
"I'm glad she's gone," Schmidt offered.
Graham Hays covers softball for ESPN.com. E-mail him at Graham.Hays@espn3.com. Follow him on Twitter: @grahamhays.
This seemed a lot clearer last week, before Rice and Georgia Tech struggled over the weekend. The top six are still solid, and the last two spots boil down to two separate debates.
First, who gets the second spot in the ACC. Georgia Tech has a gaudy RPI but finished fourth in the conference, while Florida State took the regular-season title with a less impressive RPI. The Seminoles can make this a moot point if they win the ACC tournament, as that should wrap up a national seed.
This will sound like a broken record, but the other debate is in the SEC. LSU has most likely already wrapped up one of the spots, so it comes down to Ole Miss and Florida. This one could be settled in Hoover, as the Rebels and Gators are on the same side of the bracket. For now, the Ole Miss series win at Florida is enough to pick up the last national seed.
Lurking in the shadows is Rice -- the Owls need a lot of help (both Florida and Ole Miss losing early in the SEC tournament), but a deep run in the Conference USA tournament puts them back in the discussion.
National seeds: No. 1 Texas, No. 2 UC Irvine, No. 3 Arizona State, No. 4 LSU, No. 5 North Carolina, No. 6 Cal State Fullerton, No. 7 Georgia Tech and No. 8 Ole Miss.
The Rest of the Top 16
For the past several weeks, TCU has been a traveling No. 1 seed -- at this point, the Horned Frogs' success (as well as the late-season slump by Texas A&M) is enough to land Fort Worth the third hosting spot in Texas.
That doesn't mean the committee won't still be on the lookout for a "northern" host. Louisville has a better résumé than Ohio State, including a midweek sweep of the Buckeyes, and could merit a No. 1 seed if it sweeps through the Big East tournament.
East Carolina moves into a hosting role with a strong finish and the regular-season Conference USA crown. On the heels of sweeping Texas A&M, Oklahoma garners the second home regional from the Big 12.
The other eight hosts (in alphabetical order): Clemson, East Carolina, Florida, Florida State, Louisville, Oklahoma, Rice and TCU.
And Everyone Else
It really seems as if the bubble is a lot smaller than normal this season. College of Charleston looks to be set up for disappointment again, as it slumped to finish fifth in the Southern Conference. None of the other "bubble out" teams has much to complain about if it doesn't make the field. There are usually three or four upsets in conference tournaments that shake things up, so of the last five in, Western Carolina and Baylor have the least to worry about.
Last five in (least secure first): BYU, Troy, Southeastern Louisiana, Baylor and Western Carolina.
First nine out (best chance first): College of Charleston, Duke, Stanford, New Mexico, UC Riverside, Hawaii, Tulane, Oklahoma State and Auburn.
The Field of 64
National seed regionals are shown next to the regional that they match up with for super regionals:
No. 1 Texas
|Forth Worth Regional
No. 8 Ole Miss
|Baton Rouge Regional
No. 4 LSU
|Chapel Hill Regional
No. 5 North Carolina
No. 3 Arizona State
No. 6 Cal State Fullerton
San Diego State
San Jose State
No. 2 UC Irvine
No. 7 Georgia Tech
If not turned upside down, the NCAA tournament bracket was at least shaken like the proverbial Polaroid picture.
Bradley entered with a losing record and left with a win against No. 15 DePaul.
Texas State showed no mercy in run-ruling No. 12 Northwestern in five innings.
No. 7 Oklahoma remains locked in a 0-0 tie with North Dakota State in a game that will resume Saturday in the 10th inning -- and with the Sooners looking for just their second hit.
Oklahoma State got its third shutout in four games -- but just its fifth in the past 28 games -- to knock off No. 16 Florida State.
Hey ya, indeed.
• Bradley's stunner against DePaul may go down in the history books as a bigger upset than it was on the day, if that makes any sense.
It took Friday's win just to get Bradley to .500 on the season. After finishing sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference during the regular season, Bradley secured the league's automatic bid by beating the first-, second- and third-place finishers in the span of about 48 hours in the conference tournament. But senior pitcher Ashley Birdsong pitched all 21 innings in those games, and she's the reason the game was a bigger upset in the big picture than perhaps it was on the field at Missouri.
If those two played 10 times, DePaul would likely win nine against a team that hit just .222 on the season. But with a pitcher like Birdsong, who beat Northwestern with 14 strikeouts last season and quietly put together four stellar years, the odds on any given day probably feel a lot closer to 50-50.
Now the Braves get another break, playing either Illinois or Missouri in a winner's-bracket game Saturday, minutes after those teams play out a postponed game from Friday.
• Full credit to Texas State, which in its demolition of Northwestern exacted a sweet measure of revenge for being left out of the NCAA tournament a year ago. The Bobcats were far and away the most patient team in the Southland Conference this season, drawing better than three walks per game and leading the league in on-base percentage despite hitting a modest .263, good for just fourth in the league.
That was a profile that spelled ready-made disaster for Northwestern and struggling ace Lauren Delaney.
Delaney has thrown a lot of innings with a lot of grit in her first three seasons in Evanston, the past two as essentially the team's only option in the circle because of injuries and inexperience elsewhere. But something clearly isn't working right now. She walked 11 in five innings against Texas State and is on the verge of a 200-walk season with another 50-plus hit batters.
I didn't see the game, so I have no idea whether the Wildcats were ripping line drives into gloves and launching shots to the warning track. But since a 7-6 loss in the opener of a pivotal two-game set against Ohio State in late April, they've scored just six runs in four games (and even that's mostly because of five runs in two games against Wisconsin). At a time when Delaney needs all the run support she can get, everything just seems to be going wrong.
You can't really say Saturday's elimination game against Louisiana-Lafayette is a gut-check game -- because a team could play a great game against Lafayette's pitching and still come away with a loss -- but a two-and-out stay in regionals would be a shocking end to a season that seemed to hold championship possibilities.
• Putting aside upsets for a minute, here are four folks who shone particularly brightly Friday.
Christie Hamilton, Georgia: Hamilton moved the Bulldogs to within a game of a super regional by shutting out a North Carolina team that scored 21 runs in its opening game.
Hillary Bach, Arizona State: It wasn't quite a page out of Katie Burkhart's book with just two strikeouts, but Bach's five-hit shutout probably looked plenty sparkling to the Sun Devils. Whatever Bach's ceiling is, her ability to handle a full load in the Pac-10 as a freshman -- especially with this year's hit-happy league -- says a lot about her toughness.
Sanoe Kekahuna, California: Arizona's Stacie Chambers launched another home run in her team's win, but on this day, Cal's Kekahuna was the power champ with two blasts in a win against Mississippi State.
Kristen Adkins, Georgia Tech: Presumably Georgia Tech's ace, Adkins instead played third while freshman Jessica Coan tossed up 11 strikeouts against Boston University, But it was Adkins' three-run home run that ensured the Yellow Jackets weren't in the upset mix.
Thanks to Georgia Tech for passing along more info on its lineup: With freshman shortstop Kelsi Weseman out of action after surgery earlier in the week to repair a broken arm, the Yellow Jackets had to shift regular third baseman Tiffany Johnson to shortstop. If Adkins pitches today, look for further shifts involving Jen Yee and Christy Jones.
Not a great week for the top SEC teams, and the top teams on the West Coast are all red-hot. This will likely change before Selection Monday, but for now there are three national seeds from out West and just one from the SEC, with Ole Miss and Florida knocking on the door if any of the others stumble down the stretch. Since the selection committee can't match those teams from the Pac-10 and Big West up in the super regionals, they'll likely put all three in the same side of the bracket in Omaha.
National seeds: No. 1 Texas, No. 2 North Carolina, No. 3 UC Irvine, No. 4 LSU, No. 5 Rice, No. 6 Arizona State, No. 7 Cal State Fullerton and No. 8 Georgia Tech.
The Rest of the Top 16
The second tier of regional hosts is pretty well set at this point. Miami and Georgia are both struggling and, in addition to needing to be nearly perfect down the stretch, need others to falter to get back into the discussion. The two teams closest to hosting right now that aren't in the top 16 are a surging Alabama (second in the SEC) and Oklahoma (which could pass Texas A&M in this discussion with a strong showing in their upcoming series).
There's a new name under discussion for a hosting spot from the "northern" part of the country -- on the heels of beating Ohio State twice in the past week, Louisville staked its claim for a home regional. The Cardinals hosted a Super Regional in 2007 and drew more than 12,000 fans for the three-game set against Oklahoma State. TCU once again falls victim to the committee's desire for geographical balance (and the strength of Texas baseball this year) and gets sent packing as a No. 1 seed.
The other eight hosts (in alphabetical order): Arkansas, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Louisville, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Virginia.
And Everyone Else
Oklahoma State is all but out of the Big 12 tournament, while Auburn has been eliminated from contention for the SEC tournament (and Kentucky needs some help). With enough strong teams in the mid-major conferences, that should be enough to knock these three off the bubble despite their strong RPI rankings. All eight teams that make the SEC tournament will be in the NCAA field, while Duke and Texas Tech will be the only teams to make their conference tournament and miss the regionals from the ACC and Big 12.
The Southern Conference gets a fourth team again with all of the top contenders playing well down the stretch. The Big Ten stays at three teams (with Illinois on the bubble), while Conference USA (two bids) and the Pac-10 (three bids) remain well below their historical norm.
Two teams that have appeared in every projection up to this point fell out due to recent struggles. San Diego will not be in the WCC championship series, so Loyola Marymount jumped over it and into the field. Hawaii has also played poorly recently -- the Rainbows host the WAC tournament, but for now that bid will go to first-place San Jose State.
Last Nine In (least secure first): Loyola Marymount, Baylor, Western Carolina, Washington State, Illinois, Dallas Baptist, Southeastern Louisiana, College of Charleston and Kansas.
First Nine Out (best chance first): Kentucky, Hawaii, Duke, BYU, San Diego, Troy, New Mexico, Oklahoma State and UC Santa Barbara.
The Field of 64
National seed regionals are shown next to the regional that they match up with for super regionals:
No. 1 Texas
No. 8 Georgia Tech
College of Charleston
|Baton Rouge Regional
No. 4 LSU
No. 5 Rice
|College Station Regional
No. 3 UC Irvine
San Diego State
San Jose State
No. 6 Arizona State
|Chapel Hill Regional
No. 2 North Carolina
No. 7 Cal State Fullerton
Now on to a quick look at eight intriguing conference tournaments.
Host: NC State
Top seed: Georgia Tech
Top challenger: Florida State
Georgia Tech in Twitter length
It's a rare combination, but Georgia Tech is both a great power-hitting team and one of the surest fielding teams in the nation.
Sleeper: North Carolina
No real sleepers, only a sub-favorite. And speaking of defense, the Tar Heels had eight errors in six games against Florida State and Georgia Tech. They had 30 errors in their 48 other games.
Georgia Tech, Florida State and North Carolina are safe, but there could be at least one NCAA seed on the line. With the weakest RPI of the three, Georgia Tech may need to win both the regular season and conference tournament to be among the top 16 in the national bracket.
Host: Stony Brook
Top seed: Stony Brook
Top challenger: Boston University
Stony Brook in Twitter length
Stony Brook led the league in slugging, on-base percentage and ERA, and was second in fielding. It was also last in vulnerabilities.
Leah McIntosh threw four perfect games this season. Considering she has allowed just 77 hits and 17 walks in 149.1 innings, she also threw a lot of near-perfect games.
It's a deep, balanced field of contenders, but this remains a one-bid league.
Top seed: Campbell
Top challenger: Lipscomb
Campbell in Twitter length
Silenced against North Carolina and East Carolina, the offense put up 27 runs in six games against Lipscomb, Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast.
The offense hasn't always been there, but with two of the league's top pitchers in Jenni Holtz and Lacey Richardson, the Bears are built to cause postseason headaches.
Your guess is as good as mine. All three of the top teams are within a few places of each other in the 50-60 RPI range. Any team that doesn't get to the final is probably out. If two of the three make it to the final, the loser has to hope RPI counts.
Host: Neutral (Oklahoma City)
Top seed: Oklahoma
Top challenger: Missouri
Oklahoma in Twitter length
Although it came in limited at-bats, Krystle Huey's .400-plus on-base percentage in Big 12 play added another layer to a potent offense.
Texas and Oklahoma may have been separated by a full three wins in conference play, but they were also separated by all of about nine singles across the statistical spectrum. On paper, Texas is a team with upside.
Oklahoma State needs at least a win to shore up its case. Everyone else looks safe, but a title for Oklahoma might help it host any potential super regional.
Top seed: Tulsa
Top challenger: East Carolina
Tulsa in Twitter length
Tulsa had the best on-base percentage in Conference USA, but in losing two of three at East Carolina, it walked just twice.
Sleeper: Central Florida
Throw out a loss at Florida (and at 3-0, it wasn't a bad loss in its own right) and UCF was 10-5 in its past 15 games. There's no Allison Kime around this season, but junior Ashleigh Cole has allowed just eight earned runs in her past 37.1 innings (1.50 ERA).
If Tulsa and East Carolina get to the final, whichever team loses would have a very strong case for an at-large bid. The math may not be as kind to Marshall and Houston, but reaching the final is probably their only hope of at-large consideration.
Host: Butler (neutral field)
Top seed: Illinois-Chicago
Top challenger: Cleveland State
Illinois-Chicago in Twitter length
The Flames came alive at the plate after a tough early schedule. They don't hit for power, but they draw walks and move runners over.
Sleeper: Wright State
Without a senior on the roster, Wright State may just be setting the stage for next season, but behind Justine Shilt and Jamie Perkins, the Raiders hit the ball hard and field it well.
Only the automatic bid will make it, which is why it's intriguing with so many contenders.
Top seed: Florida
Top challenger: Alabama
Florida in Twitter length
The Gators averaged more than six runs per game in the regular season. Their opponents averaged fewer than six runners per game.
Not exactly going out on a limb with the home team, but the Lady Vols -- fourth in OPS, fifth in ERA and third in fielding percentage -- have the best balance outside of the big three.
Auburn and Arkansas would cement their profiles with monumental upsets, but getting here was probably enough for both. A win against Alabama in a potential semifinal would solidify Georgia's case for a top-eight national seed.
Host: McNeese State
Top seed: Texas State
Top challenger: McNeese State
Texas State in Twitter length
Texas State went 23-6 during the marathon conference season, losing just one series at home along the way -- against McNeese State.
Sleeper: Nicholls State
Only one pitcher worked more innings in conference play than Nicholls State junior Lacey Gros, who struck out 147 batters in 132 innings.
Texas State has an at-large case if it doesn't win, but as it learned last season, that's a route that often leads to disappointment for mid-majors.
UCLA 10, Arizona State 4
Gathering the Pac-10's top four teams in the desert for six games seemed like a great way to create anticipation but an even better way to produce mixed results. The former was there in abundance, but the latter was decidedly absent after UCLA's loud statement.
The Bruins swept all three of their games, winning once at Arizona and twice at Arizona State, by holding the two most prolific offenses in the country to six runs. Megan Langenfeld earned all three wins, and there's more to come on her unique roles with this team later this week.
UCLA piled up 21 runs (including a pair of home runs from Langenfeld when she wasn't busy pitching). Compare that to the first time the Bruins played the Arizona schools, when they managed 21 hits and five runs in losing two of three games at home.
Now, 21 hits in three games is far from anemic, but the onslaught that produced 31 hits away from home this weekend may corroborate something both Langenfeld and coach Kelly Inouye-Perez talked about Thursday before heading out on the road. The Bruins are loaded with pure talent, but the focus this season is on the mental approach, making adjustments and knowing what to expect from the opposing pitcher ahead of time.
"There's no question on whether this group can hit," Inouye-Perez said Thursday. "They could hit before they got here, and they're even better, I believe, for working with [UCLA assistant] Lisa Fernandez. But when you talk about attention to detail, it gives you an edge as a hitter. So if there's something you can take, if there's a tendency you can notice, if there's a placement in the box that can help give you an advantage, then those are the things that can only help your game.
"So early in a ballgame, that's one of our goals. One of our goals is to be able to expose the weakness of our opponent so that we can score early and often."
With only one road game remaining, at Washington this Wednesday, and a series still to come at home against seventh-place Oregon State and last-place Oregon, the conference title -- and likely the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA tournament -- is UCLA's to lose.
Hawaii 11, New Mexico State 3
This isn't shaping up as a year of major drama on the NCAA tournament bubble, but there is one glaring exception looming out in the Pacific Ocean. With an RPI buried in triple digits entering the weekend, Hawaii is fighting an uphill battle. But it shouldn't be.
Consider what the Rainbow Wahine have working in their favor.
Quality neutral-site wins out of conference against Oklahoma, Ohio State and fellow potential bubble candidate Oregon State (if the Beavers get to .500).
A 3-3 record against the top two teams in conference, Nevada and Fresno State, including a pair of road wins at Fresno State.
A strong closing kick that stands at 11-2 in the past 13 games, with only a home series against Boise State, in its first season of softball, remaining before the WAC tournament.
Quality losses are the evidence that the jury is instructed to ignore -- they don't count but there's no use pretending they don't exist. And if you're trying to do the eyeball test on Hawaii, one-run losses against Alabama and Tennessee help establish a team's pedigree.
If Hawaii takes care of its business against Boise State and avoids going two-and-out at the conference tournament, it deserves to be in the NCAA tournament. And if RPI is the best argument someone has to counter that, they need to find a better argument.
Georgia Tech 3, North Carolina 2
Jen Yee's walk-off blast against North Carolina on Sunday gave Georgia Tech a sweep of the weekend's three-game series (and they had the broom to prove it in the postgame celebration). From an ACC perspective, the sweep gives the Yellow Jackets control of the regular-season race; they need just two wins next weekend at Maryland.
But perhaps of equal importance in the long run, the wins represented an impressive turnaround for a team that took a beating in two midweek home games against Alabama.
Given that reality of the losses against Alabama, it's impressive that Sharon Perkins' team maintained its focus and not only swept a North Carolina team riding a 23-game winning streak but did it by overcoming a late game-tying home run by the Tar Heels in Sunday's finale.
UNLV 7, Colorado State 6
Will Ashli Holland's grand slam go down as the blast that saved UNLV's season?
Losers of eight of their past 10 entering a weekend trip to Colorado State and New Mexico, the Rebels found themselves trailing 6-1 entering the sixth inning of the opener against the Rams. A loss would have dropped them to 2-7 in the Mountain West, and even with a strong RPI and early wins against Cal Poly, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame and Long Beach State, that would have been a pretty glaring demerit against postseason play.
Holland's blast and two more wins against New Mexico eased those concerns.
Alabama 6, Auburn 0
And surprisingly enough, that score is not because of the no-hit, 14-strikeout gem thrown by Alabama's Kelsi Dunne. (Although, is there a better advertisement for the upcoming SEC tournament than Dunne and Florida's Stacey Nelson throwing no-hitters on the same afternoon?)
With three games left for each, Auburn has a one-game lead on Mississippi for eighth place in the SEC. Only the top eight teams go to Knoxville for the conference tournament. So would Auburn, with an RPI of 29 entering the Alabama series, receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, even if it misses the SEC tournament?