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Kleinschmidt, big offensive inning lead Tech softball to series win

The Georgia Tech softball team is looking for a new ace in 2014. They may have found one in Kylie Kleinschmidt.

The junior right-hander pitched her second complete game and Tech defeated Missouri State 7-1 in the rubber game of the season-opening series Sunday at Mewborn Field.

Kleinschmidt, who is the front-runner to replace the graduated Hope Rush as the Yellow Jackets’ No. 1 starter, won twice over the weekend, including a 119-pitch, five-hitter Sunday.

The visitors from Springfield, Missouri accomplished more in four batters Sunday what they couldn’t in seven innings in a shutout loss to Kleinschmidt Saturday. Ashley Brentz doubled with one out in the top of the first, and two batters later, Stacia Boeckstiegel ripped an opposite field single that chased home Brentz for a 1-0 lead. That was all Kleinschmidt would allow, though she was far from perfect, scattering four hits and four walks, while stranding two runners in four of her final six innings of work.

After pitching four shutout frames of relief in a victory Saturday, Missouri State right-hander Erin Struemph had another scoreless outing going through three innings.

The Tech bats finally woke up in the bottom of the fourth. Alysha Rudnik led off with a single and Karly Fullem followed with a line drive home run to left field that gave the Yellow Jackets their first lead since game one of the series. Katie Johnsky chased Struemph from the game with a single and the hosts poured it on against reliever Chelsea Jones, reaching base in six consecutive plate appearances, including run-scoring singles from Colleen Darragh and Chelsie Thomas and a two-run single in Rudnik’s second at bat of the frame that put the Yellow Jackets up 6-1.

Hayley Downs picked up her third hit of the day in the fifth, which made it a 7-1 game.

The teams split the first two games of the series Saturday.

In game two, Missouri State used a four-run third to go ahead for good and defeated Tech 6-3. In the first victory for the Bears in school history over Tech, Suzanne Allen started the top of the third by reaching on a fielding error by Fullem at first base. That opened things up for Missouri State, which after a sacrifice and a wild pitch, got an infield single from Kerri Cunningham for one run, then an RBI-single by Heather Duckworth and a booming run-scoring double off the top of the right-field wall by Bethany Sullinger to put the Bears up 4-0.

Tech answered with the long ball. After Missouri State starter Jessie Van Es had retired the first two batters of the bottom of the third with relative ease, Ashley Thomas poked an opposite field home run for the Yellow Jackets’ first hit and run. Downs drew a walk and Rudnick followed with a two-run blast that made it a 4-3 game. That was as close as the Yellow Jackets would get. Missouri State added runs in the fifth (Boeckstiegel’s bases-loaded walk) and sixth (Erin Duewel’s solo home run) to go up 6-3.

Meanwhile, Struemph came on in relief and was outstanding. She started the fourth inning and walked Fullem and gave up a double to Johnsky to put runners at second and third with no one out. But Struemph, a freshman from St. Thomas, Missouri, struck out the bottom of the Tech in order in succession to hang onto what was then just a one-run cushion.

Tech managed to bring the tying run to the plate with one out in the seventh, but Downs popped up a bunt attempt and Rudnick flied softly to Duewel at shortstop to end the game.

Kleinschmidt tossed a complete game shut out in the opener as Tech won 3-0.

Kleinschmidt surrendered just four hits and struck out six, while the Yellow Jackets snapped a scoreless tie with a three-run sixth. Ashley Thomas, after not homering at all during her Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year campaign a year ago, ripped her first home run of the day and Caitlyn Coffey had a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth for a 3-0 lead.

Jones picked up the loss, allowing three runs (one earned) in 5 1/3 innings of work.