Tech report: Yee, Rush up for USA player of the year

Senior second baseman Jen Yee and freshman pitcher/designated hitter Hope Rush are among 25 candidates for USA Softball player of the year, which will be awarded by the American Softball Association.

Yee is among the top three in the nation in batting average (.567, No. 2), home runs (19, No. 1), on-base percentage (.702, No. 1), runs (54, No. 1) and walks (44, No. 2). Rush is 18-3 with a 1.27 ERA in addition to a .294 batting average, 32 RBIs and is second in the ACC with 11 home runs.

"I've been in lessons since I was in 10, working with my hitting coach, Dave Paetkau [in British Columbia]," Yee said. "He's developed this 'most efficient swing' and it's [about] getting your hips involved." ...

During Saturday's 1-3 p.m. double-header against Virginia (23-14, 6-1), the No. 6/10-ranked Jackets (32-6, 8-1) will hold their third annual “Strikeout for the Cure” fundraiser to fight breast cancer. Pledges may be made for every strikeout Tech pitchers record, or flat donations will be accepted. Tech and Virginia also play Sunday at 1 p.m.

Women’s tennis

This is a huge weekend at Tech for the women's 20th-ranked tennis team. Beyond hosting No. 7 Duke (17-3, 5-1) Saturday at noon and No. 2 North Carolina (20-3, 7-0) Sunday at noon, the No. 20 Jackets (12-7, 3-3) will honor Amanda McDowell.

The senior from Marist will leave Tech rivaling former teammate Kristi Miller as the most accomplished player in the program's history. McDowell was a member of Tech's 2007 national championship team, won the 2008 NCAA singles title and won a school single-season record 45 matches. She teamed with Irina Falconi (29-2) last season to win a national indoors doubles title. McDowell's senior season has been scuttled by a back injury. She will be feted before Sunday's match.

“She’s definitely been an influence on and off the court, academically and tennis-wise, just for me to get better,” Falconi said. “Having the opportunity to play doubles with her last year was really a blessing.”

Golf

The team will get a better idea of its chances at defending its ACC title this weekend while playing in the Wolfpack Invitational on N.C. State's new course. Junior Kyle Scott will miss the competition because back spasms that knocked him out of the final round of the Linger Longer tournament two weeks ago. Tech is one of nine ACC teams in the field. Freshman Bo Andrews (of Raleigh) will replace Scott,  joining John-Tyler Griffin (of nearby Wilson, N.C.), Chesson Hadley (of Raleigh), Paul Haley and John White.

Baseball

Sophomore third baseman Matt Skole, who hit .302 last season while leading Tech regulars with 69 strikeouts, is hitting a team-high .394 with a team-low (among regulars) 13 strikeouts. ... Junior Kevin Jacob, expected to be the Jackets' closer before suffering a shoulder strain early in the season, resumed throwing this week. Coach Danny Hall hopes to have Jacob back later this month. ... Outfielder Jay Dantzler, who has not played since breaking a bone in his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch at Maryland four weeks ago, is expected to have the cast removed Tuesday. ... Junior shortstop Derek Dietrich has been hit by pitches 14 times, three shy of the school single-season record set by Matt Boggs, currently a Duke assistant). ... Tech has turned at least one double play in eight of the past nine games. The only exception was in an upset loss last week at Kennesaw State. Tech won the other eight. ... Leadoff hitter Jeff Rowland entered the weekend third in the nation in runs scored (46) despite leading Tech regulars in strikeouts with 38 – 16 more than any teammate.

Men’s tennis

Guillermo Gomez, the Jackets' top player when healthy, is expected back in the lineup for a very large weekend for the No. 24 Jackets. Tech (15-3, 6-1 ACC) will try to extend an eight-match winning streak and will have its work cut out. The No. 24 Jackets will square off Saturday against No. 20 Duke (12-6, 5-1) and Sunday against No. 19 North Carolina (14-4, 4-2).