VALDOSTA, Ga.- The No. 10 Valdosta State softball team split a doubleheader with Gulf South Conference foe, No. 25 West Alabama on Friday afternoon. The Blazers fell to the Tigers in game one, 3-1, before rallying in the night cap for a 7-4 victory. VSU (31-6, 17-3 GSC) and UWA (29-9, 18-5 GSC) will face off on Saturday morning in the series-deciding finale.
Due to the threat of inclement weather later in the afternoon on Saturday, April 8, the series finale between the Blazers and Tigers has been adjusted from 12 p.m. to 11 a.m.
GAME #1: #25 West Alabama 3, #10 Valdosta State 1
In the first game of the afternoon, the Blazers and Tigers got off to a slow start offensively. Valdosta State senior Samantha Richards and West Alabama pitcher, Madison Wright, lived up to their billing as two of the conference's best in the circle as no hits were allowed by either heading into the bottom of the fourth.
In the bottom of the fourth frame, VSU broke the scoreless affair as junior Morgan Hill blasted her 12th home run of the season to record the first run in the contest. With the home run, the Blazers went up 1-0. However, the Tigers struck back in the top of the sixth as a walk and a Blazer mishap allowed for two runners to reach base. UWA then took advantage of the situation as the Tigers hit a go-ahead, three-run homer to put West Alabama up late, 3-1. The Blazers fought hard to try and get back in the game, but it was too late by the end of the seventh as West Alabama took game one, 3-1.
Richards recorded her 22nd complete game in the circle for the Blazers as her record fell to 22-3 with the loss. In seven innings of action, Richards tallied eight strikeouts, two walks and just one hit for three runs. At the dish for the Blazers, Hill racked up her 12th home run of the season on a solo homer for one RBI to earn Guardian Bank Player of the Game honors.
GAME #2: #10 Valdosta State 7, #25 West Alabama 4
The second game of the afternoon faired much differently than the first as the Tigers struck early in the second inning. In the top of the frame, a string of UWA hits including a double and a single scored one as West Alabama went up 1-0. The Blazers answered back with an array of good at-bats as junior Taylor Macera took a walk to kick off the bottom of the second inning.Freshman Jasmin Stewart then knocked a single over the head of the shortstop before freshman Saylor McNearney knocked a double to right center to score both Macera and Stewart, putting VSU ahead, 2-1.
The Tigers answered back almost immediately with a solo home run to knot the game up at 2-2 in the top of the third. However, the Blazer offense came together for an explosive rally in the bottom of the third as freshman Jayme Prandine homered to center, adding to the VSU lead, 3-2. Sophomore Abby Sulte then stepped up and crushed her 19th home run of the season as the Blazers went up 4-2 on back-to-back home run jacks. Later in the frame, Macera blasted a home run of her own to tack on another run for the Blazers, 5-2.
West Alabama may have been down for the moment, but it certainly was not out of the game yet as the Tigers chipped away inning by inning at the Valdosta State lead. UWA homered in the top of the fourth to cut the VSU lead to two, 5-3, before a pair of Tiger walks, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth allowed West Alabama to get within one run, 5-4.
With the Tigers nipping at their heels, the Blazers answered the call with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth. Macera cracked her second homer of the game to deep left field just before junior Mackenzie Kilpatrick hit a booming homer of her own to give the Blazers the 7-4 edge for the second back-to-back home run jacks sequence of the game. The Blazer defense locked down for the final innings of the contest to come out on top in game two, 7-4.
Sophomore Madison Lumpp got the start in the circle for the Blazers, going four total innings to earn her seventh win of the season. Richards then came in to pitch the final three innings for the Blazers, earning her third save of the season. Three total Blazer pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts, two walks and four runs on five hits. At the plate for VSU, Macera recorded two hits for three runs, two RBI and one walk with two solo home runs to earn Guardian Bank Player of the Game honors.
The Blazers will return to Steel's Diamond on Saturday, April 8 at 11 a.m. to close out the series with West Alabama before hitting the road to face GSC rival, Alabama Huntsville next weekend. For live stats, streaming, ticket information and all things Valdosta State softball, visit vstateblazers.com.