VALDOSTA, Ga. (VALDOSTA STATE ATHLETICS) — The No. 8 Valdosta State softball team swept Flagler College in a doubleheader Tuesday evening. The Blazers blanked the Saints in the opener in five innings, 9-0, and used a late-inning rally for a 13-8 victory in the nightcap. With the wins, the Blazers improved to 7-2 overall while Flagler fell to 3-8 overall.
Prior to the games, Valdosta State learned that it is number eight in the Week Two NFCA DII Coaches poll, moving up two spots from the ten spot in last week's poll. Defending champion, Rogers State is still the unanimous number one followed by UT Tyler, North Georgia, Tampa and Seton Hill rounding out the top five. Cal State San Marcos is sixth, Southern Arkansas is seventh, the Blazers are eighth, Lubbock Christian is ninth and Central Oklahoma is tenth. Gulf South Conference foe Alabama Huntsville sits at 17th while Nova Southeastern, who VSU split a two-game series with on Feb. 4, entered the poll at number 24.
Game #1: #8 Valdosta State 9, Flagler College 0 (Five Innings)
In the bottom of the first, VSU began its offensive attack as the Blazers loaded the bases behind a pair of base hits and a walk. From there junior Kinzie Nelson hit a single to left field to score junior Katie Proctor, for a 1-0 lead.
Valdosta State came right back in the bottom of the second tacking on a few more after freshman Jasmin Stewart smacked a two-bagger down the left field line followed by a Flagler fielding error to advance Stewart and put junior Morgan Hill on base. Hill recorded her third stolen base of the season to advance to second, before freshman Saylor McNearney strung together an RBI single to send Stewart home to put the Blazers up 2-0. McNearney then stole second to set up the third hit in the inning by Proctor to put VSU up 3-0 with runners on first and second. The stage was set for junior Taylor Macera, who hit her first home-run blast of the season in the form of a three-run shot, to add to the Blazer lead, 6-0.
The Blazers tacked on another in the bottom of the fourth behind a walk and an RBI single from Macera to give Valdosta State a 7-0 edge. Fast forward to the bottom of the fifth where VSU was able to get two on base behind a base hit and a fielding error. Hill then hit a single past the third baseman to send two Blazer baserunners to home plate to put VSU up 9-0. The nine run lead after five innings triggered the automatic run rule to give VSU the 9-0 victory.
In the circle, senior Samantha Richards pitched her second shutout and fifth complete game of the season. She improved to 4-1 and recorded a season high seven strikeouts, no walks and only one hit to earn Guardian Bank Player of the Game honor. Macera was the lead batter for the Blazers, going a perfect three for three at the plate and recorded one run and four RBI as well as a three-run homer.
Game #2: #8 Valdosta State 13, Flagler 8
The second game of the afternoon started out with Flagler striking first behind a walked Saints batter, getting into scoring position behind a VSU wild pitch and throwing error. From there the Saints were able to score off a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.
The Blazers answered right back in the bottom of the first behind a pair of walks and Hill's second stolen base of the day to put VSU in scoring position. The scene was set for Abby Sulte to hit single to left field, sending Hill home to give the Blazers the tying run, 1-1.
In the top of the second, Flagler was in prime position to score behind a single, a couple of walks, a wild pitch and a stolen base. With one out, the Saints hit a single to deep center field to score two to put Flagler up 3-1. However, on the same play the Blazers were able to get a pair of outs to end the inning.
Down two, Valdosta State answered the call in the bottom of the second behind two Blazers getting on base behind a couple of walks, setting up Hill having her third stolen base on the day. From there, Proctor hit a single up the middle to score two to tie the game once again at 3-3. Sitting on third base, McNearney made a gutsy play to steal home to put VSU for the first time in the game, 4-3. Flagler then walked another, positioning Nelson to hit a three-run bomb to give Valdosta State a 7-3 lead to close out a six run second inning for the Blazers.
In the bottom of the third, the Blazers added another run behind a two-bagger and another stolen base from Hill to set up a base hit by Proctor to give the Blazers an 8-3 cushion. Flagler responded with two runs scored on two hits and a batter hit by a pitch to cut into the VSU lead, 8-5 in the top of the fourth. The Saints then added two more behind a bloop-single and a blast, followed by a solo shot to tie the Blazers at 8-8 in the top of the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, Valdosta State answered once again with two outs and one on base as Sulte hit a two-run home run to retake the lead, 10-8. The Blazers added a few more in the bottom of the sixth with a three-run moon shot from Stewart to extend the VSU lead to 13-8. The Saints, while playing a hard fought game, were unable to cut into the Blazer lead as VSU won game two, 13-8.
Three Blazers appeared in the circle for VSU and combined for six strikeouts, five walks and eight hits as Richards was credited with the win after taking the mound in the top of the fifth to improve to 5-1 on the year. In the game, Stewart recorded one hit for a three-run home run, scoring 3 RBI to earn Guardian Bank Player of the game.
Valdosta State will return to action at Steele's Diamond at Blazer Park on Thursday at 4 p.m., when it hosts Embry-Riddle in a doubleheader before heading to Delta State for a three-game series over the weekend.