OXFORD, Ala. – The Valdosta State baseball team raced out to an early 8-0 lead through the first two at bats, before Delta State rallied and won the game in the bottom of the 11th on a balk. Despite the loss, the Blazers will play the winner of Delta State versus West Florida on Tuesday in the "if necessary" game for a winner-take-all Gulf South Conference Championship.
Delta State, who is the No. 8-seed in the tournament, will play top-seeded West Florida at 11 a.m. Tuesday, followed by the winner versus VSU approximately 30 minutes after the completion of the first game. VSU will be going for its fifth GSC Baseball Championship and first since 2013. VSU last reached the championship round in 2019, falling in the "first game" to eventual champion Delta State, 7-6, as DSU went on for a 6-0 win over West Florida that season.
Click here for links to the GSC Championship Central webpage with links to live stats, audio/video streaming, ticket information and more. The Blazer game Tuesday against an opponent to be determined will be broadcast on 92.1 WDDQ FM in Valdosta with Kit Strief having the call of the game and on www.talk921.com.
VSU fell to 33-17 with the loss on Monday evening as DSU improved to 27-25. The Blazers outhit the Statesmen, 15-12 as seven different Blazers had two hits in the game for the team. Freshman Raynel Ortiz went 2 for 5 with two runs scored, a three-run home run and five RBI, while sophomore Jovanni Canegitta was 2 for 6 with a run scored, a home run and two RBI. The top five batters in the lineup all had two hits each for the Blazers. Ortiz and Canegitta went back-to-back jacks on back-to-back pitches in the first.
DSU was led by four players with two hits, including hitting two home runs in the game, one from Brendan McCauley to tie the game at 9-9 in the bottom of the eighth, while Cooper blasted a two-run shot in the fifth.
On the mound, sophomore Jason Norris (0-1) took the loss in 1.1 innings, allowing one hit, one earned run, walked two and fanned one as he balked with runners at the corners in the bottom of the 11th for the run to score. DSU's Josh Hill (2-2) earned the win in one inning of relief with one walk and one strikeout.
Things looked promising for the Blazers early as junior David Crawford began the game with a single and sophomore Hunter Stowe singled through the left side. Following a strikeout, Ortiz blasted the first homer of his Blazer career for a 3-0 lead, followed by the shot to right field from Canegitta for a 4-0 lead. In the second, Stowe continued his strong play with an RBI single to right center, and Ortiz then doubled down the left field line for two RBI and a 7-0 lead. Canegitta then singled to left, plating Ortiz for an 8-0 lead. The Statesmen used multiple pitchers in the second inning.
Blazer senior hurler Marvin De La Hoz got into a bit of a jam in the bottom of the second as DSU scored one run on a fielder's choice and a second on an error on the fielder's choice play for an 8-2 deficit. VSU pushed the lead to 9-2 in the third as graduate student JP Gates doubled down the right field line, plating Crawford. DSU pulled within 9-3 on a wild pitch in the bottom of the third.
VSU left two stranded in the fourth and DSU plated five runs on three hits in the bottom of the fifth for a 9-8 score. First, Cooper blasted a two-run shot to left and then a balk scored one run, while Noah Thigpen grounded out with the bases loaded for a 9-7 scored and a passed ball scored the fifth run of the frame for a 9-8 deficit.
The Blazers left two more on in the sixth, one in the seventh and then the Statesmen tied the game with McCauley's home run in the bottom of the eighth. The Blazers put two on in the ninth as well, but DSU was able to get out of the jam, preserving the tie score.
De La Hoz went 3.1 innings, allowing five hits, three runs – two earned, walked three and struck out one to start the game. After one inning of work from junior Scott Curran, senior Tyler Spitzbarth pitched 4.2 innings, allowing three hits, one earned run, walked one and fanned three as the Blazer staff did a decent job, but the team was unable to produce runs offensively after the third inning.
VSU had the potential go ahead run on base in the tenth, but sophomore Trent Lewis hit was looked like a home run or at least a double off the left field wall, as Jonathan Dewberry made a leaping catch at the fence and then threw into second for a double play to end the inning.
Norris came into pitch the tenth and preserved the tie with a big strikeout with the potential winning run at second. VSU again had a runner in position in the 11th, but came away empty as a walk and a single put runners at the corners with one out in the bottom of the 11th before the balk, scoring Kirkland Trahan for the DSU winning run.