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Blazers sweep Saturday twin bill at Christian Brothers

Posted at 9:53 AM, Mar 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-19 09:53:19-04

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A grand slam by sophomore Jovanni Canegitta in the top of the ninth lifted the Valdosta State Blazers to an 8-5 victory in the opener of a Gulf South Conference doubleheader Saturday at Christian Brothers. A complete game effort from senior Zach Henderson lifted the Blazers to a 10-5 victory in the nightcap. VSU will go for the series sweep Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

Canegitta went 5 of 9 from the field for the day with three runs scored, a triple, a grand slam and five RBI as he slugged 1.111 with two stolen bases. VSU hit four home runs on the day, two triples and two doubles, while the team hit .279 on 17 of 61 from the dish. VSU allowed ten runs for the doubleheader, just three were earned.

The Blazers improved to 17-8 overall and 9-5 in Gulf South Conference play, while CBU fell to 11-16 and 2-12 in league play.

The Blazers got off to a fast start, plating two runs in the first inning as junior David Crawford began the game with a single and graduate student JP Gates singled through the left side moving Crawford to second. Graduate student Jakob Sessa tallied the first run with an RBI ground out and sophomore Hunter Stowe followed with a single up the middle for a 2-0 lead. VSU had runners at second and third with two away, but were unable to do any further damage.

The Buccaneers loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the second on three singles. CBU cashed in with its fourth hit of the inning for an RBI single and a 2-1 deficit. A fielder's choice and out at home got the Blazers' the second out of the inning. Sophomore hurler Zach Dodson got a ground out to end the inning as CBU left the bags full.

A pair of free passes put runners at the corners for Christian Brothers in the bottom of the third and nobody out. A sacrifice fly tied the game at two as VSU went to the bullpen in favor of junior Nick Ferrara. Ferrara came up with two big strikeouts to get out of the inning, preserving the tie score.

VSU used the long ball in the top of the fourth with a solo home run from junior Jacob Harper for his third round-tripper of the year and a 3-2 lead. Ferrara then retired the Bucs in order in the bottom of the fourth for the first three-up-three-down frame.

In the top of the seventh, Crawford walked, stole second and moved to third on an error and then scored on an RBI triple from Canegitta for a 4-2 lead with two out. CBU began the bottom of the seventh with a double off relief pitcher Gates. Following an out, a single put runners at the corners for the Bucs. A sacrifice fly pulled CBU within 4-3 and a walk followed for two on with two out. On a 1-2 count, Gates induced a fielder's choice to get out of the inning.

A pair of singles put two on for the Bucs in the bottom of the eighth with one out. An error by the Blazers proved costly as CBU tied the game at four as VSU went to the bullpen, replacing Gates with junior Zane Stephens. On a 3-2 count, Stephens got the second out with a fielder's choice as CBU had runners at the corners with two away. A pair of walks plated a run for CBU's first lead of the game at 5-4. Stephens got a strikeout to send the game to the ninth with the Blazers needing a run.

Back-to-back walks put two on for the Blazers in the top of the ninth. A sacrifice bunt from sophomore Kevin Taylor moved the runners to second and third turning the lineup back to the top of the order. An intentional walk to Crawford loaded the bases. Canegitta hit the first grand slam of the season for an 8-5 lead.

In the bottom of the ninth, CBU used a leadoff walk on four pitches. VSU went to the bullpen, once again, brining in freshman Anthony Martens to replace Stephens. Martens walked the next batter as VSU had not thrown a strike in the inning to that point, brining the potential tying run to the plate. Martens righted the ship and got the first out as both runners advanced to second and third. On a 3-2 count, Martens then got a fly out to right field for a big second out and a pop up to first ended the game.

For the opener, VSU had eight runs on eight hits with one error, while CBU had five runs on ten hits and two errors. Crawford finished 2 for 3 with three runs scored, while Canegitta was 2 for 4 with a run scored, a grand slam, a triple and five RBI earning Guardian Bank Blazer Player of the Game honors. Harper finished 1 for 3 with two runs scored and one RBI. Stephens earned his second win of the week, improving to 2-1 on the year in 0.2 innings, walked three and fanned one, while Martens picked up his second save of the season.

The Blazers began the nightcap just as they started the first, Canegeitta singled, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. A walk to Gates followed and a triple from Sessa plated two runs. Harper singled home Sessa for a 3-0 lead and sophomore Hunter Stowe belted his first home run as a Blazer for a 5-0 lead. VSU added to its lead in the second with an RBI ground out by freshman Raynel Ortiz for a 6-0 lead.

Henderson had another strong start on the bump, but the Blazer defense committed three errors leading to five unearned runs in the bottom of the third as CBU cut the deficit to 6-5. VSU didn't sweat, however, as in the fifth Ortiz began the frame with a double and senior Bryson Gandy hit his sixth home run of the season for a 8-5 lead.

The Blazers retired the first two batters of the sixth quickly, but the fourth error of the game put a runner at first for CBU. Henderson came back with a big strikeout – his third of the game sent the contest to the seventh.

Two walks put two on for VSU in the top of the seventh with one out as the Blazers were looking to add to the lead. CBU went to the bullpen. A four pitch walk to junior pinch-hitter Preston Joye loaded the bases. Sophomore pinch-hitter Connor Morgan hit a sacrifice fly for a 9-5 lead. On a 3-2 count to sophomore Kevin Taylor, he walked as the pitch was in the dirt, plating Gandy for a 10-5 score. Junior Orlando Adams pitch hit and drew another walk to load the bases as CBU went to the bullpen, once again. CBU got a line out to get out of the inning.

Henderson went out to try for the complete game and quickly got the first out with a ground out. A single put a runner at first for CBU. A single and the fifth error of the game on the Blazers loaded the bases. Henderson came up with his fourth strikeout of the game for two out and induced the ground out to end the game.

In the nightcap, the Blazers scored ten runs on nine hits with an uncharacteristic season-high five errors. CBU had five runs on nine hits with one error. Canegitta went 3 for 5 with two runs scored, while Gandy was 1 for 3 with three runs scored and two RBI and a home run. Henderson (4-0) tossed a complete game, allowing nine hits, five unearned runs, walked none and fanned four earning Guardian Bank Blazer Player of the Game honors.