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Strong Pitching and Defense Leads No. 12 Blazers to South Regional-Opening Victory, 1-0

strong Pitching and Defense Leads No. 12 Blazers to South Regional-Opening Victory
Posted at 11:48 PM, May 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 23:48:09-04

TAMPA, Fla. (VALDOSTA STATE ATHLETICS) — Behind a strong pitching outing from junior Samantha Richards, the No. 12 Valdosta State softball team scored one run in the fourth inning and it stood up in a 1-0 victory over Rollins College in the second game of the NCAA South Regional #2 Thursday afternoon.

The Blazers (35-11) now will battle No. 2-seed and No. 6-ranked Tampa (36-11) in the winner's bracket game Friday at 12 p.m. Click here for the NCAA South Region #2 Championship webpage, while the game will be broadcast on 94.3 WJEM FM in Valdosta with Matt Malone having the call and on Tampa scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh to upend No. 7-seed Embry-Riddle in the first game Thursday.

Rollins (31-11) loaded the bases in the first and third innings, but Richards and the Blazers were up to the task each time with Richards getting a strikeout to end the threat in the first and a ground out in the third. VSU then began the bottom of the third with a single to left from junior Taylor Lewis for the first hit of the contest for the Blazers. An infield single from redshirt senior Baylee Everson followed and a ground out moved the runners to second and third. Sophomore Morgan Hill reached on a fielder's choice as the Tars came up with a play at the plate to preserve the scoreless game. A ground out to second ended the threat.

VSU used a leadoff single from graduate Ally Clegg in the bottom of the fourth and a free pass to sophomore Aniston Gano followed. Sophomore Katie Proctor put down a great bunt and sophomore Taylor Macera came up with an RBI single up the middle, plating Clegg, but freshman pinch-runner Bobbi Poff was thrown out at home for the second out.

The Blazers then loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth with an Everson single to third, but she was picked off and junior Hunter Meadows reached on an error and advanced to second. A pair of walks by Tars' hurler Ashley Worrell (16-6) loaded the bags, but she came up with a ground out to end the inning.

Richards retired the final ten batters of the game, including the final six in the sixth and seventh innings to preserve the victory. It was the first 1-0 victory for the Blazers this season and the first since defeating Azusa Pacific (Calif.) on Feb. 9, 2019, snapping a string of four-straight losses by the score of 1-0. VSU also posted a 1-0 victory on Tampa's field in a 1-0 victory over the Spartans in the NCAA Regional on May 11, 2014, scoring on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh.

For the game Thursday, VSU scored one run on five hits with one error, while Rollins had no runs on three hits and one error. Richards pitched her 27th compete game of the season improved to 26-8 and her seventh shutout of the season. She allowed three hits, walked two and fanned six. Richards now has 587 career strikeouts and 287 this season. Offensively, Clegg went 1 for 2 with a run scored and a walk, while Macera was 1 for 3 with the winning RBI. Everson went 2 for 2 in the game, while Lewis was 1 for 3. Worrell went all six innings, allowing five hits, one earned run, walked four and fanned one.

VSU improved to 57-38 all-time in the NCAA postseason in its 19th appearance in program history. The 57 victories are good for eighth-most all-time in Division II. VSU won the national championship exactly ten years ago in 2012, and was runner-up in 2010 and 2014.