VALDOSTA, GA. (vstateblazers.com) — The No. 9 Valdosta State softball team struggled offensively on Friday afternoon in a 4-0 loss to West Florida in a winner's bracket game. The Blazers (35-9) fall into a 6 p.m. elimination game Friday evening against the winner of the No. 21 Rollins College vs. No. 3 Auburn Montgomery, who currently are playing an elimination game.
The winner of tonight's game will have to beat West Florida (33-14) twice on Saturday to win the regional. Saturday's Championship game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. first pitch at Steel's Diamond at Blazer Park.
Both the Blazers and Argos put multiple runners on base in the first inning and the Blazers had two on with one away in the bottom of the frame with a pair of walks to freshman Morgan Hill and senior Logan Hill. A fly out to left and a ground out got the Argos out of the jam unscathed.
With two out in the top of the third, Jacquelynne Poling hit an RBI double to left center for a 1-0 lead for the Argos. Ally Merrill followed with a single to center for runners at the corners. The Blazers got out of the jam with a pop out to first.
The Blazers began the third with two walks and a sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third with one out. The third walk of the inning loaded the bases for VSU. UWF got out of the jam with a huge double play to get out another jam.
UWF began the top of the fifth with a double to left from Teala Howard and a sacrifice bunt moved her to third. Poling put down a bunt for a squeeze and a 2-0 lead. UWF began the top of the sixth with a double to right from Courtney McLellan and a sacrifice bunt moved her to third. Blazer sophomore hurler Samantha Richards got her fourth strikeout of the game for the second out, but Kayanna Perez came up with an RBI infield single for a 3-0 lead on a 1-2 count.
VSU began the bottom of the sixth with a walk to L. Hill for the sixth free pass of the game by Argo starter Kelsey Sweatt. Following a fly out to left, Sweatt issued her seventh walk of the game. VSU hit its second inning-ending double play on a 3-2 count to pinch-hitter sophomore Taylor Lewis.
With one out in the top of the seventh, Poling went deep to right field for a 4-0 lead as VSU headed to its last at bat trailing by four. The Blazers went down in order in the seventh.
Sweatt improved to 16-3 on the year as she went the distance for the shutout, holding the high-powered Blazer offense to a season-low one hit (previous low three at Montevallo in a 2-0 loss Mar. 7) and it marked just the third time this season VSU was shutout. Sweatt allowed one hit, walked seven and fanned five for the game.
Richards (24-6) went all seven innings, allowing 11 hits, four earned runs, walked none and fanned four. Senior Lacey Crandall had the lone hit for the Blazers in the game, while Poling went 3 for 4 with a run scored and three RBI for the Argos.