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Valdosta State wins first game of NCAA Division II Super South Regional softball series

Game 2 Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET
051922 vsu softball super south regional game 1.jpg
Posted at 11:22 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 23:22:16-04

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The No. 12-ranked Valdosta State softball team scored five runs in the first two innings and used a record-setting pitching performance from junior Samantha Richards as it upset No. 3-ranked Auburn Montgomery, 5-1 Thursday in the first game of a best-of-three series in the NCAA South Super Regional.

The Blazers (38-12) are one victory away from clinching a berth in the NCAA Division II National Championship Round for the second-straight year and sixth time in program history. Game two of the series is set for 4:30 p.m. ET Friday.

Just like in the South Region #2 pod last week in Tampa, VSU scored first in the contest in the first inning as sophomore Morgan Hill began the game with a single to left center. Senior Nikki Pennington walked and graduate Ally Clegg was plunked by the Alanna Goble offering to load the bases.

Sophomore Aniston Gano singled to center for a 1-0 lead and then sophomore Taylor Macera hit a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead, chasing Goble from the game after just two thirds of an inning. Against Tampa in the South Region #2 Pod, VSU scored all four of its runs in the first inning in splitting the two final games to advance to the super regionals.

In the top of the second, senior Baylee Everson singled to second base, followed by an RBI triple from junior Hunter Meadows for a 3-0 lead.

It was Meadows' first triple of the season and just the fifth three-bagger of the year for the Blazers. A ground out from Hill plated Meadows and Clegg then belted her 15th home run of the season to lead the team for a 5-0 lead.

It also was the first home run of the NCAA postseason for the Blazers as they hadn't hit once since a 6-4 loss to AUM on May 6, in the Gulf South Conference Tournament in Oxford, Ala., for a span of four games.

Richards retired the first six Warhawks, but Faith Wheat began the bottom of the third with a single down the left field line and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. A ground out followed for two away, but an error by the Blazers plated Wheat for a 5-1 score.

The Warhawks had runners at second and third with two away, but Richards and the Blazers worked out of it with a fly out to left field as Everson caught the final out in each of the first three innings.

Yevak held the Blazers in check offensively retiring 12-straight until Everson singled down the left field line in the top of the seventh for her team-leading second hit of the game. Prior to that, Richards became just the third player in GSC history to reach 300 strikeouts in season in the bottom of the sixth fanning Lexi Love as AUM had a runner at second.

Richards joins Amber Browning of West Florida with 380 strikeouts in 2005 and Lindsey Kight of Arkansas-Monticello with 308 in 2003 as the only players over 300 K's in a season in league history.

In the bottom of the seventh, back-to-back walks began the frame. A strikeout to Haley Ann Frank and Olivia Aycock lined into a double play at third as Clegg fired a great ball to first for the twin killing to end the game.

Richards improved to 28-9 on the year, going all seven innings, allowing three hits, one unearned run, walked two and fanned seven for 301 K's for the season. Goble (15-4) took the loss in 0.2 innings, allowing two hits, two earned runs and walked one.

Ferguson pitched one inning, allowing three hits, three earned runs and fanned one, while Yevak went 5.1 innings, allowing the one hit to Everson in the seventh.

Everson went 2 for 3 with a run scored, while Clegg was 1 for 2 with a solo home run. Hill finished 1 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI and Meadows was 1 for 3 with a run scored and one RBI on the three-bagger.

Wheat led the way for AUM going 1 for 2 with a walk and a run scored.