VALDOSTA, Ga. - Two strong pitching performances led to a pair of non-conference wins for Valdosta State softball over the Albany State Golden Rams (11-1, 8-1) at Steel's Diamond at Blazer Parkon Thursday evening in Valdosta, Ga.
Caitlyn Calhoun set the tone for Valdosta State early, recording eight of Albany State's first nine outs in the game by way of strikeouts. Toni Coleman squeezed in ASU's only hit in the first three innings in the second, a leadoff solo shot to left center. The homer matched VSU's early first inning run, which Jaime Phillips scored after leading off the bottom of the opening frame with a double before advancing to third and scoring on back-to-back groundouts by Kiley Rusen and Hayley Cruthers.
With the score knotted up at 1-1 in the third, Head Coach Thomas Macera's lineup broke loose in the bottom half of the inning for five runs on three hits. Danielle Patterson reached to start the inning after she was hit by a Taylor Massey pitch, and Phillips followed with a walk. Rusen drove in both runners with a ringing double off of the right field wall, and Cruthers followed with her first base hit of the game to place runners at the corners. Rusen crossed as the third run of the inning after swiping home on Zorria Mann's attempt to throw out a stealing Cruthers at second base. Heather Robinson launched the ball out of the yard on the next at bat for a two-run blast that put VSU on top 6-1.
The Blazers scored five more runs over the next two innings and secured the abbreviated victory in the bottom of the fifth with a three-run, opposite-field blast to the opposite field in left center. Of VSU's 11 runs, five were driven in by Rusen and three were plated by Robinson.
Calhoun, the reigning Gulf South Conference Pitcher of the Week, finished the opener with 12 strikeouts, no walks, and just three hits allowed.
Huntyre Elling picked up right where Calhoun left off in the second game of the day, holding Albany State to just one run over seven innings of work while allowing six hits and no walks.
The Blazers scored a single run in both the second and the third innings, before Albany State trimmed VSU's lead to 2-1 after Malea Maye led off the fourth inning with a double and came in to score later in the inning.
Valdosta State's offense left little room for doubt in the fifth, however, sending ten batters to the plate for six runs on four hits and three ASU errors. Phillips sparked the big inning with a leadoff solo homer to center field, and both Brandy Morgan and pinch hitter Falisia Murphy picked up RBI's in the half-inning.
With the win, VSU improved to 30-9-2 on the year, while the Golden Rams fell to 13-27 overall.
Valdosta State will host Alabama-Huntsville this weekend for a huge GSC series, beginning on Saturday with a doubleheader at1:00 p.m. Legendary VSU baseball coach Tommy Thomas will throw out the first pitch prior to the game, and Blazer softball will also recognize the members of the 2016 senior class before the series opener.