The Valdosta Daily Times
Valdosta State’s softball team swept a doubleheader against West Alabama on Saturday at Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park.
The Blazers won the first game 5-2, then earned a 13-2 mercy rule victory in game 2.
Valdosta State head coach Thomas Macera was pleased with his team’s performance.
“They played very, very well,” Macera said. “We made one error on a hard-hit ball, but that was it. One error. They made some great plays today. The pitching was on target. (West Alabama) only had one big hit the whole day, and that’s a team that’s batting .350. They’re second in the conference in hitting, ahead of us, and we shut them down. The girls played well today.”
Valdosta State grabbed the early lead in the first game with a run in the bottom of the second. Kiley Rusen started the inning with a single. Brittany Britt pinch ran for Rusen and was bunted to second by Fran Johnson. Britt moved to third on a ground out, then April Collins doubled to left and drove in Britt to give the Blazers a 1-0 lead.
The Blazers added two more runs in the third. Shelby Altman led off the inning with a double to left and Ashley Steinhilber walked. Sarah Vaughn lined out to second, but the runners moved up on a throwing error. Rusen followed with a single to center, and Altman and Steinhilber came home to give Valdosta State a 3-0 lead.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Morgan Johnson singled and Altman was hit by a pitch. Then Steinhilber singled just out of the reach of a diving center fielder, and Johnson, running on contact, scored to make it 4-0.
West Alabama scored twice in the top of the fifth. With one out, Kelsey Cooper doubled and moved to third on a single by Stephanie Shoup. Rusen made a diving catch to rob Scarlett Wright for the second out, but a walk loaded the bases. Anna Shartzer followed with a single to left, which scored both Cooper and Shoup and cut VSU’s lead to 4-2.
Valdosta State scored its final run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Collins led off with a single. Two outs later, Altman walked. Steinhilber singled up the middle, and Collins scored to give the Blazers a 5-2 lead.
Valdosta State pitcher Hanna Lythberg (8-3) pitched a complete game, allowing two runs and four hits and striking out five. West Alabama ace Sarah Ray gave up 10 hits and five runs in six innings to fall to 14-6.
In game 2, the rout began when the Blazers struck for four runs in the bottom of the second.
Fran Johnson was hit by a pitch to start the second inning, and Collins and Courtney Albritton drew one-out walks to load the bases. Morgan Johnson followed with a two-run single, scoring Fran Johnson and Collins. Morgan Johnson stole second, and when the throw went into center field, Albritton scored. Johnson went to third on the play, and scored on Steinhilber’s sacrifice fly, giving the Blazers a 4-0 lead.
VSU added three more runs in the third inning. Rusen led off with a single to center. Britt pinch ran for her and stole second, then went to third on Fran Johnson’s bunt single and scored on a wild pitch. Hanna Strickland followed with a double off of the Mediacom sign in center field, and Johnson came around to score. Collins bunted Strickland to third, and Strickland scored on a wild pitch, making the score 7-0.
Then the Blazers exploded for six runs in the bottom of the fourth. Lindsey Hamlin led off with a single, then Rusen doubled off of the Langdale Ford sign in left center, putting two runners on with no outs. Fran Johnson laid down a squeeze bunt, and pinch runner Sarah Vaughn slid across home plate to give the Blazers an 8-0 lead. Strickland walked to load the bases, then Collins singled over the second baseman’s head, scoring Rusen.
One out later, with the bases still loaded, Morgan Johnson stepped up to the plate and blasted a pitch over the center field fence for a grand slam. That extended the Blazers’ lead to 13-0.
West Alabama’s Rebecca Schick hit a two-out, two-run home run in the top of the fifth inning for UWA’s only runs of the game.
The game ended after the top of the fifth, due to the mercy rule.
Valdosta State’s Brianna Hancock pitched a complete game, allowing three hits and two runs, and improved to 11-3.
West Alabama’s Jessica Brock gave up four runs on two hits and five walks in 2 1/3 innings to fall to 4-8.
Morgan Johnson was 3 for 6 with three runs scored and six RBIs in the doubleheader. Rusen finished the day with four hits, while Collins was 3 for 4 with three runs scored.
Today, Valdosta State will host Alabama-Huntsville. Because heavy rains are expected this afternoon, the first game of the doubleheader has been moved to 10 a.m. It will be Pack the Park Day.