The Valdosta Daily Times
After not playing in over a week, the Valdosta State softball team finally got back onto the field Tuesday night, albeit in cold, blustery conditions.
The Blazers did their best to get out of the cold as fast as possible, winning both games against Albany State by run-rule in the fifth inning.
The Blazers racked up a combined 17 hits and routed the Golden Rams 11-3 and 9-0, improving to 25-6 overall this season.
“You could tell we hadn’t played in a week-and-a-half,” Valdosta State coach Thomas Macera said. “It took us a little bit of time to get going.”
Tuesday’s games came after the Blazers flew to Memphis, Tenn. this past weekend for a pair of conference doubleheaders that were eventually rained out, forcing the team to sit around hotels for three days.
“Being on the road and sitting in hotels for three days, not playing games, if we didn’t get along we might’ve had problems,” Macera said, when asked if the trip brought his team closer together. “We get along well. It was a great trip as far as that is concerned.”
The Blazers arrived home in Valdosta around 2 a.m. Monday morning, making for a quick turnaround Tuesday afternoon.
With the lack of games played last weekend, Macera said he thought Tuesday’s games against Albany State were critical before going on the road this weekend to face North Alabama and Union in league play.
“It was good we finally got to play, because I did not want to have to go to North (Alabama) sitting two full weeks,” Macera said. “They gave us a fit last time. We split with North Alabama.”
As for Tuesday, the Blazers broke open a 2-2 tie in game one by scoring nine straight runs to win 11-3. In game two, they scored a pair of runs in the third inning on a Courtney Albritton home run — her 15th of the season, the second most in the country — before scoring seven runs in the fourth inning to pull away.
“In game two, they played us tight there; they had a chance to go up on us, but we stepped up and made some plays,” Macera said. “We made some good plays, which I am happy to see that.”
After scoring a pair of runs in the first inning of game one, only to see Albany State hit a two-run homer in the second inning to knot the game even, the Blazers scored four runs in the second and third innings before adding another in the fourth.
Seven different Blazers scored runs in the game, including Albritton, Kiley Rusen and Fran Johnson, each of whom scored two runs.
Albritton also drove in a pair of runs in the win, coming on a double in the third inning. Senior Sarah Vaughn drove in both runs in the first inning, scoring Albritton and Shelby Altman.
In the second inning, Fran Johnson, Hannah Strickland and Altman each drove in runs, while Rusen, Johnson, Strickland and April Collins scored runs.
In the third inning, three of VSU’s runs — Rusen, Fran Johnson and Collins — reached base on walks, before Albritton connected on her two-run double, later scoring on a wild pitch.
In the fourth inning, Vaughn scored on a single to right field by Rusen.
In game two, Albritton’s home run gave the Blazers a 2-0 lead, before they scored seven runs on four hits and three Golden Ram errors in the fourth inning.
In the inning, it was a bases clearing three-run double by Ashley Steinhilber that gave the Blazers enough runs to win in the fifth inning, by run-rule.
At the plate, Albritton led the Blazers, going 3 for 6 with four runs scored and five RBIs on the day.
In the circle, Brianna Hancock (9-2) allowed three runs — two earned — on five hits in game one. In game two, Hanna Lythberg (5-2) allowed no runs on two hits, striking out eight in five innings.
Valdosta State visits North Alabama Friday and Union on Saturday.