The Valdosta Daily Times
Any chance Albany State had Thursday at Billy Grant Field was erased by six Colby Wisdom pitches.
The Valdosta State junior relief pitcher entered with the bases loaded and no outs in the third inning. He promptly got a strikeout and a double-play grounder to snuff out the threat and the Blazers rolled on to a 15-7 win in their final tuneup prior to Gulf South Conference play. VSU, which is 6-0, hosts Shorter in a Saturday doubleheader at 1 p.m.
“Colby Wisdom’s done that a couple times this year when I’ve brought him in with a jam and he’s gotten us out of it,” VSU coach Greg Guilliams said. “That’s what you hope happens when you bring that guy in. It doesn’t always work out like that, but that’s what you hope.
“We turned a nice double play and really took the momentum away from them and they never seemed to really get back into it.”
After John Paul Benard singled to left to open the inning, the 2-5 Rams’ first hit, Michael Byron reached when the Blazers mishandled his bunt attempt. Hector Carrasquillo then reached when pitcher Cameron Tewksbury couldn’t field his bunt. That prompted Guilliams to call for Wisdom and the left-hander took care of business. He struck out ASU leadoff hitter Bradley Piggee and then got Joseph Virgo to hit into the inning-ending double play to keep the Blazers ahead 4-0.
The Blazers, who entered averaging more than 12 runs per game, scored twice in four of the first five innings, including each of the first three as they built an 8-0 lead.
Then after Albany State pushed across two runs in the sixth on a two-run single from Benard with two outs, VSU answered back with the knockout blow. Sending 12 hitters to the plate, the Blazers needed just three hits to score seven times in the bottom of the inning.
Bryant Hayman and Jimmy Dowdell each drew walks and after a sacrifice bunt advanced them to second and third, Michael Gouge, who scored three runs, was hit by a pitch for the second time. Matt Fitzsimmons then on an error that plated one run and Hunter Thompson then was hit by a pitch to end Frank Rivers’ day. One out later, Matthew Fears and Mike Reed both singled to drive in a run and Hayman then blasted a three-run double to extend the lead to 15-2. Hayman, the Blazers’ preseason All-American, went 2-for-4 with four RBIs as he also doubled in Clint Carr in the second to put VSU up 4-0.
“Once we put up that seven-spot, it was pretty much over,” Guilliams said.
Fears, Reed — the reigning GSC Player of the Week — Cruz and Carr all had two hits as well, as the Blazers finished with 12 against eight ASU pitchers. The Rams also walked four Blazers and hit five more.
“They had to be real careful not to use their front-end pitching, and we’re in the same situation, and their guys had some command issues,” Guilliams added. “But our pitchers did a good job of not chasing pitches. We got some walks, and then, we came through with some big hits.”
Staked with that huge lead, the Blazers allowed runs in each of the final four innings as Albany State scored the game’s final five runs. VSU, which used seven pitchers of its own, walked seven hitters and the Blazers also committed four errors. Four of the walks and three of the errors came in the final three innings as the Rams rallied to make the score respectable.
“The only thing I was disappointed with was just how sloppy it got at the end,” Guilliams said. “My expectation is, regardless of who’s out there, that we do a better job playing against the game.”