The Valdosta Daily Times
When Shelby Altman transferred to Valdosta State from the University of Georgia, expectations for a productive season were abound.
On Saturday against West Georgia, Altman showed just how productive she could be for the Blazers.
The junior, Altman, slugged four home runs, as sophomore Courtney Albritton added two more homers, and the second-ranked Blazers won a pair of run-rule shortened games over the Wolves, 10-1 and 16-1, at Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park.
The victories for the Blazers (22-5) came without two key starters. Second baseman Karson King was out with a knee injury suffered last weekend, while starting third baseman Hannah Strickland was out after being hit with a ball in the head during a practice this week.
“I am impressed with my team, to be honest,” Valdosta State head coach Thomas Macera said. “We’ve had some injuries; we’ve had to put some kids in there and make some moves. My infield is completely different than what it’s been. We were worried coming in. West Georgia has not been beaten down like that all year.”
Altman is the first Blazer to hit four home runs in the same calendar day, and three in a single game, since former Blazer Samantha Posey, who hit for the home run cycle against Albany State in 2011.
“I just had to step up today,” Altman said. “The fact that we had two of our family members down, we knew we had to pick them up and play hard for them....It is just awesome to be out here in this atmosphere.”
The home runs by Altman, who finished the day 5 for 6 with 8 runs batted in and five runs scored, and Albritton (4 for 6, 6 RBI, 5 runs) were just a piece of the hitting for the Blazers on Saturday. They finished the doubleheader with 21 combined hits, including 15 in the game two rout of the Wolves.
Altman’s home run hitting day began in the fourth inning of game two, when she hit a two-run homer to put the Blazers ahead 10-1.
Then in the second game, Altman sent two home runs over the fence in the first inning, which featured the Blazers score 10 runs and send 13 batters to the plate.
Altman capped off her home run day with a solo shot in the fourth inning of game two.
“Our No. 4 hitter is out and King is a great hitter, and that is what you need; you need kids to step up,” Macera said. “Shelby, oh my gosh, they couldn’t get her out. They pitched around her and she still hit the ball. I’m very impressed with her game today.”
Albritton’s two home runs both came in game two. She homered on her second at-bat of the first inning, a 3-run homer that scored Fran Johnson and April Collins.
She hit a solo home run again in the fourth inning, which put the Blazers ahead 15-1.
“It was exciting. I think we really needed it to boost up our confidence and everything,” Albritton said. “It gives us a lot of energy going into (today) and hopefully we can do it again.”
The Blazers’ most productive innings Saturday were the first innings. In game one, the Blazers scored eight runs off the Wolves, before scoring 10 runs in the first inning of game two.
In both first innings, the Blazers sent 13 batters to the plate. In game one, they scored eight runs on just four hits, taking advantage of four West Georgia walks and a costly two-out error.
In the second game, the Blazers sent 13 batters to the plate in the first inning, but managed seven hits, including the three combined home runs by Altman and Albritton.
Following the 10-run first inning in game two, the Blazers added another run in the second inning when Sarah Vaughn (3 for 5, 4 runs scored and 2 RBI), scored on a single by Collins.
“Everybody hit today,” Macera said. “Collins came in that second game as a (designated hitter) and she was 2 for 2, coming off the bench; that is a great job on her part. We had kids come off the bench today and filled in and did a great job.”
Valdosta State added three more runs in the third inning, as Altman, Steinhilber and Vaughn all scored on RBIs from Kiley Rusen, Fran Johnson (2 for 5, 3 RBI, 2 runs) and Angela O’Connor.
The Blazers capped their scoring in the fourth inning with the final two homers from Altman and Albritton.
On the day, six different Blazers recorded multiple hits, eight different batters drove in runs and 11 different Blazers scored runs.
“They were just really focused today,” Macera said.
In the circle, Brianna Hancock earned the game one victory for the Blazers. The junior right-hander was relatively efficient on the afternoon, finishing the day with just one blunder; she allowed a meaningless home run to West Georgia in the fifth inning.
Hancock struck out eight and allowed the one run on three hits and improved her record to 7-2 on the season.
In game two, Hanna Lythberg struck out five batters and allowed one run, which came in the first inning, on four hits. She is now 7-2 on the season.
Valdosta State hosts Shorter University for a doubleheader today at 1 p.m. Shorter won the National Athletic Intercollegiate Association national championship last season.
NOTES: Prior to Saturday’s doubleheader, VSU athletics officially changed the softball field’s name to ‘Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park.’