The Valdosta Daily Times
All games within the Gulf South Conference hold the same weight when it comes to determining the standings.
But even Valdosta State coach Greg Guilliams wouldn’t deny that his No. 4 Blazers begin a huge series today in Pensacola, Fla., against No. 2 West Florida. The three-game showdown starts with a 2 p.m. doubleheader. Game 3 is slated for Sunday at 2 p.m., although inclement weather is also expected Sunday.
“In conference play, in the grand scheme of things every weekend is just as important as the next because it’s all based on your overall conference record,” Guilliams said as the Blazers are off to a 10-0 start overall, the best in recorded school history, which dates back to 1978. VSU is also 3-0 in the conference, tied atop the standings with the 8-2 Argonauts after the first weekend.
“So technically, no one game is any more important than any other game. Now, having said that, you go in and our guys know, too, that West Florida has a good team.”
The Argos certainly have a good pitching staff, including reigning GSC Pitcher of the Week in Jordan DeLorenzo. The junior left-hander, who also was named the National Pitcher of the Week, has fired 23 1-3 innings in three starts, allowing just 14 hits to 16 strikeouts with a 1.16 ERA. Dawson Brown has a 2.60 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 17 1-3 innings. Overall, West Florida has a 2.87 ERA.
“I’m really excited about that,” VSU junior shortstop Mike Reed said about facing the Argonauts. “I hear they have really nice facilities down there and I hear they’re a real legit team, and I’m excited for us to have competition like that.”
The Blazers counter with their own stout rotation as right-hander Dom DeMasi has dominated in the early going. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior has yet to allow a run in 17 2-3 innings in three starts with 17 strikeouts. Left-hander Josh Mann has struck out 19 and has posted a 1.17 ERA in 15 1-3 innings, while Jarrod Stanley threw five shutout innings in his start against Shorter on Sunday. Closer Ethan Bornstein is also unscored upon with 12 strikeouts in nine innings.
And as well as VSU has pitched, it may be more dangerous offensively. Reed has won back-to-back GSC Player of the Week awards and is hitting .548 with 16 runs and 16 RBIs. Preseason All-American Bryant Hayman has added a .353 average with three home runs and 20 RBIs as six Blazer regulars are hitting above .300 with a team average of .334. VSU averages 10.6 runs per game, held to fewer than 10 just three times.
That is in contrast to the Argos, who only have Alex Greene hitting above .300 at .353 with four runs and one RBI. Austin Southall is the next leading UWF hitter at .273 while Jeremy Bajdaun is hitting .265 with two home runs and a team-high 12 RBIs.
“They usually play really well at home and last year we played three really close games there,” Guilliams added. “We lost all three but they were all real good games. I don’t know why this year would be any different as far as three close ballgames.
“For us to be successful, we’re going to have to have our A game out.”
Said Reed: “I’m pretty excited for the matchup this weekend, it should be fun.”
VSU softball looks to continue streak
Also looking to have fun is the VSU softball team, which has won three straight games. The Blazers are 9-5 overall and 1-2 in the Gulf South after dropping the first two games last weekend against Shorter. The first two games are today, starting at 5 p.m. Sunday’s Game 3 is at 2 p.m.
Since then, though, VSU’s offense has broken loose. Starting with the 10-2 win against the Hawks to close out the opening weekend, the Blazers have hit .375 with 25 runs, eight doubles, a triple and four home runs. Courtney Albritton, the reigning GSC Player of the Week, who has six home runs with 21 runs and 14 RBIs and is hitting .385. Also keying the VSU attack are Kiley Rusen, who is hitting .404 with 17 RBIs and three home runs; Chelsea Canara with her .400 average and 12 RBIs. Shelby Altman and Karson King have had big weeks as well.
Also excelling this week have been starting pitchers Brianna Hancock and Maci Fletcher. Hancock, a senior, has a 2.22 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 56 2-3 innings; while Fletcher, a freshman that made her debut in the second game against Shorter, has a 1.56 ERA and two strikeouts in nine innings.
West Florida, which is 10-10 overall and 1-2 in conference, is paced offensively by Jessica Wilkinson and her .303 average with five doubles and two home runs. Rebecca Hein is the Argos’ top pitcher.