The Valdosta Daily Times
Pete Whittingslow stole the show Saturday and was everything an ace of a pitching staff should be: An ace.
Going head-to-head with Jamie Sexton, West Georgia’s best pitcher and the two-time conference pitcher of the week, Whittingslow delivered the best game of his career and carried the Blazers to a 5-1 series-clinching victory over the Wolves.
The Blazers followed up Whittingslow’s win with a 6-1 loss to the Wolves later in the day to finish the weekend with a 2-1 record.
“I’m happy with it,” Whittingslow said of his performance. “I got to go against their best guy and I’ve been looking forward to it all week. So when I came out here I just really put in an effort to get guys out and have a good game.”
Mission accomplished. Whittingslow recorded plenty of outs and had more than a good game.
Whittingslow put together one of the most dominating pitching performances the Blazers have seen this season, maybe only second to Nick Fogarty’s perfect game in February.
“Pete had a good fastball and he was able to locate,” Valdosta State coach Greg Guilliams said. “Gosh, if a pitcher can locate pitches, you can call whatever you want. Pete did a good job going inside-out. Pete just made it look pretty easy.”
After allowing a one-out single in the first inning, Whittingslow retired 24 straight batters, including six straight by strikeout, and looked as though he was unstoppable — or better yet, unhittable.
“I told Pete, I said, ‘I don’t mean to put any pressure on you but the guy we are facing today, the most runs he has given up is two,’” Guilliams explained. “And he said, ‘hey, that doesn’t bother me at all. I’ll throw a shutout.’ That is just how Pete is.”
Whittingslow’s streak of 24 straight retired batters came to an end in the ninth inning, when he allowed a one-out single to West Georgia leadoff batter Shaquille Jackson, which also cost him his shutout.
Jackson’s single scored Tyler Landmon from second base, after a throwing error by VSU catcher Bryant Hayman allowed Landmon to reach base and advance to second.
Hayman’s error came when he was throwing to first base to complete Whittingslow’s 11th strikeout of the day, but his throw was low and went between Jake Montgomery’s legs and into right field.
West Georgia’s run was unearned, and ended a 28-inning streak where Valdosta State pitching didn’t allow a run, the fourth longest such streak in Gulf South Conference history.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little frustrating,” Whittingslow said. “But at the same time, I have the utmost confidence in Hayman.”
Along with being overpowering and dominating, Whittingslow was efficient, too. Of his 110 pitches, 80 were strikes.
“Our coaches called a great game and they do a great job during the week of getting us synched into our mechanics,” Whittingslow said. “Once we get out there, it is just a matter of repeating those mechanics, and as the innings kept going on and on, I felt more in a groove.”
Whittingslow found his groove early, striking out the final two batters of the first inning, the entire side in the second and the first batter he faced in the third inning.
He carried that momentum forward, and didn’t allow a single walk or hit until the single in the ninth inning.
“I knew it was going on,” Whittingslow said. “But every time I took the mound, I just thought, ‘lets get the first out, the second, then the third.’ It wasn’t so much how many in a row, but just get one at a time.”
While Whittingslow dominated, Sexton struggled and had his worst outing of the season for the Wolves. The Blazers managed to get four runs off Sexton and became the first team to score more than two runs off the senior right-hander this season.
The Blazers scored three runs in the fourth inning and added another in the seventh and eighth innings.
Nick Rodda started the fourth inning with a single, Hayman reached base on a hit-by-pitch, and Jake Fields walked to load the bases for the Blazers.
Then, Cooper Lemonds flew out to center field to score Rodda, and Michael Gouge cleared the bases with a one-out single. The Blazers led 3-0.
In both the seventh and eighth innings the Blazers used leadoff triples to score their final two runs. Hunter Thompson tripled to left center to start the seventh and scored on a single by Jake Montgomery. Hayman then started the eighth with a triple and scored on a single by Fields.
In game two, West Georgia scored three runs in the first inning and two more in the second to take a 5-0 lead. The Wolves took advantage of three Valdosta State errors, including two in the second inning.
VSU starter Nick Fogarty was pulled after just 2/3 innings pitched, allowing three runs on four hits. He was replaced by Ben Weil and three other relievers.
The Wolves held onto their 5-0 lead until the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Matthew Fears scored off a Hayman single for the Blazers.
West Georgia added another run in the top of the seventh inning, coming off another Valdosta State error.
Following the loss, Guilliams pulled his team aside and laid into them for an effort he didn’t like.
“I’d say disappointed,” Guilliams told media. “After playing such a good first game. We were able to play, I thought, the best we had all year, and for us to come out in that second game and play so poorly, it was just disappointing.”