The Valdosta State softball team earned two Gulf South Conference wins on Saturday, sweeping a doubleheader against Delta State at Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park.
The defending national champion Blazers improved to 32-8, and 17-6 in conference play.
The Blazers scored seven runs in the bottom of the fifth, and won the first game 7-1. Then they broke a 3-3 tie with a solo home run in the fifth and three runs in the sixth, and held off a seventh inning rally by the Lady Statesmen to win the second game 7-5.
“We played good. We’ll take (two conference wins),” Valdosta State head coach Thomas Macera said.
Game 1: Valdosta State 7, Delta State 1
Valdosta State scored seven runs in the bottom of the fifth, and beat Delta State 7-1 in the first game.
For the first four innings, it was a scoreless pitcher’s duel between Valdosta State’s Hanna Lythberg and Delta State’s Miller Maddox.
Delta briefly took the lead with an unearned run in the top of the fifth. But the Blazers responded in a big way when they came to bat in the bottom half of the inning.
Leading off the bottom of the fifth, Hannah Strickland singled back through the box. April Collins laid down a bunt, and Maddox tried to throw Strickland out at second. But her throw pulled the second baseman off the bag, and Strickland was safe. Strickland was forced out at third on Courtney Albritton’s ground ball, then Morgan Johnson walked to load the bases. Shelby Altman singled to center, and Collins scored the Blazers’ first run of the game, tying the score. Ashley Steinhilber hit a line drive at Delta State shortstop Amber Adcock, but Adcock misplayed it, and Albritton ran home to score, giving the Blazers a 2-1 lead.
Delta State coach Casey Bourgoyne-Charles went her bullpen and replaced Maddox with Lauren Kendall. Kendall got Sarah Vaughn to fly out to center, but Johnson tagged up and scored. Kiley Rusen lined a single to center, and Altman slid into home to give the Blazers a 4-1 lead. Then Fran Johnson hit a long fly ball to left field. The ball went over the left fielder’s head and hit the La Quinta sign. Steinhilber and Rusen were running on contact, and both of them scored on the double. Then Strickland, batting for the second time in the inning, doubled into the gap in right center, bringing home Fran Johnson with the Blazers’ seventh run of the inning and making the score 7-1.
After the big inning, Lythberg (12-3) went to the circle and retired six of the last seven batters to close out the win. She pitched a complete game, and held Delta to one unearned run and four hits, while striking out five.
Early on, Lythberg and Maddox traded zeroes on the scoreboard. The Blazers had a runner on third with less than two outs in both the third and fourth innings, but couldn’t score in either inning.
Delta finally broke the tie with an unearned run in the top of the fifth. Mariah Alvarez reached on an error to start the inning. Emily Todd bunted Alvarez to second, then Memrie Corley reached on an infield single, putting runners on the corners with one out. Then Corley took off for second on a steal attempt, trying to start a double steal. Altman, VSU’s shortstop, caught Steinhilber’s throw, then without attempting a tag, she fired it right back to the Blazer catcher. But her throw was off the mark, and Alvarez scored, giving the Lady Statesmen a 1-0 lead.
But Delta’s lead wouldn’t last long.
Strickland went 2 for 3 with an RBI, and was the only VSU player to get more than one hit. Holland had two hits for Delta.