Valdosta Daily Times

April 17, 2014

Blazers try to garner momentum in GSC finale

Staff Reports
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State snapped its six-game losing streak a week ago. Now the Blazers are hoping to wrap up its Gulf South Conference schedule with some momentum ahead of next month’s conference tournament.

Winners of two straight overall, the Blazers (23-16 and 13-12 in the GSC) conclude conference play when Lee visits Billy Grant Field for a three-game series that begins at 5 p.m. today. It concludes with a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday. VSU broke a six-game skid, both overall and in the conference, when it beat West Georgia 5-4 on Sunday and has the chance against the 26-17 Flames, who are 12-12 in the conference, to build some momentum.

VSU has some rolling after Wednesday’s win at No. 23 Georgia College. The Blazers racked up a season-high 19 hits against the Bobcats, led by Mike Reed’s five hits. Reed, a junior, is hitting. 371 with a league-high 47 runs and 20 stolen bases, tied for top in the GSC. Matthew Fears leads the team with a .380 average — second in the league — as seven Blazers are hitting .300 or better. That includes Bryant Hayman, who leads the team and the league with nine home runs, 50 RBIs and a .650 slugging percentage along with a .343 average that ranks just outside the top 10.

VSU is led on the mound by Dom DeMasi, who has thrown 70 innings with a 2.57 ERA and a league-best 66 strikeouts, and Josh Mann, who has 42 strikeouts and a 3.57 ERA in 58 innings.

The Flames’ top two arms are Jeremy Stawychny and Dustin Lawson, who have ERAs of 2.99 and 3.00 respectively while making 22 starts combined. Jeremy Bales has thrown 33 innings in 18 appearances out of the Lee bullpen with a 0.27 ERA.

Lee’s offenseis led by Nathan Wierzgac’s .404 average in 57 at-bates, while Derrick Pitts (.349), Zacary Hawkins (.322) and Siosi Poti (.300) are all hitting .300 or better as well. Poti has stolen 28 bases.

UAB to host GSC baseball tournament

The Gulf South Conference baseball tournament will again be on neutral ground as the University of Alabama-Birmingham will host the eight-team tournament, the conference announced Thursday.

The GSC and UAB have agreed in principle to hold the tournament at Young Memorial Field, keeping the tournament at a neutral site for the 13th consecutive season. It also marks the first time that the tournament will take place in Birmingham, Ala, and at UAB. Young Memorial Field seats 1,000.

“We are delighted to bring our baseball championship tournament to the Magic City, home of so many other great college sports events,” GSC Commissioner Nate Salant said in a release. “It’s always a challenge to find centrally-located neutral sites for baseball, so we were fortunate that UAB has an away series and that the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s athletic director, Dr. EJ Brophy, has strong ties to UAB. He was very helpful with getting this done, and UAH will serve as the host school.

“The GSC will play at a great facility in a central location at a major D1 school, so we are deeply indebted to UAB Director of Athletics Brian Mackin, Director of Facilities and Operations Reid Adair and their veteran baseball coach Brian Shoop, for welcoming us with open arms.”

The tournament is slated to begin May 2 and run through May 6. Valdosta State is the defending tournament champions, as the Blazers won four of five games in Chattanooga, Tenn.