The Valdosta Daily Times
PENSACOLA, Fla. —
The Valdosta State softball team earned two Gulf South Conference victories on Wednesday, sweeping a doubleheader against West Florida.
Courtney Albritton hit a seventh inning home run to propel Valdosta State to a 5-4 victory in game 1, while the Blazers used a six-run first inning to claim an 11-5 victory in game 2.
With the wins, the top-ranked Blazers are now 18-3 this season, and 5-1 in the Gulf South Conference.
In game 1, the score was tied 4-4 when Albritton stepped into the box to lead off the top of the seventh, and drilled a pitch over the fence for a solo home run, giving the Blazers a 5-4 lead.
VSU starter Brianna Hancock (5-1) held the Argonauts scoreless in the bottom of the seventh, and closed out the win.
Valdosta State opened the scoring in the top of the third inning. With one out, Hannah Strickland doubled to right center and Albritton walked, and the runners moved up on a fly out by Morgan Johnson. Then Shelby Altman singled through the right side, scoring Strickland and Albritton and giving VSU a 2-0 lead.
West Florida (10-8, 4-2) got a run back in the bottom of the third when Hannah Dowling scored on a throwing error on a fielder’s choice. But VSU’s Ashley Steinhilber hit her third home run of the season in the fourth inning to put the Blazers in front 3-1.
Dowling drove home two UWF runs in the bottom of the fourth to even the score at 3-3. VSU collected an unearned run in the fifth inning, and the Argonauts once again evened the game on a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning. Then Albritton hit her team-leading eighth home run of the year in the top of the seventh to give her team the win.
Hancock pitched a complete game, allowing nine hits and four runs. West Florida pitcher Taylor Bailey fell to 6-3 after giving up eight hits and five runs, four earned, in a complete game effort.
In the second game, Valdosta State jumped out to a big lead with six runs in the top of the first inning.
Albritton walked and stole second to open the game, then Johnson also walked. Altman reached on an infield single to load the bases. Karson King singled to score both Albritton and Johnson. Brittany Britt pinch ran for King and stole second, then Sarah Vaughn singled home Altman. Two batters later, Fran Johnson singled home both base runners and scored when Kiley Rusen singled off relief pitcher Lauren Register to give VSU a 6-0 lead.
West Florida got two runs in the bottom of the first inning, making it 6-2.
VSU added to its lead with three runs in the fifth inning. With Steinhilber and pinch runner April Collins on base, Strickland tripled to right to score both base runners, and scored on a two-out single by Morgan Johnson to push the Blazer advantage to 9-2.
Valdosta State added two more runs in the sixth inning. Rusen singled home Steinhilber and Sarah Vaughn. West Florida’s Elizabeth Nugent and Hannah Camp collected RBI singles and Audrey Harner hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the frame to close UWF to within 11-5.
Kenzi Reed gave up seven hits and four runs in 5 1/3 innings to up her season record to 8-1. Meanwhile, Jordan Ratliff surrendered four hits and six runs in just a third of an inning to fall to 4-4.
Strickland was 3 for 6 with three runs scored and two driven in to lead the Blazers offensively in the game. Rusen and Albritton also had three hits each and Altman tallied four.
Valdosta State returns to action on Saturday at 3 p.m., when it travels to Livingston, Ala. for a GSC doubleheader against West Alabama.