The Valdosta Daily Times
SOUTHAVEN, Miss. —
The Valdosta State softball team relied on some clutch hitting from the Blazer offense and stellar pitching from freshman Hanna Lythberg to win three games on Saturday in Southaven, Miss., and they now stand alone as the only remaining undefeated team in the Gulf South Conference tournament.
The Blazer offense provided key hits throughout the day, but the star for Valdosta State (40-9) on Saturday was freshman pitcher Lythberg. The current GSC Pitcher of the Week pitched back to back shutouts for the red and black and helped her team earn two narrow victories in both the second and third games of the day over Delta State and West Florida. Lythberg, who now holds an eye popping 1.50 ERA during her freshman campaign, gave up ten hits on the day, but continually made key pitches to prevent her opponents from scoring. In her two games pitched, the Chicago native struck out seven, walked only three batters, and induced 26 groundouts. With the wins, Lythberg's record now stands at 15-3 on the season.
Christian Brothers (11-30), who trailed VSU 5-1 entering the seventh frame, gave the Blazers a scare late in game one when they pulled to within one in the top of the seventh inning before Brianna Hancock was able to end the threat, giving the Blazers a 5-4 victory.
The Lady Bucs 1-0 lead early after a leadoff single by Allyson Grooms, followed by a two out double over the head of Morgan Johnson in left field for CBU's Jennifer Gonzalez.
Valdosta State was unable to answer in the bottom half of the first inning, despite a double for Blazer shortstop Shelby Altman. But Hancock went to work for the Blazers, holding Christian Brothers scoreless for the next five innings.
While Hancock kept the Lady Bucs in check, the Blazer offense scored in four of the next five innings. Valdosta State tied the game up in the bottom of the second with an RBI triple from third baseman Hannah Strickland, scoring Brittany Britt from second base.
In the bottom of the third, Courtney Albritton led off with a single to third base, and one batter later, Shelby Altman and Ashley Steinhilber delivered back to back doubles. Steinhilber's double plated both Albritton and Altman to give the Blazers a 3-1 lead.
The fourth run for Valdosta State came in the fourth when Morgan Johnson hammered one of VSU's four doubles in the game to right center field to score Albritton, who had singled to short in the prior at bat.
After going three up and three down in the fifth, Valdosta State tacked on their fifth and final run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Fran Johnson showed off her speed with a leadoff bunt single, followed by a stolen base to place herself into scoring position. Two batters later, the GSC Player of the Year, Albritton, smacked her third single of the game through the left side, scoring Fran Johnson from second base.
A leadoff error by Altman, followed by three hits from Bianca Cowan, Grooms, and Nikki Story allowed score three runs in the top of the seventh, but Hancock struck out Emily Schmidt to end the threat with the bases loaded.
In game two, the only run came in the top of the seventh inning when the Blazers saw a two out, pinch hit triple by senior Sarah Vaughn. In the next at bat, Fran Johnson roped a line drive back through the box and into center field to score Vaughn from third. The run was enough to give the Blazers a 1-0 victory over the Lady Statesmen (18-35).
In the final game, VSU was able to capitalize on Lythberg's strong pitching performance with back to back homers in the bottom of the sixth inning. Albritton drilled the first pitch of the frame over the left center field wall, and Morgan Johnson went deep to center in the next at bat, giving the Blazers a 2-0 lead and their third win of the day over the Argonauts (21-24).
Valdosta State will continue their run in the conference tournament when they face Alabama Huntsville tomorrow beginning at noon EST. Be sure to visit vstateblazers.com for updates throughout the remainder of the tournament from Southaven, Miss.