It was a dominating weekend for Valdosta State baseball.
The Blazers outscored the Paine College Lions 27-0 in the weekend’s three-game series — including 9-0 in Sunday’s finale — at Billy Grant Field, recording 29 hits and 17 stolen bases in the process.
On the hill, the Blazers, who improved to 5-2 on the season, were just as dominant, allowing just one Lion base runner to get to third base the entire weekend. Across the three games, the Blazer pitching staff struck out 24 Lion batters, and allowed just eight total hits.
“It came at a good time,” Valdosta State coach Greg Guilliams said. “We were 2-2 coming in and we will see how we play Wednesday (versus Georgia Southwestern). I would definitely think this would be a confidence builder.”
The Blazers didn’t allow a walk until Sunday’s starter, Jeremy Holcomb, issued a free pass in the sixth inning, his final inning of work. They finished the weekend allowing just three total walks.
“The only bad thing was all three walks happened in the last ball game,” Guilliams said. “But maybe we got spoiled on Saturday. We make a conscious effort to throw strikes and try to get ahead and our pitchers did a good job of that this weekend.”
Highlighted by Saturday night’s perfect game thrown by left-hander Nick Fogarty, the Blazers’ dominance started with its pitching staff. Using eight pitchers this weekend — five on Sunday — the Blazers recorded 27 straight outs that stretched from the end of the first game until the second inning of Sunday’s series finale.
At the plate, eight different Blazers drove in runs on the weekend, led by Jamie McMillan and Clint Carr each with five, while 10 different Blazers scored runs.
“I don’t think we faced the caliber of pitching we are going to see in the Gulf South Conference,” Guilliams said. “But at the same time, you still have to be able to hit the pitches that you see.”
On Sunday, Holcomb threw six scoreless innings, allowing three hits, one walk and recording four strikeouts. He was followed up by a bevy of Blazer pitchers that managed to shutdown the Lions.
At the plate, the Blazers once again teed off on Paine pitchers. They finished with nine runs on 10 hits and five stolen bases on the day, taking advantage of several walks and three Lions errors to move throughout the base pads.
The Blazers took a 3-0 lead in the second inning. Nick Rodda started the productive inning with a single, which was followed by an RBI double by Ryan McClellan, who advanced to third on a wild pitch.
McClellan scored the following at-bat when Clint Carr hit a sacrifice grounder to third. Carr reached base on a throwing error, and scored the following at-bat when leadoff batter Jake Montgomery hit a single to the outfield.
“Clint really stepped up, because Bryant Hayman was sick,” Guilliams said. “Clint has done a great job catching and then Michael Gouge. Those are two guys that we count on a lot. Those guys have earned that.”
After adding a run in the third inning, coming when Jake Fields scored on a grounder by Jamie McMillan, the Blazers added two more runs to their lead in the sixth inning. Rodda scored on a single by Dan Hoover and Carr scored on a sacrifice fly from Fields.
With the game’s outcome nearly finalized, the Blazers added to their lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Fields drove in two runs, Carr and pinch-runner Will Austin, on a triple — the first of the weekend — to left-center field. Later in the inning, Fields scored on an error by the Paine shortstop, making the score 9-0.
It was a dominating weekend for Valdosta State baseball.
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Others will have to wait and see what continues to take shape come Friday when teams can begin fall practice, and especially Aug. 1 when teams can suit up in pads for the first time, such as can Valdosta win its record 24th state title, or can Lowndes capture its fourth state championship under Randy McPherson, or can Valwood and coach Ashley Henderson play in its third straight GISA state championship game?
As we start to find out the answers to those questions in just a few short weeks — the regular season is just 31 days away — there should be a few more milestones for area coaches to mark 2014 right along with the Generals getting back on the gridiron.
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