The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valdosta State baseball team used seven different pitchers to limit Albany State to just one hit, while managing to provide more than enough offensive support Wednesday night at Billy Grant Field.
After being held scoreless through the first three innings, the Blazers (14-11) pounded out 15 hits and got a pair of runs in the fourth inning, three in the fifth, another one in the sixth, four in the seventh and three more in the eighth to rout the Golden Rams 13-0.
“We swung the bats well after the third inning,” Valdosta State coach Greg Guilliams said. “A lot of guys got a chance to pitch. Those guys needed the work, and they did a good job.”
More importantly, the Blazers gained some much-needed momentum heading into this weekend’s critical three-game conference series against in-state rival West Georgia.
“I hope so,” Guilliams said, when asked about the momentum. “For us, we are in a situation where we have to keep getting better because our one opportunity, I think, is (we are) probably going to have to win the conference tournament to advance.”
With just a 3-6 record in Gulf South Conference play this season, and after having two of their three games against Shorter cancelled because of rain last weekend, Guilliams and the Blazers are eyeing a big weekend against the Wolves, who entered Wednesday’s game at Georgia Southwestern with an 18-11 record, including a 7-4 mark in GSC play.
“At this point, realistically, unless we are going to rattle off 14 of the next 15 conference games, for us, it is just about positioning ourselves in good seeding for the conference tournament,” Guilliams said. “It is all about getting better. I just hope we come out and play well.”
The Blazers and Wolves will play a doubleheader Friday night at Billy Grant Field, starting at 3 p.m., with a final game Saturday at 1 p.m.
As for Wednesday night’s game, the Blazers allowed just one hit — a routine single in the second inning — and limited the Golden Rams (10-20) to practically no offensive production. It was easily one of the best overall team pitching performances of the season for the Blazers, who combined to strike out 10 Golden Ram batters on the night.
“Those guys are important, because in the postseason, those guys are going to have to pitch,” Guilliams said. “It will have to be more than our weekend starters.”
Senior Jarod Carlton earned his first victory of the season, only because he was the pitcher during the Blazers’ three-run fifth inning. Carlton issued a walk — one of five the Blazers issued on the night — but used a double play and a grounder to get out of the inning.
At the plate, seven different Blazers drove in runs, including Nick Rodda, who drove in four.
“Nick has struggled a little bit, but the last week he has swung the bat a little better,” Guilliams said. “I think he is capable of doing that. That was big; he was hitting in the seventh hole and a lot of guys were on (base).”
With two outs in the fourth inning, Cooper Lemonds reached base on a two-out Albany State error, extending the Blazers’ inning. Following a Michael Gouge walk, Rodda singled in Lemonds, Ryan McClellan singled in Gouge and VSU took a 2-0 lead.
The Blazers used a pair of singles, a pair of hit-by-pitches and an error to score three runs in the fifth inning.
Hunter Thompson singled, Matthew Fears and Bryant Hayman both reached base after being hit by pitches, then Jake Fields walked to score Thompson. Lemonds grounded into a fielder’s choice, but an errant throw allowed Fears to score. Gouge singled to score Hayman and the Blazers led 5-0.
Daniel Hoover tripled to start the sixth inning, and scored on a grounder by Fears, pushing the Blazers’ lead to 6-0.
The Blazers piled it on in the seventh inning, scoring four runs off five hits to take a 10-0 lead. Fields and Lemonds each reached base, on a single and a walk, and scored on a Rodda double to left-center. Rodda scored on a single by McClellan, then Thompson delivered a single to drive in McClellan.
In the eighth inning, Rodda flew out to shallow right field, but Fields tagged up and scored from third. Then McClellan tripled into the right field corner, scoring Lemonds and Gouge.
NOTES: Following Wednesday night’s game, the VSU Fellowship of Christian Athletes hosted the Second Annual Sermon on the Mound, featuring guest speaker Greg McMichael, a former Atlanta Braves pitcher.