Clearwater, Fla. —
Despite a rainy weekend in Clearwater, Fla. at the Eckerd Softball Invitational, the Valdosta State softball team was able to get in two more games on Sunday, which resulted in a split after a 2-0 win over Nova Southeastern followed by a dramatic 2-1 extra inning loss to the Sailfish of Palm Beach Atlantic.
In the final game of the day, Rebekah Kiser took the circle and went toe-to-toe with PBA pitcher Amber Johnson to put up seven scoreless innings each. Run production only began after the tiebreaker rule was implemented in the eighth inning, with a runner being placed on second to start the both halves of the extra frame.
The Blazers served as the visiting team in the game and were able to plate the first run on a Sailfish miscue that allowed Brittany Britt, who had been placed on second base by rule to begin the half inning, to score the game's first run. It took Valdosta State only two at bats to drive Britt in, thanks to a sacrifice bunt by Fran Johnson that advanced Britt to third, followed by a ground ball to third that resulted in PBA's only defensive mistake in the game, a botched throw by Mackenzie Johnson as Britt scored the go ahead run.
PBA immediately took advantage of their placed runner, moving her up to third with a sacrifice bunt down the third base line off the bat of Stephanie Garrels. The Sailfish went right back to the bunt in the next at bat with a squeeze play, executed by Theresa Butler. The bunt allowed Chelsie Hersey to score and even up the contest 1-1 with one away. Kiser induced a fly out to Courtney Albritton in center for the second out, but Lindsey Johnson followed up with a single to move Butler into scoring position. Kayla Knight delivered a clutch pinch hit single to right in the next at bat, and Fran Johnson fielded the throw cleanly and fired to the plate for a bang-bang play, but the Sailfish prevailed as the runner was ruled safe at home.
Kiser, now 1-2 on the year, finished with a line that included her strongest outing of the season with 7.1 scoreless innings, seven hits allowed, seventeen fly ball outs, six groundouts, and no walks. In contrast, Amber Johnson, who improved her record to 3-0 with the win, held the Blazers to their smallest hit total of the year with only two on the afternoon. Additionally, the Palm Beach Atlantic sophomore walked just two batters and forced Valdosta State to groundout 12 times in the game.
The bright side of the day for VSU came in game one, however, as Brianna Hancock dealt a two-hit gem and her first shutout of the year to pick up a 2-0 win over Nova Southeastern and improve her record to a perfect 4-0.
Erika Garcia allowed Valdosta State to reach only six times with five base hits and a walk, but the Nova fireballer was handed her first loss of the season by the Blazers thanks to some timely hitting in the second inning by the red and black.
Karson King ignited the deciding inning with a walk, and Shelby Altman turned on a pitch for a single to left field to place two aboard. With nobody out, Blazer Head Coach Thomas Macera elected to move both runners up with a sacrifice bunt by Strickland. The decision payed off in the very next at bat, as Morgan Butler delivered two RBI's with a clutch single.
Hancock walked only one in her complete game effort, and kept the opposition guessing throughout with eight strikeouts on the afternoon. The outing accounted for Hancock's highest strikeout total since February 1 against Midwestern State, when the Blazer senior recorded eight strikeouts in the season opener.
With the loss, the Blazers moved to 7-2 overall on the year, while the Sailfish kept their record unblemished at 4-0, and the Sharks fell to 4-5.
The Sunday double header concluded the Eckerd Softball Invitational for Valdosta State, and the Blazers will now prepare for another road game in Melbourne, Fla. against Florida Tech before returning home on Saturday to open up the Gulf South Conference portion of the schedule against Shorter.