Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

February 15, 2014

Red-hot Blazers set to open GSC play

VALDOSTA — The Valdosta State baseball team’s offense certainly looks in midseason form.

Through the Blazers’ first six games, they are averaging 13 runs per game and hitting .337 collectively. But VSU coach Greg Guilliams knows the Blazers are fixing to get a whole new challenge starting today.

“The competition is going to continue getting tougher and this weekend, Shorter will be probably the best team we’ve faced up until this point,” he said.

VSU, which has opened the season 6-0 and is ranked No. 21, opens Gulf South Conference play today when Shorter visits for a 1 p.m. doubleheader. The Blazers and Hawks also play Sunday at 3 p.m. at Billy Grant Field to close the conference-opening series.

While Shorter is just 1-6 this season, a transition campaign for the Hawks who are ineligible for the GSC tournament, Guilliams still expects it to be a tougher opponent than VSU has faced thus far.

No matter the level of competition, the Blazers’ bats have been red hot. Junior shortstop Mike Reed is the reigning GSC Player of the Week after hitting .667 last weekend with eight RBIs and seven runs in a three-game sweep of Paine. He then added two more hits Thursday against Albany State as he is hitting .476 on the year with 11 RBIs and 11 runs. Preseason All-American Bryant Hayman, also a junior, is hitting .429 with three home runs and 15 RBIs, while Jimmy Dowdell is hitting .389 and leadoff hitter Matthew Fears is also hitting .320. Seven VSU regulars are hitting at least .300.

“Hopefully our guys are excited and come out and ready to go,” Guilliams added. “Conference play changes things, so hopefully we’re ready.”

For the conference-opening set, the Blazers are planning to throw three pitchers that have combined to allow one run 25 innings this season. Dom DeMasi, a junior right-hander, is scheduled for today’s Game 1 and hasn’t allowed a run in 10 2-3 innings as he has struck out 12 hitters to eight hits and three walks. Left-handers Ethan Bornstein, a junior, and Josh Mann, a senior, are expected to start the other two games. Bornstein is unscored upon in 4 1-3 innings, while Mann has allowed one run in 10 innings and has struck out 13 while allowing just eight baserunners.

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