Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

February 18, 2014

Blazers ranked No. 4

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State’s undefeated start hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The Blazers, who were ranked No. 21 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll, shot all the way to No. 4 when the new rankings were released Monday.

Valdosta State improved to 9-0 by sweeping Shorter this weekend in the Gulf South Conference-opening series. And the Blazers aren’t just winning, they have demolished their opponents so far, outscoring them 102-20.

VSU has 426 points in the poll, just 12 points behind Minnesota State-Mankato in third place and 18 points ahead of fifth-ranked Southern Arkansas. Tampa, the defending Division II national champion, remains at No. 1 following its 7-1 start. West Florida, which is off to an 8-2 start moved up two spots to No. 2. The Argonauts host the Blazers this weekend in an early GSC showdown.

Valdosta State will enter that battle of national heavyweights with an offense that has been red hot. The Blazers are hitting .348 collectively as eight of their nine regulars are batting at least .300. Reigning GSC Player of the Week Mike Reed paces the deep lineup as he is 17 for 30 on the year, hitting .567 with 14 runs, 16 RBIs and seven stolen bases. Preseason All-American Bryant Hayman has 19 RBIs and three of the Blazers’ four home runs, while preseason all-GSC selection Matthew Fears has also swiped seven bases and has scored 16 runs. Michael Gouge, who has the other VSU home run, has 13 runs scored.

The Blazers have also gotten it done on the mound as ace Dom DeMasi has tossed 17 2-3 scoreless innings with 17 strikeouts, while left-handed starter Josh Mann has a 1.17 ERA in 15 1-3 innings across three starts with 19 strikeouts.

Other GSC foes ranked are Delta State, which has fallen from No. 8 to No. 16 after a 3-3 start, and Alabama-Huntsville moving into the rankings at No. 23 with a 7-3 mark. Florida Tech, ranked No. 8, and Nova Southeastern, ranked No. 9, are other South Region teams in the top 10.

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