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March 2, 2014

Blazers bring bats, pound Statesmen

VALDOSTA — The Valdosta State softball team brought its bats to Steel’s Diamond on Saturday.

The Blazers banged out 21 hits, including three home runs, as it swept visiting Delta State 10-5, 13-1.

“Weactually hit well today,” VSU coach Thomas Macera said. “That’s what I told the girls, ‘Hitting overcomes a lot.’

“And we still played well. We still pitched well and we played defense well with only one error in two games. It’s not like we played poorly and just hit that much, we just played well. But we really swung it today.”

The two teams complete the three-game set at 1 p.m. today.

Valdosta State moved over the .500 mark in the Gulf South Conference for the first time this season as it moved to 4-3 in the league and 16-6 overall. DSU fell to 8-11 and 2-6.

“We have to win these conference games,” Macera said. “Conference games are so important. We can’t just keep splitting with everybody.”

The Blazers offense attacked early and often as VSU scored four runs in the first inning of both games. In Game 2, those early runs came via home runs as Karson King smashed a three-run blast and Shelby Altman followed with a solo home run.

It was part of a big day for King, who went 3-for-5 combined with four runs and four RBIs. But that was nothing new to Macera.

“Karson is a great hitter,” he said. “We know Karson can hit. Everybody’s in the lineup for a reason, they all can hit. But Karson, she’s getting stronger every week.”

An inning later, Kiley Rusen added a two-run home run. The Blazers added two runs in the third as Altman scored on a wild pitch and Lowndes product Heather Robinson doubled to plate Chelsea Canara.

Altman’s ground out in the fourth scored April Collins before Canara singled home Brittany Smith and Brandi Blount and Fran Johnson’s double scored Canara and Hannah Strickland.

VSU freshman Maci Fletcher, who entered Game 1 to record the final out, allowed just six hits and a lone third-inning run in five innings of Game 2. She struck out three and walked three.

She had to finish off the first game after starter Brianna Hancock endured troubles in the seventh. After Delta State cut VSU’s lead to 9-5 in the sixth, Hancock hit consecutive Statesmen with one out in the seventh before getting lifted. She allowed 10 hits and all five runs along with four walks and the two hit batters.

“We had a chance to shorten that game but then gave up those runs,” Macera said. “It is what it is. But it’s easier to give up those runs when you have that big lead.”

VSU had that breathing room because its offense answered early. After Delta took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, the Blazers responded with four runs in the bottom half, taking advantage of three Statesmen errors. Another DSU error and a Robinson single plated two more runs in the third and the Blazers then broke the game open with three runs in the fourth as King singled in one and Canara had a two-run single.                                                   

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