Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

April 6, 2012

VSU softball team remains in top spot

Blazers host North Alabama this afternoon, UAH on Saturday

VALDOSTA — To nobody’s surprise, the Valdosta State softball team remained the nation’s top-ranked team in the latest NFCA Division II Coaches poll, released on Wednesday.

The Blazers posted a 6-0 record last week, earning sweeps of Saint Leo, Christian Brothers and Delta State. Then to top it off, VSU swept in-state foe Albany State Tuesday night, just hours before the new poll was released.

Valdosta State now stands with a 33-2 record, riding a 27-game winning streak, which is tied for the longest in Gulf South Conference history.

“They are just playing really well,” Valdosta State head coach Thomas Macera said. “Everything we’ve been doing, we are still doing really well — good defense, good hitting and good pitching. We are taking care of business.”

Pitcher Alanna Hadley has been named the conference Pitcher of the Week four times this season, and once garnered National Pitcher of the Week honors, while Courtney Albritton and, most recently, Morgan Johnson have each been named the conference’s Player of the Week.

Even though the individual awards and the No. 1 ranking may bring minor satisfaction to the Blazers, it all means nothing, to the team, if VSU isn’t hoisting a national championship trophy in mid-May.

The Blazers are living proof that having the nation’s top ranking means nothing, unless a team wins the national championship. In 2010, VSU faced then top-ranked North Georgia, which stood with a perfect 51-0 record. The Blazers beat North Georgia en route to a national championship game appearance.

“We have always said, we played North Georgia that was ranked No. 1, and look where that left them,” senior outfielder Clare Wamsley said. “So, we don’t play into the rankings much. We appreciate that people rank us high and that we get those votes.”

The majority of VSU’s winning streak has come against conference opponents. The team is dominating GSC play, having posted a 16-0 conference record so far, in what could be the toughest conference in the nation — a member of the GSC has appeared in the national championship game the past three seasons, including VSU in 2010.

In those 16 wins, VSU is averaging 7.68 runs per contest, while holding opponents to just 1.62 runs a game.

“It means that we’re ready,” Wamsley said. “I think we are ready for the next level. I think we’re ready for postseason. I mean, we still have a lot to go until postseason, but I just think it means we are ready to be there at the end.”

Now, with another weekend quickly approaching, the Blazers will once again get the opportunity to prove just how good they truly are, as they host North Alabama and Alabama-Huntsville this weekend. The games will be played today and Saturday, rather than Saturday and Sunday, due to the Easter holiday.

“It is one day, so it is no big deal,” Macera said of the weekend schedule. “It is at home, so we (weren’t) traveling on Thursday. It is just a big weekend, it is UNA and it is Huntsville.”

The Blazers are a combined 4-0 against the teams this season, beating UNA 6-0 and 8-5 on March 24, and UAH 6-2 and 5-3 the following day.

“It is a huge (weekend),” said Wamsley, “especially Huntsville. “They have always been the team to beat. It is either them at nationals or us. We have been alternating since I’ve been here. I think this year is our year and these teams pretty much determine it all. They determine if we host, they determine if we go to that next level after our regular season.”

While four more wins this weekend would move the Blazers into the record books, becoming the team with the longest winning streak in conference history, a solid weekend at the plate for senior shortstop Marti Littlefield could move her into the top spot of the GSC record book.

The Berrien County native needs less than 10 runs batted in and less than five home runs to become the conference’s all-time leader in both categories. She could accomplish one, or both, of those marks this weekend.

“I think it would bring tears to my eyes,” Wamsley said of her teammate’s accomplishments. “Even coming in as a freshman, I have been in awe of her, and just what she has accomplished so far. As seniors, you try to leave a legacy when we go out, and for her to be able to do that is something that is too hard to beat. It is going to be there for some time to come.”

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