The Valdosta Daily Times
Maci Fletcher was one pitch away from a masterpiece Tuesday.
Brianna Hancock, though, finished off her own work of art at Steel’s Diamond as the Valdosta State senior pitcher no-hit visiting Miles to finish off a dominant pitching day for the Blazers. Fletcher lost her bid for a perfect game to open up the fifth before Hancock threw the no-no in the second game of twin 10-0 routs.
“The pitchers threw well and they hit their spots,” VSU coach Thomas Macera said. “When we needed to make a play, we made a play. But both of those ladies threw well.”
While it wasn’t quite as sharp as her freshman teammate’s performance, Hancock finished off the no-hitter when shortstop Shelby Altman hauled in a popup in shallow left field. That followed Hancock’s eighth strikeout. Miles’ only runners were a walk issued to Becca Bell in the second, and when Paige Dill was hit by a pitch in the fourth.
“We’ve been working on hitting spots ahead in the count this week, and luckily I was able to do that early in the game today,” Hancock said. “I wasn’t able to hit those spots as effectively in the second half of the game, but they were offering at my stuff, which really helped.
“My defense is awesome. I know that players like Shelby are going to give themselves up completely out there to help us win, and you really can’t ask for any more than that from the players behind you out there.”
In the opener, Fletcher was simply dominant. The freshman allowed just one ball to leave the infield, a fly out by Keyana Chapman to end the fourth, prior to Robyn Wallace singling up the middle to open the fifth for the 7-22 Golden Bears’ lone hit on the day. Fletcher then got a groundout and finished off her first career shutout with a pair of strikeouts, giving her six for the game.
While Fletcher and Hancock were dominant, the Blazers bats were hot as well. VSU (24-8) jumped on top 4-0 in the first inning of Game 1 and scored in all four innings of the opener. Courtney Albritton went 3-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs in the first game. She singled and scored on a Kiley Rusen double to open the scoring and then homered an inning later. She added an RBI double in the third, as she finished a triple shy of the cycle for the second time in three games at home.
“You can turn around when a team comes in that’s been struggling a little bit, and you could play to their beat,” Macera added. “We played our game today, and hit the ball hard and hit the ball long, and that’s our game.
“We played really well. Just happy with the way we played all around.”
Heather Robinson, a former Lowndes star, doubled in two runs in the first and singled in one more in the fourth. Also finishing with multiple hits in Game 1 were Altman and Chelsea Canara, who added an RBI double in the second.
Albritton, whose Game 1 home run gave her the team lead in long balls with 10, added her 11th to open the home half of the second game, her fourth leadoff home run of the year. It also extended her hitting streak to eight games.
VSU tacked on four more runs in the frame as Fran Johnson doubled in a pair and Robinson blasted her fifth home run, a two-run shot.
Hannah Strickland added a two-run double in the second before Johnson drove her in with a sac fly. The Blazers tacked on two additional runs in the fourth when Kelly Gordon singled with bases loaded to plate Johnson and Altman.
“We’re right back at it Saturday and in our conference, anybody can beat you on any given day, so to have a little bit of a breather, so to speak, is good every once in awhile,” Macera said as the Blazers host Christian Brothers in a Saturday doubleheader to open a three-game Gulf South Conference series.