The Valdosta Daily Times
Valdosta State scored nine runs in the third inning, and routed Delta State — the No. 2 baseball team in Division II — 12-1 in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader on Saturday.
The Blazers won two of three games against the Statesmen. Delta had only lost five games all season heading into the series.
“We’ve been playing well down the stretch,” Valdosta State head coach Greg Guilliams said. “I think the guys were excited about this series. (Delta is) the No. 2-ranked team in the country, and they have a real good ball club. Our guys rose to the occasion. I was proud of them.”
Valdosta State will head to the Gulf South Conference tournament, which begins on Thursday in Chattanooga, Tenn., with a 29-15 record. The Blazers went 14-10 in conference play. Delta State is now 38-7-1, and 18-4-1 in the GSC.
On Saturday, game 2 was scoreless heading into the bottom of the third. Clint Carr and Nick Rodda singled to open the inning. A wild pitch moved Carr to third, and Ryan McClellan followed with a single to score Carr. Bryant Hayman collected the fourth straight hit of the inning, which scored Rodda. A Jake Fields fielder’s choice in which everyone reached safely plated McClellan. Two batters later, Hunter Thompson doubled down the left field line, scoring both Hayman and Fields and giving the Blazers a 5-0 lead.
Delta State changed pitchers, then a wild pitch and a fielder’s choice in which Thompson beat the throw home added the sixth run of the inning. Will Wilson bunted for a single and Carr walked to load the bases. Then Rodda doubled down the right field line to clear the bases and give VSU a 9-0 lead.
“I think it was a combination of a couple of things,” Guilliams said. “I think their pitcher was getting the ball up, and our guys really did a good job of hitting the ball through the middle of the field. ... They got back to what they did well (in VSU’s 8-5 win over Delta on Friday).”
The score remained 9-0 until Delta State’s Ricky Velez hit a solo home run in the top of the sixth.
But the Blazers scored three more runs in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Bryant Hayman blasted a solo home run over the Tillman Insurance sign in left field. Then Fields walked, Jake Montgomery reached on an error and Thompson singled, loading the bases. Daniel Hoover followed with a single to left center, scoring Fields. Wilson hit a sacrifice fly to center, and Montgomery scored the Blazers’ final run of the game, making it 12-1.
Nick Fogarty (4-3) was the winning pitcher. He held the Statesmen to one run and two hits in 4 2/3 innings of relief, and struck out four. Josh Mann had started the game on the mound, and allowed no runs and two hits in 1 1/3 innings before Fogarty came in. Benjamin Weil closed out the game with a scoreless seventh. The three Blazer pitchers limited Delta to just five hits.
“Josh Mann was a little shaky (on Saturday); he’d been pitching well. But Nick Fogarty came in and did a phenomenal job. I was proud of him,” Guilliams said.
At the plate, Rodda went 3 for 4 with a run and three RBIs. Hayman was 2 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs. Thompson and Hoover also drove in a pair of runs. Thompson went 2 for 4 and also scored a run. Fields and Carr scored two runs each.
“It takes a team effort,” Guilliams said. “Guys swung the bats top to bottom in the batting order. To beat a team like (Delta), that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Delta’s Colton Mitchell (6-2) took the loss. He allowed six runs, all earned, and six hits in 2 1/3 innings. VSU also scored three runs off relievers Ricky Winters and Jared Bond. Velez, who went 2 for 2, was the only Delta player with more than one hit.
In Game 1, Delta State’s Michael Manley pitched a one-hit shutout and led the Statesmen to a 4-0 win.
Manley (7-0) was in control throughout the first game. He allowed just five Blazer batters to reach base. Hoover picked up the only VSU hit of the game with a single in the second inning. Manley, who struck out three, induced two double plays and faced just two batters over the minimum in the game.
Delta State took the lead in the top of the first inning. Delta’s first three batters of the game reached base, then a sacrifice fly plated Jordan Chovanec, who had singled to open the game.
Ben Kingsley hit his sixth home run of the season to open the sixth inning for Delta, then the Statesmen added two unearned runs in the ninth inning.
VSU’s Jeremy Holcomb pitched into the ninth inning and surrendered nine hits and three runs, two earned, to fall to 6-4.
Saturday was Senior Day. Valdosta State seniors Zach John, Pete Whittingslow, Jamie McMillan, Fogarty, Ben Watson, Weil and Jarod Carlton were honored.
Valdosta State returns to action Thursday, when it opens play in the Gulf South Conference tournament. The Blazers will be the No. 5 seed and will play No. 4 North Alabama at 4 p.m. at AT&T Park in Chattanooga.