Valdosta Daily Times

March 23, 2014

Carrying a big stick

Albritton’s big day, Hancock’s no-hitter lead to VSU sweep

Jamie Wachter
The Valdosta Daily Times

LIVINGSTON, Ala. — Softspoken Courtney Albritton prefers to let her bat do the talking.

Saturday, in the first two games of a Gulf South Conference series against Christian Brothers at Steel’s Diamond, her bat has never spoken louder.

The Blazers’ junior star swatted four home runs on the day, including three in Game 2 as VSU swept the Buccaneers 10-2, 15-0. That loud performance overshadowed Brianna Hancock’s second straight no-hitter in the circle.

The Blazers, 26-8 overall and 10-5 in the conference, have now won nine straight heading into today’s series finale, which originally scheduled for 1 p.m. has been moved up to 11 a.m. due to the threat of inclement weather.

Christian Brothers, which fell to 5-20 and 1-13 in the GSC, is probably looking forward to getting away from Albritton as quickly as possible. The reigning conference Player of the Year had a perfect day Saturday, going 2-for-2 with a run, three RBIs and a walk in the Game 1 rout. She then topped that in Game 2, when she homered in all three at-bats, scoring four times, driving in six and also drawing one walk.

“Courtney is Courtney,” VSU coach Thomas Macera said. “If you throw something and it doesn’t move, I don’t care who you are, Courtney is going to hit it.

“She is just a very special player. She doesn’t miss many.”

The ball was certainly moving off Albritton’s bat. She opened the home half of Game 2 with her fifth leadoff home run of the season and didn’t slow down from there. After walking during the Blazers’ five-run second inning, Albritton followed April Collins’ two-run triple in the third with a two-run blast to right field. An inning later, she unloaded on one that clanked high off the scoreboard in left-center to finish her big day. Shelby Altman, Chelsea Canara, Hannah Strickland and Kelly Gordon all finished with two hits in the game, which Altman, Kiley Rusen, Gordon and Collins all driving in a pair.

“Some days at the plate, you just feel more comfortable than others. Today was one of those days, ” Albritton said, adding with a laugh. “Let’s just go ahead and play the third game right now.”

Her comfortable day started in the first game. After reaching on an infield single in the first, she smashed her first home run of the day in the second when the Blazers capitalized on a two-out CBU error. The miscue, on a Collins grounder that allowed Brittany Britt to score, opened up the floodgates. Albritton followed with a three-run blast to left and Altman — who drilled three home runs in a game and four home runs in a day against West Georgia last March 16 — then smacked a long ball to right for back-to-back home runs that put VSU up 5-0.

“We’ve been working hard this week and it’s good to know that you work hard during spring break and it pays off,” Albritton said.

Heather Robinson, who doubled in one run in the third and then scored on a Fran Johnson triple, added a three-run home run in the fourth that made it 10-0 Blazers. The former Lowndes star went 3-for-3 with four RBIs in the first game.

“Top to bottom, we hit the ball well,” Macera said. “The bottom of the order was getting on base and the top of the order was hitting them in, it’s really good to see that.

“Our team is hitting well. We’re a hitting team and we live and die by our bats, and they’re just on it now.”

Maci Fletcher, who allowed just one hit and one baserunner against Miles on Tuesday, was almost as locked in against the Bucs on Saturday through four innings. Christian Brothers managed just a flare to right field from Kylie Steagall that landed just in front of a sliding Johnson to open the second and a walk to Sammi Canizaro two batters later after a double play.

However, the Bucs racked up four hits in the fifth including a two-run single from Gabrielle Sereika as Fletcher finished the complete game, allowing five hits and a walk along with the two runs.

“And our pitchers threw well,” Macera said. “We gave up just a few hits in the first one, and that was it. There was nothing hit hard.”

Hancock certainly did in Game 2. After walking one and hitting another against the Golden Bears on Tuesday in her first no-hitter, the senior duplicated the feat against CBU. Staked to the 1-0 lead on Albritton’s leadoff home run, Hancock walked Steagall to open the second and then promptly hit Sereika to put two on with nobody out. She then struck out the next two before getting Ali Hare to pop out to Rusen at first to end the inning and the lone Buc threat as she struck out six hitters total, including the final two batters of the game.

“She threw good, and now we just hope we can keep it rolling,” Macera said. “She’s been working hard, and she’s a senior so she knows it’s now or never. She’s been working hard.”

Added Hancock: “Throwing a no-hitter is so rare, and so when I got the first one I was very happy for that. But never did I think I was going to throw another one. So that’s always awesome.

“Playing in front of this defense, they’re going to give themselves up for me. You can’t ask for anything more than that. I never want to say a no-hitter was all me, because it’s never just that. They make amazing plays behind me.”

But there was no stellar defensive plays needed this game, as the Bucs were unable to square anything up against the right-hander, much to her pleasant surprise.

“I figured at one point they’d catch on to one here or there,” she said. “But obviously they didn’t.”