The Valdosta Daily Times
Valdosta State’s baseball team earned a pair of walk-off wins over the Union Bulldogs Saturday at Billy Grant Field.
The Blazers rallied from a two-run deficit and used a two-run single from sophomore Will Wilson in the bottom of the ninth inning to win game one, 4-3, before using a walk-off walk from Jake Fields in the bottom of the seventh inning to win game two, 5-4.
“You always want to come out, play well and win, but I can’t say we did that,” Valdosta State coach Greg Guilliams said. “But there is something to say when you don’t come out and play your best and still win.”
Wilson’s two-out, two-run single into right field in the bottom of the ninth inning was just one of the many hits the sophomore from Waycross had on the day.
He also kick-started a three-run fourth inning for the Blazers in the second game with a double to the gap in right centerfield, and drove in a run in the fourth inning of game two with a single to the outfield. He also scored two runs between the two games.
“I am just fortunate to come in and add something to the team,” Wilson said. “Coming in a big situation, I just had to help my team.”
With Valdosta State trailing 3-1 heading into the eighth inning, and having a total of just one hit through the first seven innings of game one, Wilson replaced Cooper Lemonds in a pinch-runner situation and eventually scored a run to make the score 3-2.
Then, in the bottom of the ninth, Wilson connected on his single to right field, scoring Bryant Hayman, who reached on a single, and Fields, who was hit by a pitch to reach base and narrowly slid past a tag attempt at home plate, to secure the series-opening win.
“I was in the on-deck circle just envisioning the walk-off and everybody chasing after me,” Wilson said. “I am just glad they tackled me in the outfield.”
In the second game, the Blazers trailed 1-0 after Union got a run in the second inning when Wilson doubled to right centerfield to lead off the fourth inning. That was followed up by doubles from Hayman and Fields and a single by Lemonds, making the score 3-1. After Union got a run in the fourth inning, it was Wilson who drove in catcher Clint Carr to make the score 4-2.
“I was so happy for Will,” Guilliams said. “He has been coming to practice and working hard every day. And he hasn’t started a whole lot, so for him to come through like that, I was happy for Will.”
The Blazers eventually blew their two-run lead when Union scored two runs in the top of the sixth inning, knotting the game even at 4-4.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the seventh inning when the Blazers scored the game-winning run.
Daniel Hoover started the inning with a single and advanced to second base on a sacrifice from Carr. Nick Rodda walked and Wilson grounded out, advancing Hoover to third base. Then, Union intentionally walked Hayman, loading the bases with two outs.
That’s when Fields was walked on five pitches, scoring Hoover from third and giving the Blazers their 25th victory of the season.
For the majority of game one, the Blazers struggled against Union pitcher Jared Davis, who entered with a 5.60 earned run average and an 0-8 record. Davis stifled the Blazer batters, allowing one earned run on three hits in 7 2/3 innings pitched.
Besides a leadoff double from Fields to start the second inning — he scored later in the inning on a ground out by Lemonds, giving the Blazers a 1-0 lead — the VSU batters couldn’t muster any production, jumping on pitches early in the count and looking impatient at the plate.
Davis, who needed just 77 pitches to get through the first seven innings, retired the Blazers in 1-2-3 fashion in five innings, including four straight (third through the sixth innings).
“(Davis) was doing a good job at dominating the outer half of the plate and we weren’t adjusting too well to it,” Guilliams said. “He was throwing strikes but we were just missing it. I thought as the game went on, our guys did a good job at catching up to it.”
With Union getting three runs itself, the Blazers trailed 3-1 heading into the bottom eighth inning, which is when Lemonds reached base on an error, and was replaced on base by Wilson at first base.
Wilson then stole second base and advanced to third on a single by Ryan McClellan. He scored on a double steal, not leaving third base until McClellan was sliding into second base and the Union catcher had thrown to the base for the out.
McClellan was called safe at the base but was tagged out at home attempting to score on a single into shallow right field by Hoover, who was caught stealing at second base to end the inning.
Union got a pair of runs in the third inning and another in the fifth to account for its three runs of the game. In the second inning, Blazer starter Pete Whittingslow walked three batters and allowed just on hit. Whittingslow got out of a bases loaded jam in the inning, inducing a fly out to right field.
Whittingslow was pulled after six innings of work, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits. Jarod Carlton pitched a pair of innings and Benjamin Weil pitched the ninth inning and earned the game one win for the Blazers. ‘
In game two, VSU starter Nick Fogarty was replaced after five innings, allowing four runs (only one earned) on nine hits. Weil replaced Fogarty and earned the win in game two, allowing no runs on three hits in two innings of work.