Valdosta Daily Times

April 6, 2014

‘We had a bad day’

Alabama-Huntsville pounds VSU pitching to take pair

Jamie Wachter
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Reliant on speed in constructing the Gulf South Conference’s second-best hitting attack, Alabama-Huntsville stole a page from powerful Valdosta State’s playbook Saturday.

The Chargers nearly matched their season home run output in rallying back from a six-run deficit to beat the rival Blazers 9-8 in Game 1 and then rolling to a 12-3 win in the second game at Steel’s Diamond. The series concludes at 1 p.m. today.

Entering the pivotal three-game conference series with just eight home runs all season, the Chargers muscled up after falling behind VSU 8-2 in the fourth inning of the first game.

“We haven’t had very many bit hits down here the past few years but we got some today,” Chargers coach Les Stuedeman said. “We’ve kind of been death by a hundred bee stings with one little hit at a time.”

No. 9 UAH, which moved to 29-6 and 14-6 in the GSC where it pulled past the Blazers into second place behind Shorter — which is ineligible for the conference tournament as it transitions into being a Division II and GSC member — didn’t need that to quickly get back into the game. The Blazers, ranked No. 17, fell to 31-11 and 13-8 in the conference.

Rather the Chargers got two of their five Game 1 home runs as part of a five-run fifth. Following a single from leadoff hitter Victoria Frith and a double from Macie Couey, senior catcher Mary Kelley hit her second home run of the game — matching her season output previously — to get the Chargers back within three runs. Kaitlyn Bannister then blooped in a one-out single before Emily Glover smacked a two-run shot.

“When you can score runs in bunches like that, you can hang in there with anybody,” Stuedeman added.

After Caitlyn Calhoun relieved Brianna Hancock and shut the Chargers down the next 1 2-3 innings, Tyler Harrison tied it with a long ball to open the seventh before Bannister followed with the eventual game-winner.

“We didn’t pitch well,” VSU coach Thomas Macera said. “We didn’t pitch. We gave up too many walks and too many home runs. Our pitching just let us down.

“It was just a disappointing day.”

Kelley’s first home run came in the first, staking UAH to a quick 2-0 lead. But the Blazers came storming back with their big bats.

Courtney Albritton, the two-time GSC Player of the Year, drilled her19th home run of the season to open the bottom of the first, moving her just one home run shy of Marti Littlefield’s school record of 56 career home runs and two behind the conference mark, set by former Charger Stephanie Pinto.

Two innings later, senior Shelby Altman put the Blazers on top 3-2 when she sent a towering shot just inside the left-field foul pole and into the adjacent parking lot with one out. Altman, who leads the conference in RBIs added a three-run home run — her 15th — an inning later as part of VSU’s five-run frame that put it ahead 8-2. Kiley Rusen followed with her sixth home run.

“We hit well today, we played defense well today and we scored enough runs to win,” Macera said. “But not when you give up the amount that we did.”

From there, though, the Blazers were held in check as Kimberly Jack relieved with two on and one out in the fifth and held VSU to just one hit, a double from Fran Johnson with two outs in the seventh.

VSU didn’t muster much more against Glover in Game 2, garnering just six hits. Three of those came in the second where the Blazers got back-to-back singles from Kelly Gordon and April Collins and then a double from Albritton to score their first two runs.

“We settled down a little bit and we were able to get them out, which is never easy,” Stuedeman said.

But by then, VSU had already dug a 7-0 deficit. UAH grabbed a 4-0 lead in the first as Glover deposited a grand slam with two outs over the wall in center, and the Chargers added three more in the second to chase VSU freshman Maci Fletcher.

“Everything we threw, they hit,” Macera added. “We just couldn’t slow them down.

“We just had a bad day on the mound. And you have bad days on the mound. You have $5 million pitchers have bad days on the mound, unfortunately for us it just happened today.”

Sending at least eight batters to the plate in four of the six innings in the second game, UAH got its final home run of the day in the fifth when Couey hit a two-run shot. An RBI single from Bannister later in the frame put the Blazers in jeopardy of a run-rule loss. However, Albritton nearly hit her second home of the day in the bottom half before Couey pulled the ball back in left-center only to have the ball dislodged giving the Blazer star a leadoff double. Two batters later, Rusen singled to drive her in.

But UAH tacked on two more runs in the sixth to end it.