Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

April 18, 2014

No. 21 Blazer Softball faces Lee in regular season finale

VALDOSTA — Expect Blazer Nation to be out at Steel's Diamond at Blazer Park in full force today and Saturday to watch their No. 21 Valdosta State softball team take on the Lee Lady Flames in the final series of the 2014 regular season.

The Lady Flames will come to Title Town this weekend riding high off of a series win over North Alabama last weekend in Cleveland, Tenn.. Lee took two of three from the Lions, including a five inning, 12-4 rout of UNA in the final game of the weekend. The victory for Lee marked the first time that a team has defeated the Lions by way of the run-rule in 2014, and featured a 14-hit effort against a North Alabama pitching staff that ranks as one of the top two in the league.

Meanwhile, the Blazers are enjoying a hot streak of their own, with wins in each of their last five games. The Blazers enjoyed a three-game sweep of the West Georgia Wolves last weekend in Carrollton, Ga., and moved up to a No. 21 ranking in this week's NFCA National poll.

Last week's five-game streak was fueled by a balanced effort for the red and black that began with Caitlyn Calhoun and Brianna Hancock. The pair teamed up for five wins in the circle - three for Hancock and two for Calhoun - each of which were complete game outings. With 31 strikeouts in 19.0 innings pitched, Hancock's ability to dominate the opposition was on full display. In addition, Calhoun put together the best week of her career and was justly recognized for her efforts, as she was named the Gulf South Conference Pitcher-of-the-Week. Her 2-0 record consisted of an 0.58 ERA, 15 strikeouts in 12.0 innings pitched, and the first no-hitter of her career in a 5-0 conference win over UWG on Saturday.

As they have all year, the Blazer offense continued to put up big numbers last week. The Blazer faithful won't be surprised to see the names of Shelby Altman, Courtney Albritton, Kiley Rusen, and Fran Johnson among those who put up big numbers during VSU's most recent winning streak, but the presence of some of the newer faces on that list are an exciting sign of what could be in store for the Blazers as they prepare for postseason play. Freshman Morgan Butler surged at the plate to hit .500 on the week with a 5-for-10 effort, while second baseman Chelsea Canara delivered a key home run last weekend against the Wolves, and has seen her average remain around the .350 mark throughout the course of her freshman season.

The value of the upcoming showdown with the Lady Flames was further amplified after the release of the first NCAA South Regional Rankings on Wednesday. Despite trailing North Alabama in the conference standings, the Blazers found themselves at No. 3 among teams in the South Region, one position higher than the No. 4 Lions. A successful weekend against the Lady Flames could further solidify Valdosta State's third spot behind No. 1 UAH and No. 2 Tampa heading into the upcoming GSC tournament.

The schedule is set for a Friday doubleheader at 5 p.m. at Steel's Diamond, followed by a 1 p.m. series finale on Saturday. Saturday's game will be senior day, where Blazer Athletics and the VSU softball team will recognize the squad's five seniors: Altman, April Collins, Brianna Hancock, Karson King, and Hannah Strickland. A live video webcast, live stats, and live Twitter updates will be available, and each can be accessed at www.vstateblazers.com.

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