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April 7, 2014

Unpleasant ending

Wary UAH completes sweep of VSU

VALDOSTA — Fresh off a rare series sweep of Valdosta State at Steel’s Diamond, Alabama-Huntsville coach Les Stuedeman still wasn’t in a celebratory mood.

Despite the No. 9 Chargers’ 6-2 win Sunday that finished off the three-game whitewashing of the No. 17 Blazers along with 9-8 and 12-3 decisions Saturday, Stuedeman was more concerned with the fact she would soon see VSU again.

“I’d love to be happy but I have to drive all the way to Huntsville knowing that I’m going to have to see them in three weeks,” she said after UAH improved to 30-6 and 15-6 in the Gulf South Conference.

“That’d be nice. That’d be great to be happy about it. But you can’t be happy about it because we’re going to see them again, and it’s going to be hard for both teams again.”

But for the final 2 1/2 games, the Chargers dominated Valdosta State, which fell to 31-12 and 13-9. After falling behind 8-2 after four innings of the first game, Huntsville outscored the Blazers 25-5.

“We’re not keeping the other team from scoring,” VSU coach Thomas Macera said. “We’re struggling on the mound right now.

“You score two runs against a good team and against good pitching, you can’t complain about that. Yeah a timely hit here or there and we could have scored a few more, but you can’t count on that. What you need to count on is your pitching keeping you in the game.”

In the series finale, Brianna Hancock kept the Blazers in it for awhile. The senior worked out of a jam in the first inning where the Chargers loaded the bases with one out. However, a fielder’s choice grounder from Kaitlyn Bannister — which gave UAH the early lead — and a strikeout of Emily Glover ended the threat.

The Chargers then added solo runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings including a leadoff home run from Mary Kelley in the fifth to put UAH up 4-2. It was Kelley’s third home run of the series and fifth of the year as the Chargers finished the three-game set with eight long balls, matching their season total coming in.

UAH tacked on two more runs in the sixth as the Chargers finished with 10 hits off Hancock and reliever Caitlyn Calhoun.

“We had the clutch and this is really kind of who we are, a one run at a time kind of team,” Stuedeman said. “We just get base hits and move runners around. We did a good job of that today.

“That’s our game.”

Meanwhile, the Blazers couldn’t come up with the big hit to pull themselves back in it. VSU stranded runners in each of the first six innings, managing just lone runs in the fourth and sixth. In the fourth, Chelsea Canara singled and advanced to second on a throwing error. Hannah Strickland followed with her second hit to plate pinch runner Brittany Britt, a former Lowndes star. Fran Robinson singled an out later to put two on with one out, but the Blazers couldn’t add anything else against Glover, who won the final two games of the series for UAH.

Heather Robinson, a freshman from Lowndes, added a leadoff home run in the sixth for VSU’s other run, as the Blazers finished with nine hits but a leadoff double from Strickland in the second was the only other extra-base hit.

“It’s disheartening but it’s not over yet,” Macera said. “The season isn’t over, so we have to keep working and keep fighting and try to battle your way back to the top.

“As long as there are games to play, you still have a chance.”

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