Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

May 24, 2014

Breaking the streak

Blazers snap Red Storm’s winning ways, stay unbeaten at nationals

The Red Storm entered the Division II national tournament in Salem, Va., red hot.

But Brianna Hancock and Valdosta State cooled off Dixie State on Friday in the winner’s bracket, rolling to an 8-0 run-rule win in five innings. The blowout snapped Dixie State’s 27-game winning streak that began March 22 and ran through its 3-2 win late Thursday against Southeastern Oklahoma in the national tournament opener.

The Red Storm, though, never stood a chance against the Blazers or their senior right-hander. A day after getting knocked out after 3 2-3 innings, Hancock didn’t allow a hit until the fourth when Courtney Sherwin opened the frame by driving a single into right field. It was the lone hit Hancock allowed as she struck out five and walked two in the complete game shutout, her eighth of the year that moved the 47-14 Blazers into the tournament’s semifinal round Sunday.

VSU will face either Armstrong Atlantic or the Wayne State-Southeastern Oklahoma winner at 2:30 p.m. Sunday — with the game carried on the radio by 92.1-FM — needing just one win to advance to Monday’s national championship game. If the Blazers lose that first game Sunday, they’d play again in an elimination game.

Needing most of Thursday’s opener against Wayne State to find its bats, Valdosta State had no such problem against the Red Storm (50-9) and junior Michelle Duncan. Lowndes product Heather Robinson unloaded on a monstrous home run in the bottom of the second to put VSU up and the Blazers rolled from there.

An inning later, second-team All-American shorstop Shelby Altman led off with a single and moved to second on a Kiley Rusen walk. After Hannah Strickland bunted the runners to second and third, Chelsea Canara’s grounder slipped underneath the Dixie State second baseman allowing both Altman and Brittany Britt, another Lowndes product that was pinch-running for Rusen, to score.

Valdosta State then blew the game open in the fourth against Aryn Feickert, who relieved Duncan with one out in the third. April Collins reached on a bunt single to open the fourth and advanced to second on an errant throw. Courtney Albritton, a first-team All-American and three-time Gulf South Conference Player of the Year, singled her home. Feickert then walked Altman, Rusen and Strickland, missing on nine straight pitches, to make it 5-0 VSU.

After Canara grounded into a fielder’s choice when Feickert threw home to force Altman, Thursday hero Fran Johnson hit a sacrifice fly to deep right-center that scored Rusen. Freshman catcher Morgan Butler then blooped a single into shallow right field that gave the Blazers the runs they needed for the early ending which sends the Red Storm into an elimination game today at 5 p.m. against the West Chester-LIU Post winner.

Feickert and Duncan each allowed three hits — Altman was the lone Blazer with two — but combined to walk seven as Valdosta State had multiple baserunners in every inning but the second.

Now the Blazers, who have won 16 of 18 games, will try to keep up their hot play Sunday and move to the championship game for the second time in three years and third time in five years. Valdosta State won the 2012 national title and was the national runner-up in 2010.

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