Morgan Johnson and Ashley Steinhilber were playing their final regular season home games on Sunday. Both of them had days they will remember for a long time.
Johnson blasted three home runs, Steinhilber hit two homers and the two seniors led Valdosta State’s softball team to a doubleheader sweep of Christian Brothers on Sunday at Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park.
Johnson, a senior left fielder, homered once in Valdosta State’s 9-1 win in game 1. Then she and Steinhilber, a senior catcher, both hit two home runs in a 10-3 rout in game 2.
“Our whole team hit well. Those two hit real well,” Valdosta State head coach Thomas Macera said. “Morgan hit three home runs. That’s a big day for anybody. Those two kids can hit, no doubt.”
Johnson, who went 7 for 7 and drove in eight runs in the doubleheader, now has 11 home runs this year. Steinhilber, who went 4 for 7 and drove in three runs in the two games, has six homers.
The rest of the Blazers also hammered the ball on Sunday. Valdosta State (37-9, 22-7 in the Gulf South Conference) scored 19 runs and pounded out 30 hits in the two wins.
“I think we played real well. We made a couple of mistakes, but everyone makes mistakes,” Macera said. “We hit the ball well. (Christian Brothers) is a team that split with North Alabama. ... We just took care of business.”
Game 1: Valdosta State 9, Christian Brothers 1
The Blazers’ offensive onslaught began in game 1, when they collected 14 hits and scored nine runs in a mercy rule victory.
It took just two batters for VSU to get on the scoreboard. Courtney Albritton led off the bottom of the first with a single to left. Then Johnson stepped up to the plate and tattooed a pitch, sending it over the left field fence and into the Ashley Cinemas parking lot for a two-run homer. Christian Brothers hadn’t even recorded an out, and VSU led 2-0.
Two batters after Johnson’s home run, Steinhilber singled up the middle, moved up on a ground out and a wild pitch, then scored on another wild pitch to give the Blazers a 3-0 lead.
VSU put another run on the board in the second inning. With two outs, April Collins and Albritton singled to left. Then Johnson did the same thing, and Collins scored from second to make it 4-0.
Christian Brothers scored its only run in the top of the fourth. Allyson Grooms slapped a single to left to start the inning, was bunted to second, moved to third on Marie Joiner’s single to center and scored on an error, cutting VSU’s lead to 4-1.
The Blazers put the game away with five runs in the bottom of the fifth. Angela O’Connor led off with a single to left. Fran Johnson bunted to move O’Connor to second, and used her blazing speed to beat the throw to first. Sarah Vaughn came off the bench and lined a pinch hit single to center, driving in O’Connor. April Collins laid down a bunt, and like Fran Johnson two batters earlier, beat the throw to first, loading the bases. CBU pitcher Kim Adams put a pitch in the middle of the plate to Albritton, and the Blazer slugger made her pay, hitting a line drive off the Citizens Community Bank sign in left center. Fran Johnson and Vaughn scored, making it 7-1. Christian Brothers changed pitchers, then Collins ran home on a wild pitch. Morgan Johnson followed with a double over the left fielder’s head, and Albritton crossed home plate to give the Blazers a 9-1 lead. That ended the game, due to the mercy rule.
The two All-Americans at the top of the Blazers’ lineup had big games. Albritton went 3 for 4, scored two runs and drove in two more, while Morgan Johnson went 3 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs.
Steinhilber and Fran Johnson both went 2 for 3 and scored a run. Collins was 2 for 3 and scored two runs.
Hanna Lythberg pitched all five innings, and held Christian Brothers to just one run and two hits and struck out four batters. The freshman right-hander improved to 12-3 on the season.