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February 13, 2013

Top-ranked Blazers sweep first home series

VALDOSTA — Many of the names have changed since last year, but one thing remains the same: the Valdosta State Blazers can still pound a softball.

The top-ranked Blazers scored 20 runs in two games, and swept a doubleheader from Georgia Southwestern in their first two home games of the season on Tuesday at Blazer Field.

The 2012 Division II national champions hit four home runs and pounded out 20 hits in the doubleheader.

“I think (today’s performance) shows we can hit,” Valdosta State head coach Thomas Macera said after the game. “I’ve told everybody I think this is one of the best hitting teams I’ve ever had. We got down and had a lot of adversity, and we had to play through, and (they showed) they’re not going to lay down.”

At the same time, Macera saw areas his team needs to improve in. Valdosta State has only three full-time starters and one pitcher back from last season, and there were times when the team showed its inexperience.

“We’re young. We’ve never played together as a team. They’re virtually brand new, the entire team,” Macera said. “We’ve got to learn to play defense. You can’t make errors, because that gives them four or five outs an inning, and we’ve got to stay away from those big innings.”

Valdosta State 8, Georgia Southwestern 5

Shelby Altman and Courtney Albritton both went 2 for 4 and homered in VSU’s game 1 victory.

Valdosta State took the early lead with two runs in the bottom of the first. With Albritton on third and one out, Altman ripped a line drive to deep right field. The ball sailed over the fence and into a ditch behind the fence for a two-run homer, giving the Blazers a 2-0 lead.

In the bottom of the second, Hannah Strickland singled up the middle, and Angela O’Connor slid across home plate, giving the Blazers a 3-0 lead.

Georgia Southwestern tied the score with three runs in the top of the third. Elliott Martin came home when Hayley Knight lined a single off of the third baseman’s glove. One out later, Kiley Doster and Knight scored on Ashley Clifton’s double to the warning track, making it 3-3.

But the Blazers quickly took the lead back. Leading off the bottom of the third, Altman ripped a double to the fence in left center, moved up on a ground out, then ran home when Karson King grounded to second, putting VSU back on top, 4-3.

The Blazers put two more runs on the scoreboard in the fifth. With one out, Fran Johnson’s fly ball to deep left center was dropped. Brittany Britt came around to score, and Johnson wound up on third. Then O’Connor laid down a bunt. Johnson raced for the plate and beat the throw, giving the Blazers a 6-3 lead.

Albritton stepped up to the plate to start the bottom of the sixth, ripped into a pitch and drilled a home run over the left field fence. The ball narrowly missed an SUV in the Ashley Cinemas parking lot, making it 7-3.

With two outs in the sixth, King singled home Morgan Johnson to give the Blazers an 8-3 lead.

Georgia Southwestern scored two runs in the top of the seventh, but VSU relief pitcher Caitlyn Calhoun retired the final two batters to close out the win.

Altman and Albritton both went 2 for 4 with a home run and scored two runs for the Blazers. Morgan and Fran Johnson also had two hits apiece. King drove in two runs.

Brianna Hancock (3-0) was the winning pitcher, allowing seven hits and striking out three. Three of the five runs she allowed were unearned.

Georgia Southwestern’s Allison Pastor (4-2) pitched a complete game, and allowed eight runs, five earned, and 11 hits.

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