Valdosta Daily Times

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April 3, 2014

Blazer softball picks up two over Hurricanes

AMERICUS — The Valdosta State Blazer softball team traveled to Americus on Wednesday and left with a 7-3, 11-1 non-conference doubleheader sweep of the Georgia Southwestern Hurricanes.

The two-game sweep pushed the No. 17 Blazers' win total to 31 on the season against just nine losses, while the Hurricanes fell to 23-19.

Blazer second baseman Chelsea Canara made sure the Blazers got off to an early start on offense in the first contest with an RBI single back through the box to score Shelby Altman, who walked earlier in the inning and moved into scoring position on a Kiley Rusen fielder's choice.

Brianna Hancock appeared to be working well in the bottom of the first inning and struck out the side, but not before catcher Nellie Moore managed to sandwich a solo shot between the strikeouts to tie the contest up at one apiece.

After a three-up, three-down effort by Hancock in the bottom of the second, the Blazer offensive contingent rewarded their pitcher with a five-run third that included two bases loaded walks and a two-run bomb to center field by Altman. The home run marked the VSU shortstop's 13th of the year, and further secured her position at number three on the 2014 Gulf South Conference home run leaderboard.

The Hurricanes bounced back once again in the bottom of the third inning with a bases loaded double that plated two additional runs for GSW. Valdosta State was able to limit the damage, however, thanks to a heads up play by April Collins, who cut down Hayley Knight for the second out of the inning as she attempted to advance from first to third on Moore's two-bagger. Hancock escaped further damage when she induced a fly ball to center for the third and final out of the frame.

Refusing to settle for a three run lead, Rusen sparked the Blazers in the fourth inning with a lead off double before advancing to third when Head Coach Thomas Macera elected to have Canara lay down a successful sacrifice bunt. The move paid off two batters later, when Heather Robinson ripped a single into left field to open up a 7-3 lead after three-and-a-half innings.

Hancock went into cruise control the rest of the way and blanked the Hurricanes in the final four innings to collect her 12th complete game of the season. The win boosted the senior hurler's record to 14-4 on the year and moved her into a three-way tie at second place in the GSC for the most wins on the season. Hancock is now tied with Union's Kelly Robey and West Florida's Taylor Bailey in the second position, and the trio trails the league leader, North Alabama's BeeAnna Blevins, by just one game on the leaderboards.

Allison Pastor suffered the loss for the Hurricanes, and was chased one out into the third inning after giving up six runs on just three hits. Four of the six runs allowed proved to be unearned, as the Blazers took full advantage of three errors by GSW shortstop Keri Tompkins.

Despite Courtney Albritton's failed bid for a 15 game hitting streak, the junior still reached twice, scored once, stole a base, and drove in a run in game one, and started a new streak in the second game of Wednesday's double header with a leadoff blast over the left field wall. The round tripper moved her season total to a GSC high 18, and moved her to within three of the all-time GSC career home run leader.

Georgia Southwestern tacked on a run of their own in the bottom half of the first inning to knot the contest up at 1-1, after Hurricane right fielder Rachel McElroy singled through the right side with the bases loaded to plate Mason Moreland.

The Hurricanes were poised to take the first lead of the day in the second inning after Lauren Thrasher was hit by a pitch and Kiley Doster followed with a single down the left field line. The pair of base runners moved up on a sacrifice before Thrasher attempted to score from third on a ground ball to third. Hannah Strickland denied the go-ahead run, however, as she quickly scooped and fired to the plate to cut down the base runner.

Both Maci Fletcher and GSW's Ashley Cavender matched each other pitch for pitch for the first half of the contest, each allowing just four hits and one run over the course of four innings. The game took a turn in favor of the Blazers in the fifth, however, as the Blazers sent 14 batters to the plate and broke open a 11-1 lead with ten runs on eight hits. The big blow of the inning came off the bat of Rusen, who cleared the bases with a double to right center. The two-bagger drove in Collins, Albritton, and Altman, who ignited the inning with three straight singles to load the bases for Rusen.

The fifth inning surge finished off the Hurricanes by way of the mercy rule and helped lift Fletcher to her tenth win of the year. Fletcher's freshman campaign moved to a perfect 10-0 with Wednesday's victory.

A big GSC series awaits the Blazers this weekend at Steel's Diamond against the ninth ranked Alabama-Huntsville Lady Chargers. First pitch for Saturday's series-opening doubleheader is scheduled for 1 p.m., with the single game finale slated for a 1 p.m. start on Sunday.

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