Valdosta Daily Times

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March 14, 2014

Taking their shot

Blazers shake off slow start to complete sweep

VALDOSTA — Lander was ripping the cover off the ball in Thursday’s second game at Steel’s Diamond. At least until the Bearcats ripped one off of Valdosta State pitcher Maci Fletcher.

After the line drive off the Blazers’ freshman pitcher that pushed their lead to 4-0, the Bearcats managed just three hits as VSU rallied for a 10-4 win to complete the non-conference sweep. The Blazers won 9-2 in Game 1.

After being held to five hits in the first game, Lander (6-16) had six hits one batter into the third against Fletcher. Taylor Donson, who led off the third with a single, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch before scoring when Aubrey Lamar’s liner up the middle drilled Fletcher in the stomach and bounced to third baseman Hannah Strickland who threw her out at first.

From there, though, the VSU hurler was in command. She retired eight straight before Donson lined a single to center with two outs in the fifth. Reychel Webster and MaKenzie Smith each added two-out singles in the sixth.

With Fletcher settling in, the Blazers offense found itself in the bottom of the third when Heather Robinson, a Lowndes product, and Fran Johnson each reached on infield singles. Johnson later scored on a passed ball. An inning later, VSU (20-8) seized the lead for good.

Kelly Gordon, who got her first career RBI in the first game, pulled VSU within 4-3 with a sac fly to score Hannah Strickland as Brandi Blount, running for Karson King, earlier scored on a wild pitch. Robinson then started a two-out rally with a double before Johnson drove her in with a single. After Courtney Albritton reached on an error, April Collins did as well and that error — the third of the inning by the Bearcats — allowed both Johnson and Albritton to score and VSU led 6-4.

The Blazers batted around for the second straight inning in the fifth as King doubled before Shelby Altman unloaded on a home run to dead center that cleared the second fence dividing Blazer Park from the neighboring parking lot. Strickland singled and later scored on a wild pitch. VSU added a run in the sixth as well as Gordon singled to drive in Altman, who went 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs. Johnson, Robinson and Strickland all had two hits as well.

In Game 1, it didn’t take the VSU offense long to get started at all.

Albritton homered in her first at-bat for the third time this season and the junior didn't slow down from there as she reached in all five plate appearance and carried VSU past Lander. The Blazers' star was 3-for-3 and also walked and hit by a pitch. She scored or drove in four of VSU's first five runs as she finished a triple shy of the cycle.

Leading 2-0 after the leadoff home run and an infield single from Albritton in the second with two outs that plated Strickland, Valdosta State ran into trouble in the third.

The Bearcats loaded the bases without a hit as Brianna Hancock walked two and hit another. With two outs, Lander's Smith battled through an 11-pitch at-bat before smashing a single into left field to tie it. Caitlyn Calhoun then relieved and escaped further damage.

That allowed the Blazers a chance to answer, and with a runner on and one out, Johnson doubled off the fence in left to put VSU up for good. Albritton followed suit to the same spot that chased Lander starter Mary Katherine Pegram. Valdosta State added two more runs as Bearcat relief pitcher Taylor Crawford walked three Blazers — including two with the bases loaded — and hit another as she faced five batters.

Gordon drove in her first collegiate run two innings later with a groundout and Johnson, who had two hits and three RBIs, followed with a two-run home run. Altman also had two hits in Game 1.

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