VALDOSTA -- A win is a win, whether a one-run game or a blowout. The Valdosta State softball team won one of both in a doubleheader sweep of Mississippi University for Women Saturday.
The Lady Blazers had to go to extra innings for the first win, a 3-2 victory, but there was no doubt about the second one, 12-4 in six innings.
With the wins, VSU (34-19, 18-6 GSC) clinched a berth in the Gulf South Conference tournament May 4-5 in Meridian, Miss.
"We've made the playoffs, and now if we win the rest of our conference games, there's a chance we'll move into second or first. So that's what we're going for now," Valdosta State head coach Kendra McDaniel said. "But we've definitely got a spot (in the playoffs) now, and we're excited about that."
In Game 1, VSU pounded out 15 hits in the nine-inning 3-2 victory, but nearly lost the game.
The Lady Blazers trailed 2-1 with two outs in the seventh. But Sabrina Bleier drilled an RBI single to left, tying the score, and sending the game into extra innings.
In the bottom of the ninth, Ryann Ellingsworth led off with a bunt single, then was sacrificed to second by Melissa Moon. One out later, Rachael Milligan ripped a pitch from Lauren Arnold (4-6) over left fielder Michele Haynie's head, and Ellingsworth trotted home with the winning run.
VSU starter Brooke King (8-4) did her part on the mound, limiting MUW to six hits, four in regulation, and two unearned runs. She also pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the top of the ninth.
Valdosta State trailed nearly the entire game, after errors helped MUW score runs in the second and fourth innings, and take a 2-0 lead. Ellingsworth's fifth-inning single scored Tiffany Moon to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Ellingsworth, Bleier and Milligan each had three hits for VSU.
VSU left 15 runners on base. In the second, fourth and fifth innings, the Lady Blazers had the bases loaded with less than two outs, and did not score.
"If we'd been able (to hit with runners in scoring position) today, we would have scored more runs," McDaniel said. "But we hit the ball in both games, and we got the wins, so we're happy."
The Lady Blazers had no trouble scoring runs in the second game, though. VSU pounded MUW starter Christine Palmer (1-6) for 12 runs on 13 hits.
In the first inning, the Lady Blazers put four runs on the board. Tammi Momberg's double to left-center scored Lindsay Ellingsworth with the first run. An error off Ryann Ellingsworth's chopper allowed Tiffany Moon to slide home safely. Krista Kneuer singled home Momberg, then Milligan drew a bases-loaded walk, giving the Lady Blazers a 4-0 lead.
In the second inning, Ryann Ellingsworth's single up the middle scored another run, then Kneuer's grounder to short was thrown wide of first, allowing two runs to score, and giving VSU a 7-0 lead.
"It helped," McDaniel said about getting seven runs in the first two innings. "I like to get runs early, so if we make errors and give up runs later, it doesn't cost us the game."
MUW scored three times in the third, but Valdosta State came back with single runs in the next three innings, making the lead 10-4.
Finally, the Lady Blazers ended things in the bottom of the sixth. Ashley Thierer scored on an error after Lindsay Ellingsworth's single. VSU loaded the bases, and Momberg ripped a hit to the warning track in center, bringing home the 12th run, and giving the Blazers an eight-run lead and a mercy-rule victory.
Tiffany Moon, Kneuer and Momberg had three hits apiece. Kneuer drove in three runs. The Lady Blazers had 28 total hits in the doubleheader.
Lindsay Ellingsworth (13-4) got the win, striking out seven. Other than the third, when MUW got three of its four runs and all five of its hits, Ellingsworth was dominant.
"We got excellent pitching today, from Brooke and Lindsay," McDaniel said. "They pitched real well. Lindsay struggled one inning, but she came back and pitched well the rest of the game."
Sunday, the Lady Blazers and Blues will play another doubleheader at the VSU softball field. The d
oubleheader will start at noon, with the second game afterwards. Sunday will be Senior Day, when the senior softball players will be recognized between games.
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