VALDOSTA -- Valdosta State broke out the bats Saturday, and swept a Gulf South Conference doubleheader from Montevallo.
The Blazers (27-21, 12-5 GSC) pounded the ball in winning game 1, 16-5, then got a strong pitching performance from Bryan Bennett in winning game 2, 6-2.
The two wins left VSU in a tie for first with West Florida and Alabama-Huntsville in the Gulf South Conference East baseball standings. Combined with losses by West Georgia (twice) and North Alabama (once), the Blazers clinched a spot in the Gulf South tournament next month in Millington, Tenn.
"What a job of hitting this team did today," Valdosta State head coach Tommy Thomas said. "Everybody in our lineup hit the ball well today, and it showed on the scoreboard. These were big wins for us in the conference standings."
Valdosta State, which has won every conference series it has played this year, goes for the series sweep at 2 p.m. today at Billy Grant Field. Today is Senior Day. The seniors will be recognized before the game, starting at 1:15 p.m.
VSU 16, Montevallo 5
In the first game, Valdosta State knocked around three Montevallo pitchers, pounding out 13 hits. The game was stopped in the seventh due to the mercy rule. Every VSU batter scored a run in the game.
"That was a great display of offense we had in Game 1," Thomas said. "This team hit the ball, and scored some runs. We got a big lead, and then didn't let them back in the ballgame."
The onslaught began in the first. A Robert Morgan hit-by-pitch and singles by Josh Owsley and John McDonald loaded the bases, then Greg Connell singled home Morgan. Matt Rucker followed with another RBI single. McDonald scored on a wild pitch, making it 3-1. Greg Adams singled down the right field line, making it 4-1. Montevallo starter Brian Wilkinson was finished, without having retired a batter.
Reliever Josh Alford allowed an RBI sacrifice to Ryan Chromek and an RBI double to Micah Smith before finally escaping with the Blazers leading 6-1.
In the second inning, Greg Adams drilled an Alford fastball over the Wendy's sign in left center for a three-run homer, making it 9-2.
The bats came alive again in the fourth. Adams' one-out double put runners at second and third. Jermaine Johnson greeted reliever Derek Dobson with a line-drive single up the middle, scoring Rucker and Adams. Later, Smith's sacrifice fly scored Johnson, making it 12-3.
The Blazers loaded the bases in the sixth, and Morgan drew a bases-loaded walk. Chromek then scored on a wild pitch. Owsley then popped up into shallow right field, but second baseman Chris Nolan dropped the ball, and Smith and Morgan raced home to score VSU's 15th and 16th runs of the game, for a 16-5 lead. Blazers pitcher Adam Lingenfelter then retired the Falcons 1-2-3 in the seventh, and the mercy rule went into effect.
Lingenfelter (6-2) allowed single runs in the first three innings and two in the sixth, but also never let the Falcons back in the game. He struck out seven batters.
"I was really worried about the bats of Montevallo," Thomas said. "I knew left-handed hitters were better hitters against Adam, and that proved true. They hit the ball against a man throwing, I'm told, 93 mph today. I'll give credit to the Montevallo hitters.
"But I still give more credit to the Valdosta State hitters."
Eight of nine Blazers had hits in Game 1. Adams was 3-for-3 with four RBI and four runs scored. Owsley, Rucker and Chromek had two hits each.
The Blazer without a hit? The one with a school-record 31-game hitting streak. Morgan was 0-for-2, but in his other three at-bats, he walked twice and was hit by a pitch.
Wilkinson was charged with six runs on five hits, Alford was charged with five runs on six hits, and Dobson with five runs on two hits. At the plate, Nolan was 3-for-3, while Trent Preuitt, Bill Thompson, and Jeff Branch had two hits each.
VSU 6, Montevallo 2
Valdosta State continued to hit the ball in the second game, scoring six more runs, and Bennett took a shutout into the sixth, yielding six hits.
"Bryan Bennett pitched outstanding. I thought he might even have himself a shutout," Thomas said. "He kept us in the game."
Once again, the Blazers put runs on the board early. In the first, Morgan singled, starting a new hitting streak, was sacrificed to second, stole third, and came home on Connell's single up the middle.
The Blazers scored two more in the second. After an error on Morgan's ground ball loaded the bases, Owsley ripped a two-strike pitch between short and third, scoring Adams and Chromek for a 3-0 lead.
VSU then doubled the lead in the fourth. After Smith and Morgan singled, Owsley lined a single up the middle. Smith scored, and when the center fielder had trouble fielding the ball, Morgan came home. Owsley later scored on Rucker's sacrifice fly, making it 6-0.
Bennett had a five-hit shutout going until the sixth. Then the Falcons cut into the lead, getting one run on Jeff Branch's single and another on a wild pitch, making it 6-2. But then Thomas brought Will Thompson in from the bullpen, and Thompson shut the door, getting the final four outs.
Bennett (6-3) allowed six hits and two unearned runs, striking out three, in 5.2 innings. At the plate, Owsley was 3-for-3 with three RBI. Morgan and Connell each were 2-for-4, with Morgan scoring twice.