VALDOSTA — For the Valdosta State baseball team, the wait-and-see segment of the season is over. Now it is time for the 13-10 overall and 0-3 in the Gulf South Conference play Blazers to make the necessary changes for improvement.

There is no better time to make changes to improve the club than as VSU hosts the country’s No. 2 team, Georgia College and State, at 5 p.m. today, just a few days before conference play this weekend.

“We’re going to have to make a few personnel changes and in the way we play,” VSU coach Tommy Thomas said.

VSU will continue to look to improve its hitting, which has posed a problem all season long. In doing that Jared Goff will be inserted in the lineup on a more permanent basis.

After a weekend that saw the Blazers commit eight errors in three games against Lincoln Memorial, Thomas is also looking for a few good gloves.

One of those new gloves will be Nick Copeland, who will roam the grass in right field.

Throughout the Blazers’ first GSC series of the season this past weekend, right field was continually a problem. This caused Thomas to put the value of hitting aside and playing his best defensive man in the position.

“Right now he’s not only the best defensive player,” Thomas said. “He’s an outstanding defensive player.”

The reputation as an outstanding defensive player was cemented in an instant March 8. With the Blazers leading Brewton Parker by just one run 5-4 in the top of the ninth inning, the game appeared to be swirling away from them.

VSU walked the first batter, before he stole second base. With two outs, a Barons’ batter connected on a hanging curve ball that looped between center and right field.

“I am saying sitting down (in the dugout) that this game is now tied,” Thomas said. “I can’t believe the bad fortunes that are happening.”

Just before the ball could hit the ground, Copeland raced out of right field and dove to the ground.

“When he dove for it, I said there’s no way he’s going to get to the ball,” Thomas said. “I didn’t even see the catch. I saw him rolling around the ground and I expected to see the ball rolling behind him. My first indication that he caught the ball was when our players jumped up in a rejoicing manner, and I said he caught that ball.

“It was unbelievable, and we won the ball game. It was arguably the finest catch I’ve ever seen out here in Billy Grant field in the outfield.”

In one catch, Copeland said loud and clear why he is the best defensive option for the Blazers’ right field spot.

“It was in the gap,” Copeland said. “The ball was spinning back to me, and I was lucky enough to get to it. I try to keep the ball in front of me and hustle after it.”

After a disappointing weekend in which VSU dropped its first three conference games, the team was showing an improved effort in practice Tuesday.

“Right now we’re working on the team concept,” Goff said. “Practice was probably one of the better practices we had in a couple of weeks. These guys are getting after it.

“I think today by some of the effort some of the guys are giving, it is known that some things need to change before we can strive forward.”

When the Blazers do strive forward Goff will have a big role.

The senior catcher is the Blazers’ No. 2 hitter tallying a .351 average and leading the team with 14 RBI’s while starting just 10 games.

“I told the players we have got to get Jared Goff in every single game,” Thomas said. “He has got to bat.”

Goff emphasized that opinion by going 4-for-6 with a run and three RBI in two games this weekend.

“I’m taking good approaches and getting good reads off of pitchers,” Goff said. “I’ve got a real feel of comfort at the plate right now.”

The Blazers have been trying to fit Goff into the lineup at catcher. However, Richard Flores VSU’s other catcher is also a top offensive threat right now.

Rather than swapping the two behind the plate and taking Flores’ bat out of the lineup, Thomas decided to move designated hitter Justin Hill to first base, bat Goff in the DH spot and keep Flores as the catcher.

“(Goff’s) a catcher by trade, and I’m not going to pick on Flores as a scapegoat every game,” Thomas said. “We’re going to have to platoon, but I’m not going to take it out on him not 100 percent. The only place we can do it is at first base.”

The ideal resolution landed in Thomas’s lap at least until the weekend due to an injury by first baseman Richard Seymour.

Seymour injured his shoulder on a play Sunday and therefore allows Hill to play first base as both Goff and Flores get at bats.

“Next time we rotate, I’ll get Jarred behind the plate and Seymour at first, and that way I’ll continue the 50-50 platoon, but it will keep Jared in there every single game and it wont put all of the burden on Flores staying out all the time,” Thomas said. “If we see something develop between Seymour’s bat and Flores’ bat, then it could be more in their favor. Right now, Flores is the more likely person to get a hit.”

Getting a hit is a main priority for the Blazers at this point in the season as changes will be continued to be made until they regain their winning ways.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a good week this week,” Goff said. “We’ll put us back on track and help us gain some ground in the conference to set us up for the rest of the season.”

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