CLEVELAND, Miss. –– The never say die Valdosta State baseball team fought valiantly in a 9-6 loss to No. 5 Delta State Saturday in the South Region II Championship. Despite the loss, VSU had an outstanding season finishing at 32-23 overall and earning a berth in the championship game of this half of the regional.
The Blazers had their chances in the game, including back-to-back home runs from juniors Aaron Haughton and Mike Christopoulos and led 4-3 through five innings. A total of 13 free passes proved costly in the game as VSU had three base on balls with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. VSU had six runs on 11 hits with one error, while DSU had nine runs on seven hits with three miscues.
The game was scoreless until the top of the fourth as VSU junior starter Anthony Dahl worked out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the first inning. In the fourth, Dahl got the first two batters out, but two walks and a three run home run from Darek Sargent for a 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, a fielding miscue by the Statesmen put junior Logan Stephens at first and Haughton followed with a two-run blast for his third home run of the season. Moments later, Christopoulos followed with his first home run of the season for a 3-3 score. Junior Jowenrick Daantji then plated a run for a 4-3 VSU advantage
DSU (42-12) came right back in the top of the sixth with the three bases loaded walks for a 6-4 lead, but the Blazers wouldn't go down quietly, as they used a leadoff double from senior DJ King in the bottom of the sixth and Haughton then singled home a run for a 6-5 score. Sophomore Seth Caballes singled to right and Christopoulos tried to score the equalizer but was gunned down at the plate to end the inning.
The Statemen added two runs in the seventh for an 8-5 lead on a sacrifice fly and a RBI single as VSU third basemen Josh Broughton came into pitch in his final game as a Blazer. Junior Jon Jon Burkett doubled to begin the bottom of the seventh and then Broughton hit a sacrifice fly for an 8-6 score. Sargent hit his second home run of the game for a 9-6 lead in the top of the ninth and the final margin.
VSU won two games in the NCAA regional for the first time since 2009. The Blazers now are 52-46 all-time in 20 appearances in the NCAA postseason with a national championship in 1979.
For the game, Haughton was 2 for 4 with a run scored and three RBI, while Burkett was 2 for 4 with two runs scored. Freshman Heston Mosley (0-2) took the loss in 1.1 innings, allowing three earned runs, walked five and fanned one. DSU starter Seth Hougesen (9-0) went 5.1 innings, allowing seven hits, five runs - three earned, walked none and fanned none. Tommy Childree picked up his eighth save of the season. Sargent was a best for the Statesmen as he was 2 for 4 with four runs scored, four RBI and two home runs.