The Blazers' inferno: No. 3 Blazers blast nine home runs in doubleheader sweep of West Alabama Sunday

Shane Thomas | The Valdosta Daily TimesValdosta State catcher Lacey Crandall (3) and infielder Taylor Lewis celebrate after Crandall's home run against West Alabama Saturday at Steel's Diamond at Blazer Park.

VALDOSTA –– Behind nine home runs, including three each from junior Nicole Pennington and sophomore Kiley Robb, the No. 3 Valdosta State softball team swept a doubleheader from visiting West Alabama, 10-1 in six innings and 10-0 in five innings Sunday afternoon at Steel's Diamond at Blazer Park. VSU swept the three-game series and ran its winning streak to 14 games.

The Blazers (25-3, 19-2 Gulf South Conference) hit .449 for the twin bill with nine home runs, 20 runs scored, 22 hits, one double, one triple and 17 RBI. Robb finished the day 5 of 6 from the dish with four runs scored, three home runs and four RBI. Pennington was 4 of 7 from the plate, four runs scored, three home runs and seven RBI. Senior Logan Hill went 2 for 5 with two runs scored, two home runs and two RBI. Sophomore Hunter Meadows belted her first home run of her VSU career and went 4 of 5 from the plate with three runs scored, one home run and two RBI.

Not only were the Blazers outstanding from the dish, but also on the mound as VSU had a 0.64 ERA in 11 innings, allowing one run, walked none and fanned 11. UWA hit .250 for the day. Sophomore hurler Samantha Richards picked up her 15th victory of the season (15-2) in a run-rule game, while freshman Morgan Hill  improved to 5-1 on the year with a victory in the nightcap.

No. 3 Valdosta State 10, West Alabama 1 (Game One)

On a 2-2 pitch with two out in the bottom of the first, L. Hill hit her sixth home run of the season to left center for a 1-0 lead off UWA starter Kacy Noland. It was the fifth home run hit by the Blazers in the series as VSU hit four home runs in the opener Saturday. It also marked L. Hill's 30th career round-tripper moving her into a tie for tenth all-time in school history in career home runs with Jaime Phillips.

With a 1-2 count and two out in the top of the second, UWA's Grace Self came up with an RBI single through the left side for a 1-1 score. VSU starting pitcher sophomore Samantha Richards induced a ground out to end the inning. Through the first two innings, Richards had three strikeouts for 125 for the season in 104.2 innings.

VSU made a great defensive play in the top of the third. After a leadoff single from Kelsie Gilliam, Abby McKee tried to bunt her to second, but junior Nicole Pennington made a great diving catch at shortstop and then turned the twin killing at first for two away. It was the fifth double play turned by the Blazers this season. Pennington then made the third out of the inning as she tagged Cassie Matlock who tried to steal second.

L. Hill hit her second home run of the game with a solo shot to right center on the first pitch of the at bat with two out in the bottom of the third and a 2-1 score. It was the Blazers' national leading 56th home run of the year.

Getting her first start of her career as the designated player, freshman Katie Proctor doubled to left with one out in the bottom of the fourth. It was Proctor's fifth hit of her career. Junior Baylee Everson tripled off the wall in right center for a 3-1 VSU lead with two away in the inning. Sophomore Hunter Meadows singled up the middle, plating Everson for a 4-1 lead, chasing Noland from the game.

Pennington, who had been 0 for 2 in her first two at bats, took an 0-1 pitch to left field off the light poll and on the top of the scoreboard for her 14th home run of the season and a 5-1 lead. Pennington now has reached safely in all 27 games this season and 29-straight dating back to 2020. Freshman Aniston Gano put down a great but moving runners to second and third with one away in the frame. Proctor scored on a single and two errors  by the Tigers as three runs scored for an 8-1 score.

In the bottom of the sixth, Pennington blasted her second home run of the game for a two run shot and a 10-1 score to end the game in walk-off fashion. It was Pennington's first career walk-off.

For the game, VSU recorded ten runs on 12 hits with no errors, while UWA had one run on five hits and two miscues. Richards improved to 16-2 on the year, going all six innings, allowing five hits, one earned run, walked none and fanned seven. Noland (6-8) took the loss, going 3.2 innings, allowing seven hits, four earned runs, walked none and fanned one.

Just as in yesterday's game, home runs were the theme as Pennington and L. Hill each had two for the game. Pennington was 2 for 4 with two runs scored and three RBI, while L. Hill was 2 for 2 with two runs scored and two RBI. Each of the Blazers who had a hit in the game had a multi-hit game with six players with two hits each.

No. 3 Valdosta State 10, West Alabama 0 (Game Two)

In the nightcap, freshman Morgan Hill began the game with eight pitches and eight strikes, but an infield single followed on an 0-2 count with two outs. On the 11th pitch of the inning, M. Hill got a ground out to first to end the threat in the top of the first for the Tigers. She was just one pitch from the "Immaculate Inning" with nine pitches and nine strikes.

With two out in the bottom of the first, sophomore Kiley Robb belted her tenth home run of the season to left center as it landed in a bed of a truck and a 2-0 lead. VSU's 59 home runs to that point marked the tenth-most in school history in home runs in a season already.

An infield single for Meadows and two wild pitches moved her to third with one out in the bottom of the second. Meadows stole home for a 3-0 lead as Everson, who drew a walk, went halfway to second and Meadows came home.

Robb became the fourth Blazer to hit two home runs in the same game in the series with her 11th home run in the bottom of the third for a 4-0 lead. Senior Lacey Crandall had two in Saturday's 13-2 victory, while Pennington and L. Hill each had two home runs in the opener Sunday.

Meadows began the bottom of the fourth with her first home run of her VSU career, a solo shot to right field chasing UWA starter Breanna Fortenberry from the game and a 5-0 lead. It was her third collegiate home run as she had two round-trippers at Presbyterian last season. Everson hit an infield single and freshman Kayla Tosone singled to left for two on with one out following the home runs. M. Hill hit a single to center to load the bases. Pennington, on a 3-1 count from reliever Kaeleigh Crutchfield, belted her fourth home run of the series and third of the day with a grand slam to center field and a 9-0 lead. Robb then belted her third home run of the game for a 10-0 lead.

Senior Avery Lamb came in to pitch the fifth for the Blazers. UWA put two runners on base with one out in the inning. Lamb got her first strikeout of the game for the second out and retired the next batter for the combined shutout.

For the nightcap, VSU tallied ten runs on ten hits with no errors, while UWA had no runs on five hits and no errors. Robb was 3 for 4 with three runs scored and four RBI with her three home runs. Pennington was 2 for 4 with two runs scored, four RBI and a home run. VSU hit five home runs in the game.

M. Hill went four innings of the run-rule game, allowing three hits, walked none and fanned three. Fortenberry (2-1) took the loss in three innings, allowing five hits, five earned runs, walked one and fanned one.

For the series, VSU hit an astonishing .493 on 36 of 73 from the dish, while it recorded one double, two triples and a blistering 13 home runs. The Blazers scored 33 runs with 30 RBI, walked six times and struck out just five times.

Meadows went a staggering 7 of 8 from the dish with four runs scored, one home run and three RBI. Pennington finished an incredible weekend 7 of 11 from the plate, scored seven runs, hit four home runs and drove in nine. She slugged a team-best 1.727.  Robb went 5 of 9 from the plate with four runs scored, three home runs and four RBI. Of the 13 home runs hit for the series, six different players hit at least one with four hitting two or more.

Richards went 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 11 innings, allowing nine hits, three runs – two earned, walked none and fanned 13. The staff held a 0.88 ERA in 16 innings, allowing just 14 hits, three runs – two earned, walked none and fanned 17 as UWA hit just .233 against the Blazers.

VSU returns to the road with a doubleheader Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Albany State and then returns home to host rival West Georgia next Saturday and Sunday in the final home series of the regular season. Saturday's doubleheader is scheduled for 2 p.m., followed by single game Sunday at 1 p.m.

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