VALDOSTA — How can 11 innings of pretty good baseball give way to one inning of disastrous baseball?

Everyone at Billy Grant Field found out Sunday.

The top of the 12th inning began with the game tied 5-5. Then Valdosta State suffered a complete meltdown, and Montevallo scored 17 runs to turn a nailbiter into a massacre. A 22-5 massacre.

For 11 innings, the Blazers (21-24, 7-11 conference), still holding on to some hopes of making the Gulf South Conference tournament, stood toe-to-toe with the East-leading Falcons.

But in the 12th, everything went wrong for the Blazers. Montevallo scored 17 runs on nine hits, with four errors, four walks, three batters hit by a pitch — and eight VSU pitchers, including two that were actually infielders.

With the win, No. 12 Montevallo maintains a two-game lead in the East. Valdosta State could have closed to within a game of third place in the East if it had won, but instead, the Blazers are two games back of third-place West Florida and Lincoln Memorial, with only three conference games to play, against UWF next weekend.

Valdosta State took an early lead with two runs in the first. With one out, Scott Brooker reached on an error and Chris Harris singled. With runners on the corners, VSU coach Tommy Thomas called for a double steal. Brooker took off for the plate, and when catcher Jared Myrick initially bobbled the shortstop’s throw, Brooker slid under the tag. Then Harris raced home from second to score on an error, giving the Blazers a 2-0 lead.

Valdosta State added a run in the third. With Brian Hicks and Chris Harris on base after singles, Jared Goff reached on an infield single, scoring Hicks to make it 3-0.

Montevallo made it 3-1 in the fourth, when Daniel Tankersley’s double to left center scored Daniel Furuto. The Falcons loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the fifth, but VSU starter Robert Petrucci struck out J.D. Pruitt, then got Myrick to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Montevallo then tied the score up with three runs in the top of the sixth. Furuto started the inning with a double, then after Chris Davison had come in to relieve and Furuto had advanced on a wild pitch, Dave Nanney singled to right, scoring Furuto. Francisco Perez followed with an RBI single, making it 4-3. Then Millard Dawson’s line drive towards third went right by Brooker’s glove and into left field. Another run scored, tying the game.

It would stay tied 4-4 for the next four innings. Montevallo reliever John Chamblee would shut down the Blazers, while the Falcons got runners in scoring position in all of those innings, only to have Blazer pitchers Will Thompson and Stewart Thomas slam the door on the rally.

Montevallo finally broke through in the top of the 11th. Myrick led off with a single, was sacrificed to second, and took third on a wild pitch. Travis Fultz worked a full count, then lined a single to left, and Myrick trotted home to give the Falcons their first lead of the game, 5-4.

But the Blazers tied it again. Leading off the inning, Castellon reached on an error. Nick Copeland sacrificed Castellon to second, then he took third on a dropped third strike to Hicks. After Copeland’s sacrifice, Montevallo coach Greg Goff pulled Chamblee, who had thrown seven innings of shutout relief, and went to his closer, Zach Andrews.

On a 2-1 pitch to Chris Harris, a pitch in the dirt got away from Myrick, and rolled a few feet away. Castellon broke for the plate. Had Myrick’s throw been on target, Castellon would have been tagged out and the game would have been over. But the throw went past Andrews, and Castellon was safe, tying the score.

Then came the nightmare in the top of the 12th.

The leadoff hitter, Brantly Clay, hit a chopper towards the mound, but Thomas threw it well past first base, and Clay took second. Two wild pitches put Clay on third and Dawson, who walked, on second. New pitcher Brandon Cooper issued an intentional walk to Holloway, the ninth hitter, with VSU opting to take its chances with J.D. Pruitt, who was 1-for-15 in the series.

Pruitt hit a routine chopper to third, but Brooker dropped the ball, then threw the ball into the dirt at home, and Clay was safe. Next, Myrick drew a bases-loaded walk, forcing home another run. With a 3-1 count on Chris Stano, Coach Thomas replaced Cooper with Luke Taylor, who threw ball four, forcing in another run. Then Taylor hit Tankersley with a pitch, and another run crossed the plate, making it 9-5. Tim Harris became the next Blazer pitcher. The pitcher was different, but the result was the same: a bases-loaded walk to Fultz. Then Dave Nanney lined a single to right that short-hopped Copeland, and rolled to the wall. Three runs crossed the plate, making it 13-5. There were still no outs.

Clay, batting for the second time in the inning, greeted the sixth pitcher of the inning, Landon Gray, with an RBI single, making it 14-5. Gray struck out the next batter, but Holloway’s RBI single made it 15-5.

The seventh pitcher, Nick Phillips, actually an infielder, hit two batters, then gave way to another infielder, Castellon, who gave up an RBI single. Then Fultz put the cherry on top, crushing a grand slam to right field, which made it 21-5. Later, an error brought home another run, making it 22-5.

Andrews (4-0) closed out VSU in the bottom of the 12th.

At the plate for Montevallo, Nanney was 4-for-6 with two runs and two RBIs. Fultz was 3-for-6, scored three runs, and drove in six. Dawson was 3-for-8 with a run. Furuto, Tankersley, Perez, Clay and Holloway had two hits each. Tankersley also drove in three runs and scored two.

For Valdosta State, Brooker, Chris Harris and Goff had two hits apiece. Stewart Thomas (0-2) took the loss, though he was hardly VSU’s worst pitcher Sunday.

Valdosta State’s final home game will be Tuesday, when the Blazers host Armstrong Atlantic State at 5 p.m.

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