Blazers’ Winning Streak Snapped in 18-0, 6-8 Split With Union

| March 31, 2014
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Source: VSU Athletics

JACKSON, TN. –  Valdosta State’s 12 game winning streak came to an end with a Sunday afternoon split in Jackson, Tenn., as the Blazers cruised in game one with an 18-0 win before falling to the Lady Bulldogs 8-6 in game two.

The split moved the Blazers to a 29-9 season record and a 13-6 stint in Gulf South Conference play, while Union moved to 20-16 overall, 5-11 in league action.

As she has done many times this season, Blazer leadoff hitter Courtney Albritton sparked an early rally for Valdosta State with a single in the top half of the first inning of game one.  She moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, and crossed the plate to score when Union shortstop Reagan Schrader made an errant throw on a Kiley Rusen ground ball.

The Blazers continued to pile on in the first inning when Hannah Strickland singled to left before freshman Heather Robinson delivered a base hit to left center to bring both Rusen and Strickland in for the second and third run of the half inning.

The Lady Bulldogs looked to close the gap in the bottom half of the first inning with a well-hit ball to left that was headed for the grass beyond the left field wall. Blazer left fielder April Collins would have none of it though, as she sprinted to the fence and leaped to make a fantastic catch on a ball that would have clearly been a home run had it not been caught.

Following the dazzling catch by Collins in the opening frame, Brianna Hancock settled in to allow just one hit the rest of the way and hold Union scoreless. The win moved the senior’s season record to 13-4 and served as her eleventh complete game. The shutout effort was Hancock’s sixth of the year.

Already leading 6-0 after three innings, the Blazers took advantage of two errors to pile on eight insurance runs in an inning that was highlighted by a two-run triple off the bat of freshman infielder Chelsea Canara. The run surge opened up a 14-0 lead for the Blazers midway through the fourth inning.

The final four runs came in the top of the fifth, as the Blazers teamed up for three hits to plate four additional runs and give Valdosta State an 18-0 advantage. Hannah Strickland,Heather Robinson, and Morgan Butler each swung for RBI singles in the half inning, and Johnson drove in her fifth run of the day with a sacrifice fly to left.

Three of Johnson’s five RBI’s were a product of her third home run of the season, which she launched in the third inning.

The Valdosta State offensive corps tallied 11 hits in the contest with three extra base hits, and seven different Blazer hitters drove in at least one RBI in the game.

Game two started much differently for the Lady Bulldogs, as Union pitcher Kelly Robey held the Blazers scoreless in the top half of the first, before the team plated five unearned runs on four hits and one error to close out the first inning.

In the frame, the Lady Bulldogs benefited from a slow roller that forced Shelby Altman to hurry an attempt to throw out the baserunner at first base. As a result, Altman’s throw sailed over the Kiley Rusen‘s head at first base, which allowed the runner to reach and move up to second base.

One out and one Union hit later, Schrader scored from third on a well-executed squeeze play by Amanda Chandler. Caitlyn Calhoun, Valdosta State’s game-two starter, fielded the bunt and made an attempt to cut down the runner at the plate, but Schrader beat the throw to score Union’s first run of the game.

Calhoun struck out the next batter for the second out of the inning, but the Lady Bulldogs reeled off three straight singles to bring home four additional runs before Carter Mansolino popped up to second base for the third and final out.

Valdosta State cut Union’s lead to four in the top half of the third thanks to a leadoff single by Shelby Altman, followed by a sacrifice fly later in the inning by Strickland. The Blazers were able to load the bases, but Robey induced a pop up by Albritton to end the threat.

One inning later, the Blazers scored their second run of the game, thanks to a Morgan Butler sacrifice fly that brought in Brittany Britt, who pinch ran for Robinson after she walked to lead off the fourth.

A two run home run for Schrader in the fifth inning lifted the Lady Bulldogs to an 8-2 advantage, but the Blazers picked up an additional run in the top of the sixth when Johnson reached on a single to right field and promptly stole second base. Mansolino’s bid to cut down Johnson on the stolen base attempt hit the Blazer speedster on the leg and deflected into the outfield grass, which allowed Valdosta State’s right fielder to score the Blazers’ third run of the game.

Valdosta State put together one last three-run rally in the top of the final frame, before Robey induced a ground ball to third to strand the tying run at second base and escape with the win. Union has leaned heavily on Robey in the circle this season, and Sunday’s victory improved her to 14-12 on the year.

During the final push by the Blazers in the seventh, Albritton extended her hitting streak to 14 games with a bloop hit into the outfield grass just beyond the shortstop’s reach.

Calhoun took the loss in game two to drop her record to 5-2 on the year.

Next up for the Blazers is a quick trip to Americus, Ga. in the middle of the week on Wednesday to face Georgia Southwestern in a 4:00 p.m. double header. The Blazers will aim for a regular season sweep of the Hurricanes, as VSU took two from GSW earlier in the year on February 18th at Steel’s Diamond in Valdosta.

Source: Valdosta State University Athletics

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