Cruthers’ Walk-Off Grand Slam Seals Doubleheader Sweep

| March 30, 2017

VALDOSTA – The Valdosta State softball team ended a mid-week regional doubleheader in thrilling fashion, as Hayley Cruthers delivered a walk-off grand slam to cap off a two-game sweep of the Eckerd Tritons (10-0, 7-3) at Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park in Valdosta, Ga. on Tuesday.

The Blazers, who took game one easily with a five-inning, mercy rule victory over the Tritons, trailed with just three outs left in the bottom half of the seventh inning. Jessica Mohl and Hayley Cruthers, who teamed up to go 8-for-12 on the day, drove in all six of Valdosta State’s runs in the final inning to help lift the Blazers to the walk-off win.

With the Blazers facing a 3-1 deficit in the bottom of the seventh, Taylor Hartenbach led off the final half-inning with a walk. Two batters later, Head Coach Thomas Macera called on freshman pinch hitter Amber Kling, who struck for a one-out double off the right field wall to move Hartenbach to third and place herself in scoring position as the potential tying run. After Haley Fowler drew a pinch hit walk to load the bases, Mohl, who had an incredible day on both offense and defense, delivered a two-run single back through the middle to tie the game at 3-3.

“When I was taking batting practice today, even when I was missing a little, my swing felt nice,” said Mohl, whose game-tying hit marked her fifth of the day. “I came out with the mentality of staying relaxed. I didn’t feel like I was pressing today like I have been the last few weekends, which was encouraging.”

The clutch single by VSU’s shortstop brought up Tara McIntyre, who was struck by a pitch to load the bases again for Cruthers, who had already ripped a three-run double with the bases loaded in game one. With the winning run just sixty feet away, the senior left no doubt about how the contest would end, as she unloaded on a towering shot to right center field that cleared the wall by 25-plus feet and sent Blazer Nation into a frenzy.

“I knew I needed to get it out of the infield to score that runner from third,” said Cruthers on her approach to the final at bat. “Coach told me to get it out of the infield, and I knew I wanted to be patient after she threw the pitch that hit Tara. When the count went 2-0, she threw me one right down the middle and I swung. Everyone had a job to do in the seventh inning for us to get this win, and this ending was perfect for us.”

Cruthers closed out the day with eight RBI’s to lift her season total to 52, a number which places her tied for the Division II softball lead in the category. The grand slam marked her second of the 2017 season.

Valdosta State improved to 27-8 on the season following the sweep, while the Tritons dropped to 13-24 on the year. Avery Lamb allowed just one hit to pick up the complete-game shutout in the opening game and improve to 11-2, while Kathryn Carter also landed her 11th win of the year after coming on in relief in game two to improve her season record to 11-1.

The Blazers racked up five homers on the day, including two tape-measure shots by Brandy Morgan in game one, which moved her to 7th on VSU’s all-time home run list. In addition, Haley Garrett and Tana McDaniel each added long balls in game one. The pair of homers were career firsts for both players.

Valdosta State will return to action on Saturday, as they welcome Mississippi College to town for a three-game weekend series. A doubleheader opener is slated for Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at Steel’s Diamond.

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