VALDOSTA, GA – Valdosta State’s Thomas Macera reached a career milestone on Tuesday with his 400th win as the Blazer softball head coach, following a 4-0, 11-1 double header sweep of the Georgia Southwestern Hurricanes at Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park.
The accomplishment is one that has been reached just four other times in Gulf South Conference history, as Valdosta State’s all-time wins leader joins Alabama Huntsville’s Les Stuedeman, West Florida’s Tami Cyr, Alvy Early of former GSC member Arkansas-Monticello, and former West Alabama coach Janet Montgomery in the GSC 400 win club.
On the all-time wins list among GSC coaches, Macera now trails Montgomery by just 13 wins, while Early stands at 558. Stuedeman and Cyr have eclipsed the 800 mark with 852 and 854, respectively.
“The Gulf South Conference is a really really tough conference and I’m thankful to be able to win that many games here,” said Macera. “This accomplishment isn’t really about me though. It’s a testament to how good the teams have been that have played here and how consistent they’ve been.”
The scoring began in the second inning of game one, when Hannah Strickland ripped a double off of the wall in the gap with one away. Heather Robinson took full advantage of the opportunity in the ensuing at bat with a long, high drive to left field that cleared the wall and gave the Blazers a 2-0 lead. The home run was Robinson’s first of the year.
In the Blazers’ half of the fourth inning, Valdosta State added an insurance run when Shelby Altman, who opened up the frame with a leadoff single, advanced to second on a Hannah Strickland sacrifice bunt and came around to score when GSW shortstop Keri Tompkins booted a Robinson ground ball.
Altman scored the fourth and final run in the sixth inning in a single at bat due to a four base error by third baseman Jordan Miller. On the attempt to field a ground ball and throw Altman out at first base, Miller’s throw overshot the first baseman and rolled all the way into the right field corner, which allowed Altman to make the full trip around the bases to put the Blazers up 4-0.
Brianna Hancock delivered a gem from the circle, as the Blazer hurler never allowed the Hurricanes to score and only gave up one hit throughout the seven inning shutout. Her final line included seven strikeouts and no walks, and the victory improved her record to 6-2 on the year.
“We’ve been working on not giving up walks and homers,” said Macera. “They don’t have to shut these teams out every night. We just want them to keep us in the game, and both (Brianna) and Maci (Fletcher) did a great job with that today.”
In game two, the Blazers scored in every inning to claim an 11-1 advantage after five. The ten run lead placed the mercy rule into effect after four and one half innings and wrapped up the sweep for Valdosta State.
The offensive barrage from Valdosta State included 11 Blazer hits, multiple hits from both Karson King and Altman, and a 2-for-3 effort by Fran Johnson. Johnson’s strong performance at the plate included a screaming shot over the center field wall in the third inning, which accounted for two of her four RBI’s in the contest.
Freshman Maci Fletcher picked up the win for Valdosta State for her first career victory to improve her record to 1-0 on the year. Fletcher allowed just one run on five hits and struck out one while allowing just one walk.
Next up for the Blazers is a trip to Pensacola, Fla. to take on the GSC rival West Florida Argonauts. The three game weekend series is scheduled to kick off with a double header beginning at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, followed by game three on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. EST.