Written by D.J. Davis
Only a two-hour rain delay was able to slow the Blazers’ bats as they ran up 20 runs and earned two gutsy wins in Valdosta State’s home-opening doubleheader against Georgia Southwestern on Tuesday, 8-2, 12-6.
On a day where the Blazers homefield was officially christened as Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park, the constant ping off of Valdosta State’s bats kept them ahead on the scoreboard at a time where their defense was inconsistent bringing the Blazers to 6-0 this season.
Valdosta State head coach Thomas Macera wasn’t concerned about his team’s ability to keep up the scoring.
“They can hit,” Macera said. “Are they going to hit like that every single game? No. They’re always going to hit more in some games than others, but they can hit. They have a hitter’s chance, there are several girls on this team that every time they get into the box they have a chance to hit the ball out, you just gotta hope that carries you.”
The Blazers certainly showed that power early on in the day. Shelby Attman poked the ball over the fence in the bottom of the first inning with a runner on to put VSU up 2-0. Valdosta State didn’t let up either, scoring in five out of the seven innings, including a mammoth homerun by Courtney Albritton to lead off the sixth inning.
Albritton shook off three errors in the second game to jack another shot over the fence, giving her four homeruns in just six games this season (28 homeruns is the Division 2 record) and Valdosta State four homeruns on the day.
While some of the Blazers struggled on defense in the home opener, Hannah Strickland made some eye-popping plays at third base to keep some runs off the board.
“In my opinion, she is the best third baseman in the country,” Macera said. “She is a phenomenal third baseman. She is just a great infielder. She’ll wear it before she lets it go by her, there is no fear there. That position is very, very difficult to play because you’re so close to home plate, but she just had a great outing. The thing is with Hannah, that was routine for her, she makes those plays all the time. She’s just an exceptional player.”
Possibly the most impressive part of VSU’s victories are that not one of the 20 runs were driven in by Morgan Johnson.
Johnson was awarded the Gulf South Conference’s player of the week last week after going 6 for 12 with three homeruns and five runs batted in, however, Johnson will be crucial to Valdosta State’s success as they face a tough slate ahead with five games in four days.
The Blazers will play four tough games in the Charger Chill Out this weekend in Decatur, Ala. perhaps the toughest of them against the University of Indianapolis, who went 50-9 last season. Valdosta State will then travel to Albany, Ga. on Tuesday to make up a rained-postponed game against the Albany State Rams.
Keeping the team rested, yet ready to go is essential throughout a long season.
“You just gotta play,” Macera said. “Softball is in season now until May. You’re playing 60 games over three months. You have to stay focused, you have to make sure you get the rest when you can and take advantage of those down periods and just make sure we’re in shape.”
Valdosta State returns to Steel’s Diamond at Blazer’s Park for the Holiday Inn Classic Tournament hosted by VSU.