Written by D.J. Davis
Valdosta State faces doubleheaders against two Gulf South Conference foes this weekend as they prepare for the opening round of the GSC Tournament in coming weeks.
Both Delta State and the Christian Brothers suffer from poor records, 16-31 and 11-24 respectively, but the Blazers must stay focused. A sweep of the weekend will ensure that the Regional Tournament will be hosted by VSU.
“We gotta win games,” VSU head coac Thomas Macera, said. “We have to win these four games this weekend to keep us in the hunt for the regional tournament. The top two teams host, which means teams 3-8 travel, and you don’t want to travel during a regional tournament. The teams that have been winning the region for the last several years have been teams that are hosting. We lose four games this weekend and there is no way we can host, so every game we are playing is still very important in the region picture.”
VSU will be back in the postseason after their magical 58-5 run last season which ended with the first softball national championship in school history. Macera sees no reason why this year’s Blazers cannot duplicate the accomplishment of last year’s team.
“They’re two different teams,” Macera said. “This team is a good team; it’s a very good team, we are rated third in the country. They just gotta keep growing as a team. We’ve grown all year. We played really well last weekend and lost a one-run game and that was just unfortunate, but it wasn’t because we didn’t play well; we just lost a one run game. Early in the year we were losing games we had no business losing just because we weren’t playing well together. For this team to succeed, it is the same as last year’s team. They have to play together and trust what they’re doing.”
VSU’s duo of Courtney Albritton and Morgan Johnson were crucial members of that 2012 team’s stretch run through the postseason tournaments. Both Albritton and Morgan went on a tear in the five-game GSC Tournament last year and will be looking to do so again heading into another postseason run in an attempt to secure VSU’s fifth consecutive GSC Conference Championship.
Johnson batted .562 in five games; she scored five runs and drove in three more. Albritton batted a scorching .650, scored seven runs, and drove in 11 runs, including two homeruns, en route to earning Most Outstanding Player of the GSC Tournament.
Albritton and Johnson are once again ready to shine in the spotlight as they carry the Blazers through the postseason.
“I wanted to be able to help my team out,” Johnson said. “The year before, I didn’t do very well and I wanted to be able to make the All-Tournament Team and I was able to accomplish that. I’m just glad I performed well that weekend.”
Albritton said, “I wanted to really step up and help also. I think seeing all the pitchers throughout the year, and then seeing them again at the tournament really helped a lot.”
Coming up to the end of the 2013 season, the Blazers have managed some a few impressive feats to get themselves into the GSC record book.
VSU is currently batting .346 as a team which would rank them fifth in GSC history. Albritton has hit .432 for her career thus far which ranks her third in GSC history of players with a minimum of 250 at-bats and two seasons. Finally Shelby Altman had a three homerun game earlier this season against West Georgia which tied a GSC record.
“It’s awesome,” Altman said. “It’s a honor [to have name in GSC record book]. It’s just coming out here and playing the game I love. Having that is just a plus.”
VSU takes on Delta State at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Steel’s Diamond at Blazer’s Park.