The No. 20 Valdosta State (36-12, 16-9) softball team begin their Gulf South Conference tournament with two games today at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The Lady Blazers face off against the West Georgia Wolves (25-26, 11-18) to kick off the tournament.
Matchups between the Wolves and Blazers this season have included additional interest in regards to sluggers Nicole Yancey, UWG’s senior infielder, and Courtney Albritton’s, VSU’s junior outfielder, battle for the lone GSC career home run title.
Yancey finished the regular season with 60 career home runs, setting the record since hitting her 58th against the Blazers two weekends ago in Carrolton, Georgia.
Albritton finished the regular season with 57 career homers, a feat she accomplished in a series against the Wolves, as well. While she’s still chasing Yancey for the GSC mark, Albritton did break the VSU school record with her 57th home run. The record was previously held by former teammate and current assistant coach Marti Littlefield.
VSU is the No. 2 seed in the tournament, behind the second best team in the nation, Alabama-Huntsville (39-7, 23-6). The Chargers ended the regular season winning 20 of their last 22 games, which included a three game series sweep of the Blazers and a win over No. 4 North Georgia.
The possibility of the Blazers finally getting over the hump to defeat UAH in the GSC tournament will not only give the team an ample amount of confidence going into the national tournament, but add another record to the squad’s history. VSU has won five straight GSC tournament titles, a GSC record. The Blazers are looking to win their ninth title, also a GSC record.
The Blazers are currently tied with the Chargers with eight all-time GSC Championships. Albritton was awarded her third consecutive conference player of the year award yesterday. Only one other player has won the award their first three seasons of playing—Stephanie Pinto (UAH 2004-07), the previous record holder for all-time conference home runs.
Albritton was joined by three other teammates as a part of the all-conference first team. Seniors Shelby Altman and Briana Hancock receive the award for their second time, while freshman infielder Chelsea Canara was also named to the list.
This season’s GSC tournament is hosted at Heritage Park in Cullman, Alabama. Each team in the tournament will play two games today and two games tomorrow. There will be one or two games played on championship Saturday depending on tournament technicalities.
The Shorter University Hawks (36-10, 22-5) won the GSC regular season championship, but are ineligible for postseason play until the 2014-15 season.
This story was written by Rashad Milligan.