TAMPA. FLA. (VSTATEBLAZERS.COM) – With a complete “team effort” and behind the outstanding defensive performances of both teams, No. The 12-ranked Valdosta State softball team made the final defensive stop as sophomore Morgan Hill made a dead spring, diving catch on the right field to rob Tampa’s Mariah Galhouse to win the NCAA South Region #2 title, 2-0 Saturday afternoon in the bottom of the seventh for the winning game. After a 5-4 win on Friday against Tampa, the Spartans battled back for a 3-2 win in the opener on Saturday, forcing an “if necessary” game. VSU moved up to 37-12 this year, while Tampa ended their season with a 37-12 record.
#6 Tampa 3, #12 Valdosta State 2 (First Game)
On top of the first, VSU loaded the bases with two walks and one. Sophomore Taylor Macera won via a bloop-single just past first base, putting up two runs for a 2-0 lead. The Blazers then developed a good defensive stance in the bottom of the second as Tampa loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk. VSU junior pitcher Samantha Richards pushed a fly to the left for the final out to escape the jam.
VSU then put two on a single from sophomore Katie Proctor to start the fourth and a sacrificial bunt from Macera moved her to second. A walk followed by a foul out of the left field and a ground out ended the threat. The Spartans responded at the bottom of the inning with one in the middle from Lexi Chevalier, followed by an RBI double in the left center for a 2-1 score. With two left, Lauren Fantone reached an error for a 2-2 point.
Above the fifth, VSU senior Nikki Pennington had what looked like a solo home run on the right, but Mariah Galhouse made a diving catch through the portable fence for the second from the inning, robbing the Blazers of the go ahead run. Under the fifth, Galhouse sang on the left and a sacrificial bunt moved him in the second. Alexa Russo doubled the left line on the field, putting Galhouse for a 3-2 advantage. Richards got a fly to center and a strikeout to get out of the jam.
In the top of the seventh, junior Taylor Lewis missed a home run on the left and senior Baylee Everson pulled a walk, but a fly to the left and a strikeout ended the game, setting up in the “if necessary” game.
Richards (27-9) allowed six hits, three runs – two catches, two walks and a four -yard touchdown run. Macera was 1 for two with two RBIs to lead the team, while graduate student Ally Clegg went 1 for 3 with a run score. VSU finished with two runs on three hits and two errors.
Mary Beth Feldman of Tampa (14-1) earned the win by seven innings, allowing three hits, two earned runs, four walks and a consolation of two. The Spartans were led by Russo who went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a double.
In the story history of this rivalry, Saturday’s opener marked the eighth consecutive game decided by a run as VSU now leads the all-time series 34-13 after two games.
#12 Valdosta State 2, #6 Tampa 0 (Game of Thrones)
In the winner-take-all game, the Blazers were the “road team” for the second consecutive game and had first at bat. Sophomore Morgan Hill reached for an error to start the game. A fly to the right followed and Clegg was alone in right center, Hill moved into the third and Clegg stole the second with two away. On a 1-2 count, sophomore Katie Proctor was alone on the right, putting Hill up for a 1-0 lead. Macera singleed on the left, putting Clegg a 2-0 lead.
New blazer Madison Lumpp got the start for her third start of the race and allowed a hit under the first, but used a strikeout, ground out and flew to get out of the inning. After the Blazers went down in the second, Russo started the bottom of the inning with one in center and a bunt of sacrifice moving him into the second. A ground out moved him to third. Stephanie Balmer was called up for hitting from the batters box with an RBI single so the game had to be changed. He walked with the two as VSU went to the bullpen in favor of sophomore Mia DeAngelis. DeAngelis came in with a 0-2 count to Mackenzie Allen, who hit a line drive to the outfield, but was called from the batters box when he was contacted for a third out and the Blazers came out of the jam unscathed. .
In the lower third, a single out and stolen base moved a runner into the scoring position as Galhouse popped up short for a second out and a line to the left ended in hulga. VSU placed two in the top of the fourth with two away in the second and third. Hill had a good shot in left center, but Lilly Kiester made a diving play into the wall – like in the first game, stealing the Blazers a potential home run.
Tampa loaded bases in the bottom of the fourth as Richards came in with two to replace DeAngelis. Richards got the Blazers out of the jam with a ground out to third while UT left seven stranded at that point.
The game remained 2-0 until the seventh as VSU used a walk to Pennington, but didn’t get anything. Allen hit the flaming ball right into Clegg for the first exit in the bottom of the seventh. Pennington then charged with a grounder scoop and threw a dart into the first for the second out, retiring to Fantone. Galhouse then hit the ball to the right where Hill made his heroes dive to seal the victory.
Lumpp (2-0) earned the win as Richards took the save as VSU finished with two runs of seven hits and no errors, while Tampa finished without a run of four hits and two errors. . For VSU in the nightcap, Macera was outstanding, once again, as he went 2 for 3 on an RBI, while Proctor was 1 for 3 on an RBI.
The Blazers will now travel to Gulf South Conference opponent Auburn Montgomery for the NCAA South Super Regional, Thursday and Friday in the best-of-three series, with the winner advancing to the NCAA Division II Softball National Championship at The Regency Athletic Complex in Denver, Colo., May 26-31.