The Valdosta Daily Times
Valdosta State has a new winningest softball coach.
Thomas Macera became the winningest coach in Valdosta State softball history Sunday afternoon, and he earned the tying and record-setting wins the same way he had earned many of his previous wins — with a doubleheader sweep against a Gulf South Conference opponent.
Valdosta State won a pair of games against GSC rival West Florida, 9-1 and 4-0, on Sunday at the VSU Softball Complex.
“Big weekend for us, to go 4-0,” Macera said.
Macera won his 304th career game at Valdosta State, passing the late Ron Durante, who won 303 games at VSU. Macera was an assistant coach under Durante for a few years.
“I’m proud of (the record). It’s hard work,” Macera said. “(Durante) taught me a lot. He taught me what to do and what not to do. I still miss him.”
Macera said that a lot of the credit for the record should go to the players he has had at Valdosta State.
“I don’t believe it’s really my coaching. It’s a testament to the quality of players I’ve had to play here,” Macera said. “I’ve had so many good players, so many All-Americans and just so many other good quality players. ... That’s where your wins are coming from, the good teams we’ve been blessed with.”
Valdosta State 9, West Florida 1
The Blazers scored seven runs in the final two innings, and turned a 2-1 lead into a 9-1 mercy rule victory in game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader.
West Florida took a brief lead in the top of the first, when Amber Ingram doubled down the left field line to drive in Emma Johansen from second, giving the Argonauts a 1-0 lead.
Marti Littlefield, Valdosta State’s All-American shortstop, gave her team a lead it would not relinquish with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the first. With Samantha Posey on first and two outs, Littlefield drove a Jordan Ratliff pitch over the fence in left field for a two-run homer, giving VSU a 2-1 lead.
VSU added three runs to its lead in the bottom of the fourth. Ashley Steinhilber led off the inning with a seeing-eye single up the middle, and was bunted to second by Angela O’Connor. Then Clare Wamsley ripped the ball into the gap in left center. The ball bounced once, hit Colonel Sanders’ face on the Kentucky Fried Chicken sign and drove in Steinhilber. April Hutchens followed with a double into the left field corner, scoring Wamsley. The Argonauts changed pitchers, and when Sarah Scott’s first pitch was in the dirt, Hutchens went to third. Courtney Albritton grounded to short, but Hutchens scored, giving the Blazers a 5-1 lead.
Then the Blazers ended the game with four more runs in the fifth. Littlefield led off with a double off of the fence in right center, moved to third on Natalia Morozova’s infield single and scored on a wild pitch. Two outs later, Hutchens doubled to left, driving in O’Connor and Wamsley to make it 8-1. Then Albritton’s deep fly ball landed at the base of the fence in left center, and Hutchens scored to give the Blazers a 9-1 lead. That ended the game, due to the mercy rule.
Hutchens went 2 for 3 with two runs and three RBIs. Littlefield was 2 for 3 with two runs and two RBIs. Wamsley went 2 for 3 with two runs and an RBI. Albritton had a pair of RBIs. Posey also had two hits.
“There’s a whole bunch of people on this team getting stuff done for us,” Macera said. “Our eight and nine hitters (Wamsley and Hutchens) had big hits today, had clutch hits today. It’s not just the marquee names here making all the plays. It’s everybody.”
Valdosta State pitcher Alanna Hadley (9-1) held West Florida to one run and three hits in five innings, and struck out six.
Valdosta State 4, West Florida 0
Courtney Gunby pitched six-plus scoreless innings, and the Blazers completed the doubleheader sweep with a 4-0 win in game 2.
Valdosta State broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the third, scoring two runs. With one out, Morgan Johnson and Posey hit back-to-back singles. Then Littlefield drilled a one-hopper to the fence, and Johnson and Posey scored to give the Blazers a 2-0 lead.
Albritton continued what has been a monster freshman season when she blasted a fifth-inning pitch over the center field fence for a solo home run. It was her team-leading eighth homer of the season, and it gave VSU a 3-0 lead.
The Blazers’ final run came in the bottom of the sixth. Steinhilber walked to lead off the inning, and pinch runner Fran Johnson was sacrificed to second. Then Wamsley lined the ball off of the Wild Adventures sign in left center, driving in Johnson and giving VSU a 4-0 lead.
Gunby (4-0) held UWF to three hits in six-plus innings, and struck out four batters. Hadley came out of the bullpen to get the final three outs.
“(The pitchers) did phenomenal,” Macera said. “Hadley pitched unbelievable. ... Gunby pitched unbelievable, a three-hitter against a team that can hit.”
Albritton was the only Blazer with more than one hit in game 2, going 2 for 4 with a home run.
Valdosta State will host West Georgia on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the VSU Softball Complex.