The Valdosta Daily Times
VALDOSTA — The top-ranked Valdosta State softball earned a 5-2 win over the Miles Golden Bears Friday night. Up next is a familiar opponent: the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
Today’s meeting, which is set for a 1:30 p.m. first pitch, will mark the sixth time this season the two Gulf South Conference powers will meet on the softball diamond.
This time it comes after both teams recorded wins on the opening day of the South Region I Tournament. The Chargers beat Rollins 3-2 in the first game on Friday.
The Blazers (49-3) are a perfect 5-0 against UAH this season.
“I think, at some point, they don’t want to see us anymore and we don’t want to see them anymore,” said Valdosta State head coach Thomas Macera. “It doesn’t matter who won or lost those games before, because you are at the tournament. It is just when you play someone that much, I’d rather just play someone else.”
“We have played them five times and we have been successful at five times, but it doesn’t matter,” said Morgan Johnson. “It only matters what we do (today).”
Alanna Hadley will start for VSU, as she was kept out of Friday night’s game. Whitney Toler will likely pitch for UAH. The Blazers will act as the home team in today’s game, after winning a coin toss following Friday night’s game.
“Because we had to play the late game, (Hadley) wouldn’t have had 24 hours to rest,” said Macera of his decision. “It would be nice if she could go into tomorrow with a lot of rest, rather than 18 hours of rest.”
As for Friday night, VSU was led by Morgan Johnson and Ashley Steinhilber, both of whom finished 2 for 3 at the plate, while April Hutchens and Sam Posey each finished 1 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored.
The Blazers jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first three innings, only to see Miles come charging back with a two-run fourth inning. The Blazers added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“A win is a win,” said Valdosta State head coach Thomas Macera. “I am sorry, you are in region play and it is the first night back at home, maybe some jitters. But it is a win.
“I felt like we could have kept that up,” said Macera. “I think we just chased a few bad pitches and it kind of slowed us down a little bit.”
Johnson started the opening off with a single, which was followed by a Posey single and a Marti Littlefield walk. With the bases loaded, Natalia Morozova grounded into an error at second base, which allowed Johnson and Posey to score. VSU left the bases loaded at the end of the inning.
In the second inning, Courtney Albritton reached on a double down the left field line, and scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly to right field by Posey. The score gave VSU a 3-0 lead.
In the third inning, Steinhilber got into the scoring act, as she crossed home plate on a single by Hutchens.
“We kind of started making poor choices at-bat,” said catcher Ashley Steinhilber of the Blazers’ lack of scoring following the third inning. “Hopefully (today) our mental game will be a little higher, because our opponent is someone we have played before.”
The Blazers ran into trouble in the fourth inning, when starting pitcher Brianna Hancock loaded the bases by surrendering a walk and back-to-back singles. She was then replaced by Courtney Gunby, who allowed a double to right center field that scored two runs for the Golden Bears.
Luckily for Gunby, she recorded two strikeouts and a fly out to center to get out of the inning with two runners on base for Miles.
“We got let down by pitching early,” said Macera. “You know, Bri gave up a few walks and some hits, and that hurt us.”
VSU added to its lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Hutchens connected on a pitch to deep center field. Hutchens’ ball came up just short of clearing the fence, but the ball bounced off the glove of Miles’ center fielder Terri Roberts, and bounced over the fence, allowing Hutchens to round the bases and score.