Valdosta, Ga. - Valdosta State softball survived a scare on Friday night in their first game of the NCAA Division II South 1 Regional Tournament as they secured a 5-4 victory over Albany State with walk-off single by Morgan Johnson to drive in her sister Fran Johnson from third base in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Blazers (42-10) continually put runners aboard throughout the evening but struggled to drive them in, leaving 11 runners on base in the first six innings. The Golden Rams (36-25) left only three stranded in the game.
Domonique Bryant delivered the big blow for the Golden Rams, plating all four of ASU's runs with one swing in the top of the fifth inning. The grand slam was set up by a one out single by Shelby Gale, followed by a walk to left fielder Sierra Gaines. Ke'cia Griffin loaded the bases with a single through the left side of the infield, and one batter later, Bryant sent a line drive over the left field wall to give ASU a 4-0 lead.
However, Valdosta State responded quickly with a leadoff single by second baseman Courtney Albritton. Morgan Johnson walked in the next at bat and Albritton advanced to third on an errant throw by the catcher in an attempt to pick Albritton off second. Altman grounded out to the pitcher, but Morgan Johnson advanced to second on the play, setting the table for Ashley Steinhilber. The senior catcher turned on a pitch and sent a foul ball deep into the parking lot behind left field. On the next pitch, Steinhilber didn't miss, sending a high fly ball over the fence in dead center field to make the score 4-3.
Albany State, who lost to the Blazers by the mercy rule in their four other matchups this year, put pressure on Valdosta State all night, but the Blazers scored once again in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game 4-4, courtesy of a bases loaded, RBI groundout by Sarah Vaughn.
In the seventh, Fran Johnson began the rally for Valdosta State with a double to left center field. One batter later, Lindsey Hamlin delivered a pinch hit single to third base, and was replaced by Brittany Britt after reaching first. A muffed reception on a potential play at second in the ensuing at bat loaded the bases for Morgan Johnson, who drilled her second hit of the day through the left side of the infield into the outfield to end the game.
Steinhilber finished the day with two hits and three runs batted in, and Albritton and Morgan Johnson both had multiple hits with two apiece. Brianna Hancock picked up the win for VSU to improve her record to 16-4 on the year.
In the first game of the tournament, Tampa (32-8) scored seven runs in the sixth inning to give pitcher Kayla Cox her 24th win of the season and secure a 8-0 win over Saint Leo (40-15). With the win, Tampa advances to face Valdosta State at 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning, while Saint Leo falls into the loser's bracket to square off against ASU later on Saturday.
Be sure to visit www.vstateblazers.com throughout the weekend and check the tournament page for updated info including scheduling, scores, and links to live video and stats.