Louisville, KY -- After dropping the national tournament opener Wednesday, the Blazers bounced back in dramatic fashion Thursday with a 5-4 walk-off victory over Augustana to keep the season alive. In the bottom of the seventh inning Sarah Vaughn kept VSU’s hopes in play when she knocked in Natalia Morozova to tie the game and force extra innings. After that, it was Samantha Posey’s 11th inning walk-off home run that kept Valdosta State in the running for the NCAA Division II National Championship.
Valdosta State will have to face the winner between Central Oklahoma and Southern Connecticut State at 10 a.m. Friday and then either Kutztown or UC San Diego at 3 p.m.
The Blazers had to fight back from another bad first inning. Augustana scored three runs to open the game. Left fielder Jenny Brown started with a single bunt and Elizabeth Murray was hit by a pitch. After a pop up, Lindsay Spanton singled up the middle to score the first run. Kelsey Kalkman followed with another single, and Matley Jones doubled after that, both knocking an RBI for a 3-0 lead.
Valdosta State couldn’t answer until the bottom of the second when Marti Littlefield and Fran Johnson scored. Littlefield led the inning with a double, and Johnson singled after a VSU ground out and a fly out. With two runners on, Clare Wamsley knocked a single to shallow right field to score both runners and pull within one. Wamsley led the team in hitting with a two for three day with two RBI.
Augustana’s final run of the game came in the fourth inning. Chelsi Winskowski reached base on a walk and stole second. Then, Alanna Hadley, pitching in relief of Courtney Gunby, was called for an illegal pitch to move Winskowski to third base. Hadley pitched one more illegal pitch to walk Taylor Kapsch and score Winskowski.
Hadley was able to rebound from the two illegal pitches and only gave up five hits in nine innings of work. She struck out six and walked three. The only run she gave up was on the illegal pitch.
The Blazers faced three pitchers from Augustana, two of which are All-Americans. Jenelle Trautmann started the game and was relieved by Chelsey Durland. The two switched twice more before bringing in Ashley Meyer in the top of the seventh inning.
Down two runs, Valdosta State was able to inch closer when Ashley Steinhilber scored in the sixth inning. She reached base on a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Johnson. Steinhilber advanced to third on a single from Wamsley and scored on a Courtney Albritton single down the left side.
The Blazers needed one more run to keep the season alive in the seventh and it started with Natalia Morozova. She singled into left field to put a runner on base followed by another single from Steinhilber. With runners at first and second, two outs and the season on the line, Head Coach Thomas Macera made the move to pinch hit Vaughn. She came through in a big way with a single up the middle to score Morozova and ensure extra innings.
Hadley played her best in those innings. After a single to start the eighth, Hadley and the VSU defense retired nine consecutive batters. Augustana had its best chance in the 11th inning when the eighth hitter in the lineup made it to third and the ninth hitter to second with just one out. The Blazers responded with a strikeout from Hadley and a groundout to Posey.
After getting the last out on Augustana, Posey turned around and earned the last run of the game for VSU. On the first pitch of the inning Posey sent her eighth home run of the season out of the park over the left centerfield fence to win it for Valdosta State.
The Blazers will play the winner between Central Oklahoma and Southern Connecticut State, a winners’ bracket game, at 10 a.m. Friday. After that, the Blazers will face off against either Kutztown or UC San Diego at 3 p.m.