Southhaven, MS - Valdosta State made a statement by finishing the first day of the Gulf South Conference Tournament as one of just two undefeated teams. The Blazers beat Ouachita Baptist, 3-1, and Arkansas Tech, 2-1, in order to face the only other unbeaten team, Arkansas-Monticello, at 12 p.m. Saturday.
Pitching and timely hitting were Valdosta State’s prime weapons Friday. Holly Satterfield and Margaret Carter both put stellar games together while Ashley Steinhilber served as the hero of game two with a walk-off home run to win it.
Both games Friday were defensive battles, and VSU stood strong. Against Ouachita Baptist, Satterfield only gave up four hits, three walks and struck out nine in seven innings of play. The single run the Tigers scored was not until the seventh inning.
Valdosta State earned an early lead with two runs in the second inning. Natalia Morozova legged out a single on a hit to first base. Ouachita Baptist did not have anyone cover first as the first baseman went for the ball, then Morozova beat the first baseman back to the bag.
With Morozova, the leadoff hitter in the inning on base, Morgan Johnson tried to sacrifice her over to second. Johnson did even better, beating the throw to first for a hit on the bunt. With two runners on, Jordan Martin made the sacrifice bunt to move Johnson and Morozova to second and third respectively.
Morozova scored on a sacrifice fly from April Hutchens while Johnson came home on a single from Steinhilber.
In the fifth inning, Marti Littlefield put an exclamation point on the first win of the day with a solo home run. Ouachita Baptist could not answer with more than the lone run in the seventh to stay alive and VSU moved on to the winners’ bracket.
Later, Carter pitched a gem against a powerful offensive team in Arkansas Tech. Carter finished with two strikeouts and no walks after six innings. She gave up four hits and one run, that run not coming until the top of the seventh. Satterfield finished the game, giving up a hit and striking out one on the way to her 22nd victory.
Littlefield reached on a fielder’s choice with two outs in the third inning. She moved to second on a walk and scored on a double from the team’s leading RBI hitter, Morozova. The Blazers clung to the 1-0 lead all the way until the seventh when the Golden Suns made a move.
Haley Hudson doubled to start the inning, and her pinch runner moved to third on a sacrifice. Tiphani Moon doubled to center field to plate the tying run. With a runner on and one out, Satterfield struck out the next hitter and forced the final hitter to ground out to Samantha Posey.
With the game tied, VSU had one last chance to avoid extra innings and Steinhilber did it with flare. She busted a walk-off home run over the left center field fence to secure VSU’s 36th win of the season.
Saturday, VSU will face Arkansas-Monticello to be the only undefeated team left in the tournament. While the GSC Tournament is a double elimination tournament in name, the bracket does not follow a true double elimination format.
Instead of receiving a bye, the winner between VSU and UAM will face one of the two one-loss teams left out of the four that will duke it out during Valdosta State’s game. Those four include Alabama-Huntsville (beat by UAM), Arkansas Tech (beat by VSU), North Alabama (beat by ATU) and West Alabama (beat by UAM).
There are a number of determining factors that come into play in finalizing the bracket at that point so be sure to check www.vstateblazers.com for updates throughout the day.