CARROLLTON, Ga. – Hunter Thompson's two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted Valdosta State to a 5-4 win over Delta State in the Gulf South Conference Tournament Championship game at Cole Field Thursday afternoon.
With the win, Valdosta State claimed its fourth Gulf South Conference title, and second in the last four years. The victory also earns the Blazers the GSC's automatic bid in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
With one out in the ninth inning, Jamie McMillan and Jake Montgomery singled. McMillan was lifted for pinch runner Will Austin, who beat a throw to third on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Ryan McClellan to load the bases. Nick Rodda was hit by a pitch to score Austin before Thompson delivered the game's deciding hit. The Blazer centerfielder jumped on the first pitch he saw from Garrett Pickens (3-2) and drove the ball into left-centerfield. Montgomery easily scored on the play before while McClellan slid underneath the tag on the throw home for the winning run.
Valdosta State (33-16) took advantage of throwing error in the bottom of the fourth inning to get the scoring started. Bryant Hayman and Jake Fields hit back-to-back singles to open the frame before Hayman was retired on a Michael Gouge fielder's choice. A wild pitch with Cooper Lemonds batting moved both runner's up a base. DSU catcher Carlos Leal tried to throw Gouge out at second on the play, but his throw down to second skipped into centerfield to allow Fields to score.
Delta State (42-9-1) scored three runs in the top of the sixth to take the lead. Jordan Chovanec walked to open the frame and moved to third as Sam Kidd doubled down the left field line. Tyler Aldridge followed with a double to right-center to plate both base runners. A fly out moved Aldridge to third, from which he scored on a wild pitch to give the Statesmen a 3-1 advantage.
Bryant Hayman hit his seventh home run of the year to open the VSU half of the sixth inning to pull the Blazers to within 3-2.
DSU got its final run in the top of the ninth when Ben Kingsley singled home Chovanec.
VSU's Benjamin Weil came on with two runners on and one out in the seventh inning. The relief appearance marked his 35th of the season, establishing a new Gulf South Conference record, and his fifth of the tournament, which tied a GSC Tournament record.
Nick Fogarty gave up a run on four hits in 1.2 innings of relief to improve to 5-3 on the season.
Thompson, Hayman and Fields each had two hits to lead Valdosta State offensively.
Weil, who had previously set a new tournament record with three victories, as well as Hayman and McMillan all earned All-Tournament honors for VSU.