Salem, Va. - With only one out remaining and trailing by three, Molloy strung together four hits to plate three runs in the seventh followed by another run in the eighth to defeat the Blazers in the first round of the 2013 Division II Softball National Championship Tournament on Thursday in Salem, Va..
Valdosta State (46-12) was able to put together three runs against East Region Pitcher of the Year Megan Butterworth, beginning with a solo home run off the bat of Courtney Albritton in the third inning. The homer was Albritton's 20th of her sophomore campaign, and accounted for the first hit of the game for the Blazers, giving them a 1-0 lead.
In the fifth, VSU broke through for two more runs with some clutch two out hitting. Fran Johnson drew a walk with one away, and Hannah Strickland delivered a sac bunt to place Fran Johnson in position to score. Albritton struck again with a two out double into the right center field gap to drive in Fran Johnson from second and give the Blazers a 2-0 lead. In the following at bat, Morgan Johnson drilled another gapper into right center for an RBI triple, and Valdosta State went up 3-0.
The Lions (53-12) got on the board in the bottom half of the fifth, but scored only one run before leaving three stranded thanks to some good defense and gutsy pitching on the part of Blazer starter Brianna Hancock. With one away, Lauren Alexander walked and moved to third on back to back singles by Nicolette Sinagra and Jeana Frey. With the bases loaded, shortstop Shelby Altman fielded a sharp grounder off the bat of Brenda Lee and quickly threw to the plate to cut down the lead runner. In the next at bat, Hancock walked Milan Botte to plate a run before striking out Tracey Balinskas with an offspeed pitch on the outside part of the plate to limit the Lions to the lone run in the half inning.
In the seventh, Valdosta State added an insurance run off of Molloy pitcher Kelley Jansen, who came on to pitch in the sixth, thanks to a two out, two strike double down the left field line by Altman. The hit brought in Fran Johnson, who had reached earlier in the half inning on a walk. Fran Johnson reached twice in the game with two walks, and scored both times.
Molloy threatened early in the seventh with a leadoff single from Sinagra, but a heads up double play executed by Albritton, in which she fielded a grounder before tagging out Sinagra and throwing out Jeana Frey at first, cleared the bases. With two away, the Lions dropped two consecutive flares into the center field grass off the bats of Lee and Botte. Lee overran second on Botte's single, but advanced to third when Sarah Vaughn threw behind her at second base. Albritton received the throw and attempted to throw Lee out at third, but the throw was not in time, and Botte advanced to second on the play. In the following at bat, Balinskas lined one into left center for a two RBI single, and Dayna White's double in the next at bat brought Balinskas in to tie the game 4-4. Hancock proceeded to strike out Victoria Gunnels to finish off the half inning.
Jansen held the Blazers off in the top of the eighth, and following a pitching change to place Hanna Lythberg in the circle for the Blazers, the Lions went right back to work on offense with a leadoff single from Butterworth. One out later, Sinagra reached after being hit by a pitch. With Butterworth at second, Frey connected with her third hit of the game to load the bases, and Lee followed with a ground ball to second. Altman attempted to field the chopper and flip to Albritton at second for a double play attempt, but Butterworth scored the winning run after Lee beat out the throw to first.
The win goes to Jansen, who improves her record to 23-7 overall in the 2013 season. Jansen allowed four walks in three innings pitched, but gave up only one hit and one run.
The Lions advance to face Central Oklahoma on Friday at 4:00 p.m., while the Blazers will face Armstrong Atlantic on Saturday at Noon.
Continue to visit the Valdosta State Softball Championship Tournament page, the WVIAC host page, and the NCAA Division II Softball page for tournament updates and other information.