Louisville, KY -- Valdosta State ensured a second game Friday with a 6-3 victory over Southern Connecticut State. Morgan Johnson‘s three-run homer broke a 3-3 tie and gave VSU the lead in the sixth inning then the Blazer defense retired three straight batters in the seventh to secure a spot in the final four teams left in the nation. Johnson’s home run made her the first player at the NCAA Division II National Championship Tournament with multiple home runs.
Valdosta State will face Kutztown, one of two teams that are undefeated in the national tournament, at 3 p.m. Friday. With a win then, the Blazers will face Kutztown again at either 10 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. on Saturday for a spot in the final game at 4 p.m.
The Blazers struggled early Saturday morning for the third consecutive game. After allowing a leadoff single, Alanna Hadley walked the second batter, one of 11 free bases Hadley gave up with seven walks, two illegal pitches and two hit by pitches. With two runners on, Hadley walked the next two for Southern Connecticut State’s first run of the game.
After that, Kate Hoffman, the fifth hitter, sent a foul ball to left field. Johnson made the catch in foul territory and sent the ball to the infield to try to limit runs. Samantha Posey promptly rifled the ball to second base to complete the first of three double plays in the game for Valdosta State.
Hadley and the VSU defense were able to hold Southern Conn. scoreless after that until the sixth inning. Meanwhile, the Blazers were able to put up three runs in the fifth to take a lead. Courtney Albritton was reached on a walk and Johnson did the same behind her. Posey singled next to load the bases, then Jayme Larson walked Marti Littlefield to score VSU’s first run.
After Littlefield’s walk, Natalia Morozova singled through the left side to score Johnson. The Blazers tried to add a run by sending April Collins, pinch running for Posey, but Southern Conn. was able to make the play at home. The Blazers still had one out to work with, and it was Ashley Steinhilber who singled almost through the right side if it wasn’t for a great play by the Owls’ second baseman. Still, Littlefield was able to score on the play and VSU found itself up 3-2 headed to the sixth inning.
Alyssa Downs, SCSU’s biggest power hitter, led off the sixth by reaching on a hit by pitch. She moved to second on another illegal pitch and scored on a single from SCSU’s Julie Muscarella to tie the game.
The Blazers were unfazed as Clare Wamsley led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk. Albritton doubled after that, then Johnson knocked her second home run of the tournament. The air went out of SCSU’s dugout and the Owls went three up and three down in the top of the seventh to end their season.
Valdosta State will play again Friday as they prepare to face Kutztown at approximately 3 p.m. With a win in that game, the Blazers would advance to play Kutztown again at 10 a.m. Saturday as the Golden Bears are one of two undefeated teams at the tournament. If the Blazers could beat Kutztown twice, they will play for the championship at 4 p.m. Saturday.