Birmingham, AL - Mike Reed's RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning propelled Valdosta State to a 6-5 win over North Alabama in an elimination game of the Gulf South Conference Tournament Sunday afternoon at Young Memorial Field.
With one out in the ninth, Will Wilson was hit by a pitch and stole second before a strike out brought Reed to the plate. The junior shortstop fell behind 1-2 in the count before fouling off five pitches while also working the count full. On the 11th pitch of the at bat, he laced a single through the left-side of the infield to drive home Wilson for the winning run.
Valdosta State (26-17) got on the scoreboard first as the Blazers plated a run in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, Michael Gouge singled and moved to second on a throwing error on the play. After Bryant Hayman was hit by a pitch, Matthew Fears hit into a fielder's choice that put runners on the corners. Fears and Gouge executed a double steal that allowed Gouge to score for a 1-0 VSU lead.
North Alabama (26-27) evened the game at 1-1 in the top of the third inning as Jake Ward tripled with one out and scored when Brett Guzay followed with a single through a drawn in infield, but the Blazers responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning to regain the advantage.
With one out in the bottom of the third, Reed doubled down the left field line and Gouge reached on an infield single. A ground out moved both base runners up a base before Fears was hit by a pitch. Kevin Cruz followed with a single to left that scored both Reed and Gouge to put VSU in front 3-1.
The Lions cut their deficit in the half in the top of the fifth inning as Ward walked to open the inning and stole second. Two batters later, Kyle Conkle singled to bring Ward home and pull UNA to within 3-2.
Hayman gave Valdosta State its largest lead of the day in the bottom of the seventh inning as he hit his 10th home run of the year with Reed on second base to push the Blazer lead to 5-2.
North Alabama evened the game in the ninth inning with three runs. With one out in the frame, Taylor Hayes drew a walk before Ward singled. After a fielder's choice, Conkle walked to load the bases before Dylan Boston doubled to clear the bases and even the game at 5-5.
In just his second career start, Beau Blair allowed six hits and two runs to go along with three strike outs and two walks. The freshman, whose longest outing of the year was 2.1 innings entering the day, pitched six innings on the day, but took a no decision. Meanwhile, Hunter Thompson came out of the bullpen after UNA tied the game in the ninth, his first career appearance on the mound for the Blazers, and surrendered a hit and two walks in 1.1 innings to earn his first career victory.
Conkle, the North Alabama starting pitcher, gave up six hits and three runs in six innings while also taking a no decision.
Reed was 3-for-6 with two runs scored and the game-winning RBI to lead VSU offensively while Gouge finished the day 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Hayman finished the day with two hits and two RBI while Cruz was 3-for-5 with two RBI.
Valdosta State advances to Monday's semifinal game against West Florida. Game time for the contest will be determined by the winner of Sunday's game between UWF and Delta State. If the Argonauts win, the Blazers will play at 2:00 p.m. Monday while a DSU victory on Sunday will establish an 11:00 a.m. first pitch for VSU.