Valdosta, GA - Shelby Altman and Fran Johnson combined for two home runs in the top of the ninth inning to overcome an impressive pitching performance by Tampa's Kayla Cox and defeat the Spartans 5-3 in nine innings at Steel's Diamond in South 1 Regional Tournament action on Saturday.
Kayla Cox struck out 19 batters and gave up only four hits over the course of nine innings, but gave up two long balls in the top of the ninth inning to allow the Blazers four runs and a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth.
The Spartans responded with two solo shots of their own in the bottom of the ninth, but Brianna Hancock held the Spartans to claim her second win of the South Regional Tournament and her 18th win of the 2013 season.
The Blazers fell to a 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the third inning after Tampa's Meagan Burke started a two out rally with a walk. Stacy Piagno singled through the right side of the infield, and catcher Taylor Storey struck with a double off the fence in left field to score Burke for the go-ahead run.
A leadoff walk by Kiley Rusen, one of six issued by Cox on the day, placed the tying run on first base for the Blazers in the top of the fifth. Brittany Britt came on to pinch run and swiped second base. Hannah Strickland walked in the next at bat, and one batter later, Courtney Albritton slapped her second hit of the game into right field to drive in Britt and tie the game at 1-1. Alyssa Colletti made a diving attempt on the hit by Albritton, and Strickland attempted to score from second base, but Colletti recovered and threw Strickland out at the plate for the third out.
The score remained tied until the ninth, when Morgan Johnson led off the half inning with a walk. Shelby Altman came to the plate and sent a pitch high and deep into the crowd in left field to break the tie and give VSU a 3-1 advantage. Two outs later, Rusen drew her second walk of the day. Fran Johnson, who had struck out in her three previous plate appearances, unloaded on a ball in the next at bat for a two run shot to left field, making the score 5-1. Prior to the Blazers two homers in the inning, Cox had only given up one home run all year for the Spartans.
The loss for Cox placed her record at 24-5 on the season.
The Blazers improved their record to 43-10 on the year, while the Spartans fell to 32-9. Valdosta State advances to the championship game on Sunday beginning at 1:00 p.m. and will face the winner of a matchup between Albany State and Tampa, scheduled to be played Saturday evening.
Stay tuned to www.vstateblazers.com and click here to visit the NCAA Division II South I Region Tournament website to stay up to date on scheduling and results throughout the weekend.