Louisville, FL -- May 16, 2012 --
Valdosta State fell just short Tuesday in the NCAA Division II National Championship Tournament opener against defending champion UC San Diego, 7-5. The Blazers gave up a six-run first inning and one run in the second but stormed back late with three runs in the seventh. With the loss Valdosta State will have to come out of the loser’s bracket, a feat 17 National Champions have pulled off in history, and it starts Wednesday at 10 a.m. against Augustana.
The Tritons led off with a walk after a three and out from VSU to start the game. After Kris Lesovsky walked, she moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. The second out came next on an Alanna Hadley strikeout. After that, Charly Swanberg walked, one of five walks Hadley gave up in the first two innings. The next hitter singled to score Lesovsky and grab a 1-0 lead for UCSD.
With two down, the UCSD right fielder popped up a foul ball that Ashley Steinhilber couldn’t corral. After the error, Maria Sykes walked and the UCSD designated player Nicole Spangler followed that with a double to left field to score two more runs. The next hitter sent one out for a three-run homer and all of the sudden Valdosta State was down 6-0 in the first.
UC San Diego added one more run in the second inning, but that would be the last of UCSD’s offense as Courtney Gunby only gave up three hits after relieving Hadley to start the third inning. The Tritons simply couldn’t generate any offense against Gunby. In fact, other than one strikeout and a foul out, all of the UCSD outs the rest of the game did not even get out of the infield.
The Blazers started to answer in the third inning with two runs. Morgan Johnson, who was great at the plate all day, knocked a double to right center. She moved to third on a groundout and scored when Marti Littlefield reached on an error. Littlefield came in on a double from Natalia Morozova to make it 7-2.
Johnson and Morozova were the top hitters for VSU on the day, both going two for three and finishing with two RBI each. Johnson added two runs scored and made a big impact with a two-run homer in the seventh.
In Valdosta State’s last chance in the top of the seventh, Courtney Albritton led with a single. Johnson knocked the home run behind Albritton to make it just a three-run game, 7-4. Samantha Posey singled next and went to second on another UC San Diego error on a Littlefield knock to right field. Posey scored on Morozova’s single next.
With two runners on in a two-run game and no outs, Head Coach Thomas Macera made the move for a sacrifice bunt. Steinhilber laid it down and both runners moved into scoring position with just one out. Unfortunately for VSU, the Blazers couldn’t find the hit they needed.
As the national tournament is a double-elimination tournament until the final championship game, the Blazers are more than alive. They will face Augustana at 10 a.m. Wednesday. With a win, the Blazers would play doubleheaders the next two days with games at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday and one game at either 10 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. Saturday before the 4 p.m. championship game.