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Gutsy Blazers take second place in thrilling fashion south region with Morgan Hill diving take

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TAMPA. FLORIDA. (VSTATEBLAZERS.COM) In a complete “team effort” and behind outstanding defensive performances by both teams, the 12th-ranked Valdosta State softball team made the final defensive save in sophomore . Morgan Hill made a dead spring, diving into right field to rob Tampa’s Mariah Galhouse to win the NCAA South Region #2 title, 2-0 Saturday afternoon in the bottom of the seventh for the game winner. After winning 5-4 on Friday against Tampa, the Spartans fought back for a 3-2 win in Saturday’s opener, forcing the game “if necessary.” VSU went 37-12 on the year, while Tampa finished its season with a 37-12 record.

#6 Tampa 3, #12 Valdosta State 2 (Opening Game)
At the top of the first, VSU charged the bases with two walks and a single. Second year Taylor Adventure came with a bloop single just past first base, tackling two runs for a 2-0 lead. The Blazers then offered a great defensive position late in the second as Tampa charged the bases with a pair of singles and a walk. junior VSU pitcher Samantha Richards induces a left fly out for the final out to exit the jam.

VSU then put two in with a sophomore single Katie Proctor to start the fourth and a sacrificial bunt from Macera moved her to second. A walk followed by a foul in left field and a ground ball ended the threat. The Spartans responded late in the inning with a single to center from Lexi Chevalier, followed by an RBI double to center left for a 2-1 score. With two outs, Lauren Fantone reached on an error for a 2-2 score.

Top of fifth, senior VSU Nikki Pennington had what looked like a solo home run to the right, but Mariah Galhouse dunked through the portable fence for the second out of the inning, robbing the Blazers of the home run. In the bottom of the fifth, Galhouse scored a single down the left side and a sacrificial bunt moved her up to second. Alexa Russo doubled the left field line, tackling Galhouse for a 3-2 lead. Richards got a fly ball to the center and an strikeout to get out of the jam.

Top of seventh, junior taylor lewis just missed a home run left and senior Baylee Everson drew a walk, but a left steal and strikeout ended the game, setting up the game “if necessary”.

Richards (27-9) allowed six hits, three runs including two earned, two walks and four stoked. Macera was 1 for two with two RBIs to lead the team, while a graduate student Ally Clegg went 1 for 3 with a run scored. VSU finished with two runs on three hits and two errors.

Tampa’s Mary Beth Feldman (14-1) took the win in seven innings, allowing three hits, two earned runs, four walks and two stoked. The Spartans were led by Russo who went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a double.

In the history of this rivalry, Saturday’s opener marked the eighth straight game decided by a run as VSU now leads the all-time series 34-13 after both games.

#12 Valdosta State 2, #6 Tampa 0 (Game 2)
In the win-win game, the Blazers were the “road team” for the second straight game and had first at bat. Second year Morgan Hill reached on an error to start the game. A fly out right followed and Clegg chose right center, moving Hill to third and Clegg stealing second with two out. On a count of 1-2, second year Katie Proctor single right, tackling Hill for a 1-0 lead. Macera singled down the left side, tackling Clegg for a 2-0 lead.

Freshman Blazer madison lump got the start for his third career start and allowed a hit late in the first, but used one strikeout, one strikeout and one steal to get out of the inning. After the Blazers fell down the order in second, Russo started the end of the inning with a single to the center and a sacrificial bunt moved it to second. A pitch moved her to third. Stephanie Balmer was called for hitting out of the batter’s box on an RBI single, so the play had to be redone. She walked with two outs as VSU headed to the bullpen in favor of the sophomore Mia DeAngelis. DeAngelis came in 0-2 on Mackenzie Allen, who hit a line to the outfield but was called out of the batting zone when she made contact for the third out and the Blazers emerged unscathed. .

Late in the third, a single, stolen base to one out moved a runner into scoring position as Galhouse appeared short for the second out and a line to the left ended the threat. VSU put two in the top of the fourth with two out in second and third. Hill had a great shot to left center, but Lilly Kiester dived into the wall like in Game 1, depriving the Blazers of a potential home run.

Tampa charged the bases late in the fourth as Richards came in with two outs to replace DeAngelis. Richards got the Blazers out of the jam with one pitch at third as UT left seven stranded at that point.

The game went 2-0 in the seventh as VSU used a walk at Pennington but couldn’t pass anything. Allen hit a searing ball straight to Clegg for the first out late in the seventh. Pennington then charged to recovered ground and threw a dart to first for the second out, outing Fantone. Galhouse then hit the ball to the right where Hill did his diving exploits to seal the win.

Lumpp (2-0) picked up the win while Richards salvaged the stoppage as VSU finished with two runs on seven hits and no errors, while Tampa finished scoreless on four hits and two errors. For VSU in the nightcap, Macera was exceptional, once again, as she went 2 for 3 with an RBI, while Proctor was 1 for 3 with an RBI.

The Blazers will now travel to Gulf South Conference rival Auburn Montgomery for the NCAA South Super Regional on Thursday and Friday in a best-of-three series, with the winner advancing to the Division II Softball National Championship. NCAA at Regency Athletic Complex in Denver. , Colorado, May 26-31.

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