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Blazers head to West Georgia

The 13th ranked Valdosta State Blazers are set to take on in-state rival West Georgia in a three game series this weekend in Carrollton, Ga.
The Blazers enter the weekend series, which begins with a doubleheader on Friday, as the Gulf South Conference Eastern Division leaders with a 25-10 overall record (5-1 GSC) while the Wolves enter in last place of the division with a 10-25 overall record and a 1-5 conference record.
“This is always a really good rivalry,” VSU head coach Greg Guilliams said. “I think the last two years, I think we are like 3-2 against them, so obviously we haven’t performed as well as would like. I would anticipate a tough contest. You can probably throw the records out of the window.”
Two Blazers, Brandon Decker and Clayton Cain, are currently hitting above .400 on the season while West Georgia has no players batting above that mark.
“You always hope that when you’re putting a good offense together that it should center around the three and four hitters and that is what they’re doing,” Guilliams said. “Those guys complement each other greatly, but if you take away one of those guys, the other isn’t having that good of a season because pitchers could always pitch around those guys.”
Decker leads Valdosta State with a .438 average with 13 home runs and 51 runs batted in (RBI’s) while Cain is second on the team in all three categories.
Valdosta State enters the series as one of the top teams in almost every statistical category in the conference while West Georgia is at the bottom in almost every category.
So far this season the Blazers are in the top three in batting average (.340), slugging percentage (.514), on base percentage (.435), runs scored (301), hits (388) and runs batted in (263) while leading the conference in home runs hit with 38.
“Obviously that is the strength of the ball club,” Guilliams said. “There haven’t been very many games this year when we haven’t been able to mount a good offensive performance.”
The Blazers enter the weekend series on a three game winning streak, after sweeping West Alabama last weekend at Billy Grant Field by a combined 17 runs.
Valdosta State will send Brett Kennedy, Ross Gusky and Jeremy Forbus to the mound this weekend to face a Wolves lineup that is hitting a combined .289 on the season. VSU’s weekend pitchers have combined for a record of 15-5, a 3.90 ERA and 148 strikeouts on the season.
“All three of them have pitched well this year,” Guilliams said. “They haven’t had a lot of rough outings. They have given us a chance to win every time. They have been very mature and they are excited about the opportunity to throw in those conference games.”
Kennedy currently leads the team with three complete games, one that came in a rain shortened season opening loss to Florida Tech.
Jordan Yost has been elected the teams closer. Yost has recorded one save while appearing on the mound in 11 games for a combined 19.2 innings pitched while giving up only 12 hits and recording the fourth most strikeouts on the team, 20. When the six foot-six inch transfer from West Virginia University is not pitching, he is playing in the outfield for the Blazers. Yost has a .247 average on the season with three home runs and 18 RBI’s.
“For as big as he (Yost) is, he is very athletic,” Guilliams said. “He obviously has a very strong arm although he has been inconsistent at the plate for us, but we just hoping he breaks out, but what he has done on the mound has been critical.”
In just 35 games this season, Valdosta State has committed the third most errors in the Gulf South conference with 64 errors on the season. West Georgia is fourth in the conference in errors committed with 60.
“Certainly overall this year we have not played very good defense,” Guilliams said “The biggest issue is a confidence thing, but the biggest issue is our pitching staff needs to continue to throw strikes.”
The Blazers three game series begins this Friday and concludes on Saturday afternoon. Read about the series online at VSUspectator.com.

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