written by: Chris Webb
Valdosta State (2-0) is looking to continue their blistering hot start to the season as Paine College (0-3) comes to visit the friendly confines of Billy Grant Field for a three-game series starting with a doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m. and a final game Sunday at 1 p.m.
VSU enters the weekend with the bats blazing, putting up 28 runs on 27 hits through the team’s first two games.
And the gloves have been just as hot as the bats early in the year, with only one error in 74 total chances, good enough for a team fielding percentage of .986.
Three Blazers are currently batting .500 or better: junior Bryant Hayman, senior Jimmy Dowdell and RS freshman Matt Fitzsimmons.
The season is still young, but the first weekend couldn’t have started much different for these two programs.
For the Paine Lions, they look to really get their season going after a rough outing this past weekend after being swept at Flagler by a combined score of 42-1. This includes an 18-0 blowout loss that saw four of Flagler’s pitchers combine for a no-hitter.
Going only 7-78 in their opening series, Paine enters the weekend with a team average of only .089, and with a team earned-run average of 14, things can only go up from here for the Lions.
Regardless of what the stats say, VSU head coach Greg Guilliams knows his team can’t take Paine for granted.
“Anybody can beat anybody,” Guilliams said. “Hopefully it still being early in the season, our guys still understand that we are trying to get better. And it shouldn’t matter who the opponent is.”
Coach Guilliams knows what it takes to win as last year he led the Blazers to its second Gulf South Conference championship in the past 4 years.
So what he’s been preaching in practice early this season should come of no surprise.
“It’s always a lot of fun to hit and score runs, but the thing we have really been trying to focus on this season is doing a better job with our pitching; If you can pitch and play good defense, you’re always in the game.”
Manning the mound for the Blazers will be senior lefty Josh Mann, junior righty Dom DeMasi with the third starter being decided later in the week.
Quality starts is what coach Guilliams is looking for. If his starters can give him that, he feels confident with the series at hand.
“We respect every opponent,” Guilliams said. “But at the end of the day, if we just do the things we do well, then we’ll be fine.”