Written by: Chris Webb
No. 21 Valdosta State (5-0) will kick off conference play this weekend, as Shorter University (1-6) comes to Billy Grant Field for a three-game series, starting with a doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m.
Putting up 35 runs in last weekend’s sweep against Paine (Feb. 8-9), VSU has already put up 63 runs through its first five games and is looking to continue its hot hitting against a struggling Hawks’ pitching staff.
With a team averaging 6.41 earned runs a game, the Blazers have their hands full with an offense averaging over 12 runs a game.
Leading the way for VSU is junior catcher Bryant Hayman, who is batting .412 with three home runs and 11 runs batted in. Hayman is showing why he was a preseason, all-conference selection.
Protecting Hayman in the fourth spot lineup is right-fielder Jimmy Dowdell.
The senior transfer from Boston College has been solid in his role early, stepping in as the clean-up hitter with a .438 batting average and five runs batted in.
Another transfer student, junior shortstop Mike Reed, has settled nicely into his role, hitting second in front of Hayman; his last three games have seen him go for a .666 batting average, seven runs scored and eight runs batted in, earning him GSC Conference Player of the Week.
“Mike’s a good hitter; he’s going to hit anywhere you put him in the order,” head coach Greg Guilliams said. “Hitting in front of some good hitters, he’s going to see some good pitches to hit.”
Combine these three’s monstrous starts and have them back to back to back, it’s easy to see why VSU’s offense has been running on all cylinders early this season.
“We have Mike hitting second in the order because we want him up a lot just like with Hayman, and Dowdell [is] right behind him,” Guilliams said. “Those are guys we feel are going to produce over the long haul of the season.”
On the mound, Dom DeMasi (1-00) (0.00 ERA) will start the first game for VSU as he looks to build off his last start that saw him go six innings recording eight strikeouts and 0 runs allowed.
Junior Ethan Bornstein (1-0) (0.00 ERA) starts the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. This will be the first start of the season for Bornstein after pitching 4.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
For Sunday’s contest, the Blazers will send senior lefty Josh Mann (0-0) (0.90 ERA) to the mound in hopes of silencing a shorter offense that has already hit five homeruns this season.
The third and final game of the series will take place Sunday, 3 p.m., at Billy Grant Field.
Follow Chris on Twitter:@CTRSWebb