written by: Alex Tostado
No.4 Valdosta State baseball will play a road game for the first time this season in a top-five matchup against Gulf South Conference rival, No.2 West Florida, this weekend.
The Argos are 8-2 on the season with a perfect 3-0 conference record, while the Blazers (10-0, 3-0) are off to their best start since 1978 (when statistics were first recorded).
VSU has outscored its opponents 106-22 in the nine victories.
Head coach Greg Guilliams knows it’s early in the season and doesn’t want to put extra pressure on his team about being ranked this high.
“Everybody knows that at this point [being ranked No. 4] doesn’t mean anything; all that matters is what happens in the end,” Guilliams said.
The players agree with Guilliams, as junior first baseman Kevin Cruz acknowledged.
“We’re not worried about playing against [UWF]; we just have to make sure we go through the fundamentals and do everything we can [do to win],” Cruz said. “We should be pretty clear-minded. We can’t be thinking about the rankings because that would mess us up.”
“It is hard to find an out in this Blazer lineup, with a team batting average of .334. The seven Blazers who have started in all nine games are batting above .300.
The team is led by the 2-3-4 hitters: transfer shortstop Mike Reed, catcher Bryant Hayman and transfer outfielder Jimmy Dowdell.
Reed, Hayman and Dowdell combined are batting .415 and have driven in 43 runs.
It is not just the bats that are winning these games; defensively, VSU has been consistent and aggressive.
“The defense is going to be the strength of our club,” Guilliams said. “If our guys make mistakes, and they make mistakes being aggressive, then as a coach you can live with that.”
Guilliams says that the pitching staff needs to limit the walks. Against Shorter last weekend, VSU allowed 13 batters to reach base on a free pass.
“The better teams are going to make you pay for [walks] because they have better hitters in the lineup,” Guilliams said.
Senior pitcher Dom DeMasi is a projected starter for one of Saturday’s two games and is ready to impress UWF after being swept in Pensacola, Fla., last season.
“It’s going to be a big experience,” DeMasi said. “I can’t wait until 2 p.m. on Saturday.”
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