Valdosta State baseball (20-10, 12-7) was back in action at Bill Grant Field last night against Flagler (18-16, 9-12).
After taking a 3-2 lead in the first inning, the Blazers didn’t look back as they held the lead for the rest of the game, winning 6-5.
VSU certainly didn’t go untested. With a 5-2 lead heading into the eighth, the wheels began to rattle as Flagler started a late rally with the bases loaded. In a unique move, coach Greg Gilliums brought in junior Colby Wisdom with the count at two balls, two strikes and just one out with the bases loaded.
“In that situation, Zakk (White)’s breaking ball wasn’t as sharp as I’ve seen it, and Colby has a really good curveball,” Guilliams said about his decision. “As a hitter, to only see one pitch from the guy’s arm is difficult.”
Guilliams’s move worked out, and Wisdom set down the first hitter on one pitch. After walking in a run, the junior was able to get a fly-out to center-fielder Hunter Thompson, leaving the bases loaded.
Both teams had plenty of opportunities to drive in runs, but neither capitalized fully. The Blazers were able to strand nine Saints on the bases but also left 11 of their own runners on the bases.
“Offensively, that was really the only negative,” Guilliams said. “We just didn’t drive in runs with guys in scoring position. Overall, we swung the bats well.”
VSU didn’t take long to respond. After a leadoff walk and stolen base from Thompson, second basemen Matthew Fears lined a single to left field that was misplayed, allowing Thompson to score and Fears to advance to second.
Down 6-3 in the ninth inning, Flager still wouldn’t go away as they scored two quick runs on three straight hits.
Enter Beau Blair, who immediately killed off Flager’s rally. Blair was able to induce a double play, and ended things with a pop-out to third.
Valdosta State got off to a lethargic start, with starting pitcher Ethan Bornstein getting yanked abruptly after just a third of an inning, facing just four hitters and allowing two runs.
“I had set it up ahead of time, that guys were going to go one or two innings because it was a mid-week game, and Ethan was only going to go one inning; you could tell it was not his best day,” Guilliams said.
The Blazers’ offense made up for their early pitching and defensive woes, responding with three quick runs of their own in the bottom of the first.
Shortstop Matt Reed scored the team’s first run on a Flagler error after a leadoff single. Third basemen Kevin Cruz added with a sacrifice-fly RBI, followed by a RBI single from right-fielder Jimmy Dowdell.
Coach Guilliams brought in left-handed pitcher Mitch King, who sat down the first seven batters he faced and energized the entire team.
“Mitch threw really well, so that’s been a really big plus,” Guilliams said.
The freshman went two and one-third innings, with three strikeouts and no runs allowed.
VSU’s offense got a strong contribution from Dowdell, who went 4-4 with a double, RBI, run and stolen base. Bryant Hayman and Clint Carr added to the offense with RBI singles of their own.
With the victory, VSU looks to continue their momentum as they host Gulf South Conference foe Alabama-Huntsville this weekend.
This article was written by Chris Kessler