The No. 3 VSU softball team traveled to Clinton, Mississippi, to face the Mississippi College Lady Choctaws for a three-game series over the weekend.
The Lady Blazers (21-5, 13-1 GSC) took games one and two, 8-4 and 11-4, before falling in extra innings in game three, 2-1.
Game 1: 8-4
Game one started out slow for both squads, with each team getting just one hit over the first two and a half innings.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the third where the scoreless tie was broken. With two runners on base, Mississippi College’s Jenna Ergle knocked one out of left field, giving the Lady Choctaws a 3-0 lead.
The Lady Blazers’ offensive struggles continued through the fourth and fifth innings as they left three runners on base during the stretch.
However, after giving up the three-run homer in the third inning, junior pitcher Samantha Richards was able to gather herself and prevent the Lady Choctaws from doing any more damage.
The Lady Blazers finally broke through during the top of the sixth inning, taking the lead to the tune of eight runs in the stretch. Despite only recording two hits during the inning, VSU was able to capitalize off of mistakes to set up the monster inning.
A pair of errors allowed for sophomore first basewoman Aniston Gano to score the Lady Blazers’ first run of the afternoon. Junior rightfielder Abby Sulte quickly followed suite, scoring the second run of the inning.
Sophomore second basewoman Taylor Macera helped bring in the game-tying run, bringing in senior shortstop Nikki Pennington. Redshirt senior pinch runner Baylee Everson scored the next run, reaching home following a reach by junior centerfielder Hunter Meadows.
Finally, with bases loaded, Gano sent one flying over right field for a grand slam to cap off the scoring burst.
While Mississippi College would attempt to mount a comeback in the bottom of the seventh, the 8-3 deficit was too much to overcome.
Game 2: 11-4
Much like game one, game two started off with the Lady Blazers in an early hole. Mississippi College’s Brooke Fagan started off the scoring with a home run in the bottom of the first.
The Lady Blazers were quick to respond with Sulte blasting a home run to knot things up in the top of the second inning. Still, the Lady Choctaws answered back with a run in the bottom of the second to make it 2-1.
The Lady Blazers were finally able to build up a lead in the top of the third inning.
Graduate third basewoman Ally Clegg gave VSU their first lead of the game with a two-run homer, bringing in sophomore designated player Morgan Hill.
Sulte notched her second home run of the game later in the inning, this time a two-run homer that brought sophomore pinch runner Kayla Tosone home.
The Lady Choctaws still didn’t back down, scoring a run in the bottom of the third to make it 5-3.
However, the Lady Blazers did not let up. Pennington’s double to left field in the top of the fourth inning extended VSU’s lead, as both Meadows and Hill were able to score.
Following another run by Mississippi College in the bottom of the fourth, the Lady Blazers continued to pour it on. Freshman pinch runner Bobbi Poff was able to steal home to give the Lady Blazer an 8-4 lead in the top of the fifth.
The Lady Blazers’ hot hitting continued in the sixth inning, as Pennington ripped off a home run give VSU a 10-4 advantage. Sulte capped off the scoring with her third home run of the game.
From there, Richards did the rest. Over the final two innings, she struck out five batters to close out the game.
Game 3: 2-1
Whereas the first two games were high-scoring, the series finale was an all-out pitcher’s duel. For the game, the Lady Blazers and Lady Choctaws had just nine hits combined.
Mississippi College’s Mallory Little gave the Lady Choctaws their first run of the game, bringing in Jordan LaFosse on a single to center field in the bottom of the second inning.
The Lady Blazers responded in the top of the fourth with a single from Pennington who brought in Clegg to tie the game up.
From there, the game went into a standstill, with neither team able to score.
VSU had a chance to score the go-ahead runs in the top of the seventh inning, with both Everson and Tosone in scoring position. However, the attempt was thwarted when Macera grounded out to round out the inning.
The game went into extra innings, where the Lady Blazers would ultimately come up short. Mississippi College’s Fagan secured the win in walk-off fashion with a home run to left field, snapping the Lady Blazers’ eight-game win streak and handing VSU their first loss in conference play.
Despite the loss, Richards had a strong performance, recording 11 strikeouts.
The Lady Blazers will be back at home for a three-game series against Christian Brothers on April 2-3.
Written by Austin Bruce, Co-Sports Editor. Photo courtesy of VSU.