CARROLLTON, Ga. (WCBI/Delta State Athletics) – Hunter Thompson’s two-RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted the Blazers (33-16) of Valdosta State University to a 5-4 victory Thursday over the Statesmen (42-9-1) of Delta State University in the Gulf South Conference Championship game.
The win was the second-straight for the Blazers in their last at-bat against the Statesmen and the victory gave VSU its fourth Gulf South Conference championship. The Blazers also assured themselves of an appearance in next week’s NCAA South Regional with the GSC’s automatic bid.
Delta State reached the championship game by defeating the University of West Georgia 12-1 earlier Thursday.
After three scoreless innings by DSU starter Jordan Moore, the Blazers scratched across an unearned run, as Jake Fields, who singled and moved into scoring position on a fielder’s choice, came in to score from second on a throwing error by Statesman catcher Carlos Leal.
The Statesmen finally found their offensive rhythm in the top of the sixth, as DSU scored three runs on two hits and chased VSU starter Jeremy Holcomb from the mound. Jordan Chovnec opened the inning with a walk. Sam Kidd followed with a double down the left field line. Tyler Aldridge delivered a two-RBI double to right-center to put the Statesmen up 2-1. A fly-out to right by Kingsley allowed Aldridge to move to third and eventually score on a wild pitch by Holcomb.
Bryant Hayman rudely greeted Moore in the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run to left on the first pitch of the inning to cut the DSU lead to 3-2. After a one walk to Michael Gouge, coach Mike Kinnison pulled Moore for Cody McGill. McGill quickly forced the Blazers into back-to-back fielder’s choice plays to end the inning and preserve the one run lead.
After VSU held the Statesmen scoreless in the seventh and eighth innings, DSU tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth, as Kingsley’s RBI single to right scored Chovanec from second to extend the lead to 4-2. VSU reliever Nick Fogarty closed out the inning to end the jam.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, VSU mounted a rally on McGill with back-to-back singles by Jamie McMillan and pinch-hitter Jake Montgomery. Coach Kinnison made the call to the bullpen by bringing in Garrett Pickens.
Pinch-hitter Ryan McClellen grounded into a fielder’s choice, but the runner beat the throw to third to load the bases. After a hit-by-pitch to Nick Rodda to plate Will Austin, Hunter Thompson delivered the game-winning two-RBI single to left to lift the Blazers to the 5-4 victory.
Pickens (3-2) took the loss for the Statesmen in relief, while VSU’s Fogarty (5-3) hawked the win.
Aldridge led the Statesmen at the plate with a 4-for-5 appearance at the plate with two RBIs and a run scored. Kidd went 2-for-2 with a run scored, while Chovanec went 0-for-2, but scored two runs.
The GSC announced the All-GSC Tournament team, including Delta State’s Kidd (OF), Langston (1B), Josh Branstetter (SP) and the event’s Most Outstanding Player, Jordan Chovanec.
Delta State will await its postseason fate, as the NCAA will announce the Division II National Championship Tournament field on Sunday, May 12 at 9 p.m. on www.NCAA.com.