Courtesy of VSU athletics:
CLEVELAND, Miss. – The bottom half of the Valdosta State order tallied 13 hits and 17 runs batted in to lead the 15th-ranked Blazers to an 18-1 victory over North Alabama to keep VSU perfect in the Gulf South Conference Tournament at Ferriss Field Wednesday afternoon.
Four of the last five Valdosta State batters were perfect at the plate on the day as Chris Jones led the way with a four-for-four showing while also driving in a career-high seven runs. Jake Summers added three hits, four runs scored and six RBI in three at-bats while Austin Smith (three runs scored) and Josh Vining (two runs scored, two RBI) was also three-for-three on the day. The only player out of the five through nine hitters for the Blazers not to tally a hit was Jon Koenigsfeld, who finished the game 0-of-3, but still managed to score on run and drive in two more.
Valdosta State (40-14) jumped on top of the Lions (29-23) in the first inning as it took advantage of a pair of UNA errors to score five runs. Ryan Danbury reached on an error to open the frame and Antonio Clark was hit by a pitch before Lion starter Drew Clark struck out Brandon Decker and Clayton Cain. Smith drew a walk to load the bases before Summers hit a foul ball that was dropped by second baseman Blake Stroth for the second error of the frame. Summers made North Alabama pay for the mistake as he proceeded to single to right to score Danbury and Clark. Vining was promptly hit by a pitch and Koenigsfeld walked to force home Smith before Jones delivered a two-out hit to right that scored Summers and Vining for a 5-0 VSU lead.
After sending all nine men to the plate in the first, the Blazers sent 10 men up in the second while scoring six more runs. Cain drove home the first run of the frame with a base hit while Summers added two more on a single. Vining, Koenigsfeld and Jones also added RBI in the frame that ended with Valdosta State leading 11-0.
The trouble continued for North Alabama in the third inning as all nine VSU batters once again batted in the frame. Jones provided the big blow in the inning as he hit a three-run home run, his second of the season, while Summers added his third two-run single of the game and Vining also drove home a run.
Summers walked and scored on a Jones base hit in the fifth to close out the VSU scoring in the game while the Lions got an unearned run in the sixth for their only score of the game.
The strong hitting performance, which featured 17 total hits for Valdosta State, was matched on the mound by Tyler Wooten, who improved to 4-0 on the season. Wooten, who started just the third game of his career, pitched a career-high five and two-thirds innings while allowing just four hits and the one unearned run. The freshman walked just one batter in the game while striking out a personal-best five hitters.
The victory also gave Valdosta State 40 victories for the second straight season, the first time the Blazers have accomplished that feat since the 1985 (47 wins) and 1986 (43) seasons. The Blazers won 43 games a year ago.
Valdosta State, the only undefeated team remaining in the game, advances in the tournament and will play West Florida at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday. The day's other game will feature Southern Arkansas against North Alabama at 10:30 a.m.