Blazers No. 8-Seed in NCAA Division II National Championship; Face Top-Seeded Augustana (S.D.) Thursday
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - With the program’s fifth South Region title in a thrilling doubleheader sweep of rival West Florida Saturday, the No. 9 Valdosta State softball team learned Saturday evening it is the No. 8-seed in the NCAA Division II Softball National Championship, scheduled for May 27-31 at The Assembly Athletic Complex at MSU Denver in Denver, Colo.
The Blazers will face top-seeded and top-ranked Augustana (S.D.) Thursday at 1 p.m. ET in the first overall game of the championship. Links to live stats, streaming, ticket information and more will be found later in the week at vstateblazers.com on the softball schedule page. Blazer games also will be on the radio on WDDQ FM 92.1 FM and talk921.com. Matt Malone will have coverage of each of VSU’s games.
In an absolute instant classic regional final, the Blazers needed to defeat West Florida twice on Saturday in front of a raucous crowd on both sides, the Blazers responded in the sixth inning with a huge at bat from junior Nicole Pennington as she laced a triple to right center, plating two runs for a 3-2 VSU lead and then senior Logan Hill hit a sacrifice fly for the 4-2 victory.
Sophomore hurler Samantha Richards was outstanding throughout the regional as she closed the door on the Argos for the victory and forcing the final game. In the “if necessary” game, VSU used Pennington’s national-leading 24th home run in the first inning and a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
After UW tied it on a two-run blast in the second, Blazer freshman Taylor Macera hit a three-run home run in the third for a 5-2 lead and senior Lacey Crandall belted her 11th of the season for a 6-2 advantage. UWF pulled within 6-4 in the bottom of the inning, but that’d be as close as the Argos would get.
Richards came in relief of senior starter Avery Lamb and, once again, held the Argos in check, allowing just three hits and fanned two over the final 4.2 innings for the victory.
Augustana is in its 27th NCAA postseason in 2021, and tenth-straight. The Vikings are the defending NCAA Division II National Champion, defeating Texas A&M-Kingsville in the best-of-three final round in 2019. The Vikings are 70-51 all-time in the NCAA postseason after winning the Central Regional this past weekend with a 3-2 win over No. 19 Southern Arkansas and a pair of 2-1 and 7-0 victories over No. 17 Minnesota State.
Augie went 4-2 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC), losing to Minnesota State in the conference title game. The Vikings are 47-6 overall and went 28-2 in league play this season winning the regular season conference title. Augustana has spent a majority of it as the top-ranked team in the country in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25.
Both the Blazers and the Vikings were in the top five for a number of weeks this season, including both being the top two teams. Augustana has two national titles (1991 & 2019) and one runner-up finish (1993) in the NCAA Division II National Championship. The Vikings are making their sixth trip to the national championship round (1991, 1993, 1998, 2012, 2019).
The Blazers and Vikings have met four times in the national championship round as Augustana went 2-1 in 1993 in its runner-up finish, while VSU won in 2012 in the Blazers’ national championship season. The winner of the game on Thursday will face the winner of the 4/5 matchup between No. 2-ranked North Georgia and No. 24 Biola (Calif.) on Friday at 1 p.m. ET. The losers will play in an elimination game on Friday, May 28 at 6 p.m. ET.
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