VALDOSTA, Ga. — Select Valdosta State seniors led the Blazers to a 2-1 victory against Florida Southern on a night full of broken records. The Blazers played in front of a record crowd of 849 and put on a show for the fans with the longest softball game in school history. It wasn’t until the 16th inning that Natalia Morozova knocked in the winning run to put Valdosta State just one win away from advancing to the eight-team NCAA Division II National Tournament in Louisville, Ky. to be played May 15-19.
Wamsley’s RBI was one of just three in the 16-inning marathon
The VSU seniors saved the day in the opening game of the South Super Regional. It started with Clare Wamsley knocking in Ashley Steinhilber for the tying run, then Marti Littlefield snuck a double down the right line to put a runner on base in the 16th inning. Next, Morozova knocked a double through the left side to score April Collins, pinch running for Littlefield.
Joining Wamsley, Littlefield and Morozova was Alanna Hadley with a stellar pitching performance, going all 16 inning and giving up just six hits and a run while striking out six. Senior April Hutchens also did plenty of work defensively with nine putouts and four assists. Littlefield and Samantha Posey also made stellar defensive plays throughout the night.
The seniors didn’t take all the work though as junior Morgan Johnson and freshman Courtney Albritton contributed a few sliding catches in the outfield.
In a pitcher’s duel, Hadley came out with the win.
Florida Southern pitcher Christine Clark went just over 15 innings and gave up nine hits and two runs but struck out 15 batters without giving up a walk.
Despite playing 16 innings, there weren’t many hits to go around. Only Steinhilber and Morozova had multiple hit games for VSU. Five other Blazers tallied hits while only Devin Mathews had multiple hits for Florida Southern. Four other Mocs knocked a hit in the game.
The Moccasins were the first to score with a solo home run from Brittany Martin to start the second inning. After that though, Hadley struck out the next batter and forced ground outs from the two after that to end the inning. In the tight 1-0 game, VSU struck back in the fifth when Steinhilber scored the tying run.
Steinhilber started the inning with a single up the middle and went to second on an Angela O’Connor sacrifice bunt. Wamsley tied the game next with a single down the right line to score Steinhilber. Steinhilber rounded third, and the play was close at the plate but she slid in safe to even the score.
After that, it would be 11 more innings before another team scored.
Valdosta State had five hits in innings six through 15 and left eight stranded. Florida Southern would only tally four hits in that stretch and left nine on base.
Littlefield placed the winning run on base and snagged some impressive catches.
Finally, in the bottom of the 16th, Littlefield laid down her double up the right line past Randi Grimes, the Florida Southern first baseman. VSU head coach Thomas Macera made the move to Collins to pinch run and Morozova struck the winning hit through the left side after that.
Despite four errors for the Blazers, the VSU defense made some spectacular plays to keep Valdosta State in the longest game played in NCAA Division II since 2008. Friday’s game fell just five innings short of the record in Division II, 21 innings by Barry and Florida Southern in 2001 and Lemoyne and SUNY Cortland in 1992.
Valdosta State improved to 52-4 on the season with the win while dropping Florida Southern to 39-17 for the year.