LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Valdosta State will play for an NCAA Division II National Championship for the second time in three seasons after an impressive 8-2 victory against Kutztown. The Golden Bears were previously undefeated in the national tournament but the Blazers knocked them off in consecutive games to advance to the final game against UC San Diego.
The biggest hit may have come from April Hutchens in the bottom of the sixth inning. With just a one-run lead, two outs and Kutztown having snagged the momentum, the Blazers loaded the bases with a hit by pitch for Ashley Steinhilber, a single from Sarah Vaughn and a walk for Clare Wamsley. Hutchens, who had only two hits in the tournament so far, came up next and launched a triple into the right field corner to score three runs and bust the game open.
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After that, Hutchens scored on a double from Courtney Albritton and she came in on a single by Morgan Johnson. Just like that, the Blazers went from leading just, 3-2, to being up 8-2 and needing just three outs to advance to the championship game.
Kutztown pitcher Samantha Derr was the NCAA Division II Pitcher of the Year and the Blazers tore her apart in two appearances. In seven innings pitched, Derr gave up 13 hits, 11 runs (nine earned) and two walks to VSU. She only struck out four and finished the two games with a 9.00 earned run average against Valdosta State.
Five Blazers hit above .333 or higher against Derr with Wamsley and Albritton leading the way with matching .600 batting averages and .667 on-base percentages. Meanwhile, Alanna Hadley went the full seven innings again Saturday and struck out four, all were swinging. She only allowed two runs. Hadley walked three and gave up seven hits.
Valdosta State never trailed in the game. The first run of the game came in the third inning just like VSU’s first meeting against Kutztown. Wamsley singled down the left side and scored when Albritton knocked a double to left field. Albritton scored next on a Johnson sacrifice fly.
The Blazers added one more run in the fourth inning when Natalia Morozova doubled and scored on a single by Vaughn. Down, 3-0, Kutztown made a comeback bid in the sixth with two runners scoring. Heather Hannum led off with a double and Katie Lynch followed with a single. Derr grounded out but Hannum was able to score, then Brianna Knipe knocked in Lynch with a single.
Then it was to the bottom of the sixth for Valdosta State and the Blazers blew the game open with five runs, three of them coming off the bat of the senior second baseman Hutchens.