SALEM, Va. -- For the second season in a row, Valdosta State opened the NCAA National Championship Tournament with an extra inning battle. This year, however, the outcome was different\ as the Blazers' bats came alive in the late innings to stage a nine-inning, 8-5 win against the Warriors of Wayne State on Thursday.

DII SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Championship Game Highlights  Photo Gallery
Hemphill: W. Texas A&M finds gem with Hokianga
Hemphill: Gehle comes through for W. Texas A&M
Game 13: West Texas A&M wins national title
Day 4 Highlights
Hemphill: Blaskowski brings W. Texas A&M to title brink
Hemphill: Pitchers face tough call vs. Valdosta St.
Game 12: Valdosta State makes return trip to title game
Game 11: Two in the fifth lifts West Texas A&M
Hemphill: Weathering the Savage Storm
Hemphill: Dixie State rallies after winning streak ends
Day 3 Highlights
Game 10: Southeastern Okla. keeps postseason alive
Game 9: Dixie State victorious in must-win
Game 8: Southeast Okla. staves off elimination
Game 7: West Chester eliminates LIU Post
Day 2 Highlights
Hemphill: Valdosta State gets rewarded with rest
Hemphill: WTAMU's Erwin constantly improves
Game 6: Valdosta State run-rules Dixie State
Game 5: West Texas A&M rallies past Armstrong Atl.
Day 1 Highlights
Game 4: Dixie State holds off Southeastern Oklahoma
Game 3: Valdosta State edges Wayne State 
Hemphill: Blazers have experienced it all 
Hemphill: Armstrong Atlantic's long and winding road
Game 2: West Texas A&M powers past LIU Post
Game 1: Armstrong Atlantic defeats West Chester
Hemphill: Dixie State rides win streak entering champ.
How they got here: Super Regional Results
Brackets: Interactive Printable
The Blazers (46-14) trailed the Warriors (46-11) with one out in the top of the seventh inning, before VSU strung together three consecutive hits by Shelby Altman, Kiley Rusen, and Hannah Strickland to cut the deficit to 5-3. In the next at bat, Chelsea Canara, who also homered earlier in the contest, blistered a hopper to short that was mishandled by Gabby Williams, allowing another run to score. With Strickland representing the tying run at second, Fran Johnson belted one of her three hits on the day back through the middle to knot the contest up at 5-5 and force extra innings.

Two innings later, Johnson delivered again to put the Blazers on top 8-5 with a three-run moonshot to left field. The homer was the her seventh of the season and brought in both Rusen and Strickland, who reached on back-to-back singles to lead off the frame.
 
"Our team has so much heart, and we believe in each other so much. It wasn't just my hit, you know, we had to have people on," said Johnson. "This isn't just a one person game. Cat (Caitlyn Calhoun) pitched amazing after she came in, and we just fought. That's what we're known for."

The two homers by Canara and Johnson represented just the fifth and sixth of the season allowed by WSU pitcher Lyndsay Butler, who entered the National Tournament with a staggering 0.86 ERA on the season. Prior to facing the Blazers, the ace had allowed just 25 runs on the entire season. Valdosta State connected for 15 hits in the contest to put eight runs, all earned, on the redshirt freshman.

Calhoun scored the victory in relief for VSU to improve her record to 11-4, while Butler suffered just her sixth loss of the year to fall to 25-6.