May 30, 2010

By Bo Allegrucci
Special to

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Nineteen hours after Angelo State kept its season alive with a walk-off home run, Valdosta State ended it with one.

Freshman Morgan Johnson turned on the first pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning Sunday and lined a missile over the left-field fence, giving Valdosta State a 3-2 victory and a berth in the NCAA Division II National Softball Championship at 2 p.m. Monday.

Johnson hit .342 but had only six home runs batting second in a Blazers lineup that was second in the nation in homers. The 5-foot-5 left fielder from Macon, Ga., had a sacrifice bunt and two walks in her first three plate appearances against Angelo State starter Chelsea Nelson.

"I was just looking for a strike," Johnson said. "I'd seen eight straight balls my previous two at-bats, so I just looked for something a little bit inside that I could drive. I was nervous. ... I just didn't want to get out because then other people wouldn't get an at-bat and a chance to come through."

Valdosta State (50-8) took the lead in its first at-bat when leadoff hitter Amber Shaw reached on an error and scored on Alyssa Shirey's two-out single to left. After that error, Angelo State kept itself in the game with remarkable defense. Right fielder Sarah DeMoss robbed the Blazers' Marti Littlefield of a potential home run in the bottom of the third with a leaping catch at the fence in right-center.

Shortstop Chelsey Walters made a horizontally immaculate reception of a Colette Rollins line drive in the bottom of the fourth.

But Valdosta State added a run in the fifth when Littlefield blooped a two-out single behind second base to score Melessa Jackson and make it 2-0.

"I felt good at that point, I'm not going to lie," Valdosta State coach Thomas Macera said. "I felt like we were in control and doing a really good job on defense. But I also know Angelo State's a good hitting team. It takes seven innings to win a ballgame."

The Blazers left the bases loaded in the fifth, however, and Angelo State finally solved Valdosta State starter Satterfield in its next at-bat.

The Rambelles put the first two runners on in the sixth with infield hits that went in and out of Blazers gloves, and Kaycee Taylor nearly put Angelo State ahead with a double off the top of the left-field fence.

Nicole Smith scored on the play, but the relay nailed DeMoss at the plate with time to spare. DeMoss is one of the fastest players in the tournament, but the ball was already back to the infield by the time she rounded third base.

"That was about as stupid a coaching mistake as you can make, and I'm kicking myself for it," Rambelles coach Travis Scott said. "My players expect better out of me and deserve better out of me, and that's a mistake I wish I had back."

Alix Dean followed Taylor's double with one of her own down the left-field line, and Nicole Wellman scored to tie the game 2-2. DeMoss would have scored on the play to put the Rambelles ahead had she been held at third the previous play.

After a walk to Kacie Easley, Margaret Carter relieved Satterfield for the third straight game and retired the next two batters to keep the game tied. Satterfield had struck out four of the first six hitters she faced and allowed only three runners through the first five innings.

Angelo State outscored its opponents 66-18 this season in the sixth inning, including a 16-6 advantage in the championship tournament.

Valdosta State had runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the sixth only to come up empty. Johnson then needed about 4/100ths of a second to come up big in the seventh.

"The kid that hit the home run hadn't taken the bat off her shoulder," Scott said. "She walked twice in eight pitches the previous two at-bats, so we wanted to start her off with a strike. Chelsea did exactly what we wanted. (Johnson) just got the barrel on the ball, and it got out. Give her credit.

"That's athletics. We got the big one last night, they got the big one today."

Angelo State's season ends at 50-15 after its second consecutive trip to the national semifinals.