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.
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.