SALEM, Va. -- Valdosta State advanced to the NCAA Division II national championship game for the third time in five years as the Blazers defeated Southeastern Oklahoma 5-3 at the Moyer Sports Complex in the semifinals on Sunday afternoon.The Blazers, who improved to 48-14 on the season, will face West Texas A&M, who defeated Dixie State 2-1 in Sunday's first semifinal matchup. VSU also advanced to the national title game in 2010, when it finished as the national runner-up, as well as in 2012, when Valdosta State won its first national championship with a 4-1 victory against UC San Diego. Monday's game will be the first appearance in the title game for West Texas A&M, which enters the contest with a 59-7 record.
Valdosta State never trailed in Sunday's game as the Blazers put three runs on the board in the top of the first inning. Courtney Albritton, who had just two hits in her first seven at-bats in the first two games of the tournament, opened the game with a single to left field before Shelby Altman doubled to right-center to drive her home. Kiley Rusen followed with an infield single before being lifted for pinch runner Brittany Britt. After a sacrifice bunt and a fly out, Fran Johnson singled to left to score both Altman and Britt for a 3-0 VSU lead.
Albritton upped the Blazer lead to 4-0 in the second inning as, with two outs, she lifted a ball over the wall in left field. The home run upped her season total to 27, which extended a Gulf South Conference record she had previously established, while also giving her 63 round trippers in her career, a GSC mark.
Southeastern Oklahoma, which ended its season at 45-20, got its first hit of the game in the third and another in the fourth before striking for all three of its runs in the fifth. Lauren Renneker singled to open the Savage Storm half of the fifth and, after a pinch runner entered for Renneker, starting pitcher Mindy McElroy drew a walk. After a fly ball for the first out of the inning, Lacie Cook also walked to chase VSU starter Brianna Hancock. Caitlyn Calhoun entered for the Blazers and got two quick strikes on Sydney Kramer before the SOSU centerfielder singled up the middle to drive two base runners home. Calhoun also got ahead 0-and-2 on Laramie Beal, who fought back for a double to score Cook for the final Savage Storm run of the game.
The Blazers added an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning when Fran Johnson singled to open the inning and, with two outs, April Collins legged out an infield single. Albritton was intentionall walked for the second time in the game to load the bases and bring Altman to the plate. The Valdosta State shortstop worked a 2-and-2 count before hitting a slow roller to shortstop. Altman hustled down the line to beat the throw to first, which allowed Johnson to score the game's final run.
Hancock allowed three runs on three hits and four walks in 4.1 innings to improve to 25-6 on the season while Calhoun surrendered three hits in the final 2.2 innings for her third save.