LOCAL COLLEGE ROUNDUP: ASU nearly upsets national champ VSU; Darton baseball reaches title game from losers' bracket

ASU softball coach Robert Skinner.

ASU softball coach Robert Skinner.

VALDOSTA — The Albany State softball team nearly pulled off the upset of a lifetime Friday night against nationally-ranked No. 3 Valdosta State before falling 5-4 to the reigning national champs.

“It would have been the biggest win in Albany State athletics history,” Lady Rams coach Robert Skinner said.

Westover grad Domonique Bryant hit a grand slam to left field in the top of the fifth inning in the opening-round game of the NCAA Division II Regionals to give the Lady Rams a 4-0 lead, but the Lady Blazers scored three runs in the fifth and another in the sixth to tie it before eventually walking off with a 5-4 victory thanks to a Morgan Johnson single with one out in the bottom of the seventh.

The Lady Rams (36-25) drop to the loser’s bracket, where they will play St. Leo at noon today.

“I know playing Valdosta State tough is important, but I really believe what is more important is turning around (today) and beating St. Leo,” Skinner said. “What shows your character and what you are made of is how you play with your backs against the wall.”

VSU’s Brianna Hancock was the winning pitcher and allowed just four hits, while Alexa Lopez went the distance for ASU and took the loss after allowing 11 hits.

The victory would have been ASU’s first victory in Regionals and the first win against Valdosta State in over a decade.

Darton baseball stays alive, reaches title game

ALBANY — The Darton Cavaliers won twice Friday to stay alive in the consolation bracket and now face nemesis Middle Georgia at noon today, needing to win twice to claim the Region XVII title.

It was Middle Georgia that knocked Darton into the consolation bracket with a 4-3 win in extra innings Thursday. But Darton is back from the dead, alive and well after winning three in a row, including two Friday.

The Cavs (42-13 and ranked No. 9 in the nation) got a brilliant performance from Kyle Conkle in the opener on Friday to beat Gordon State, 2-1. Conkle went seven innings and gave up one run on two hits while striking out five, and Brandon Sharpe hit a two-run homer in the sixth to erase a 1-0 lead and lift Darton to the win. Ryan Good pitched two innings in relief to nail down the save.

The Cavaliers erupted in the nightcap, beating West Georgia Tech, 13-5, in eight innings.

Sharpe went 4-for-5 with a triple, drove in two runs and scored twice. Davis Knapp went 3-for-4 with a double and scored four times and Conkle went 3-for-5 with a double and drove in three runs to lead the attack.

Steven Williams, who had pitched only nine innings all year, tossed 5 1/3 innings of relief to earn the win. He gave up one earned run on four hits to save the exhausted pitching staff that played four games in two days.