ST. GEORGE – The No. 4 nationally-ranked Dixie State softball team completed its regular season on a crest, winning both games of a doubleheader with Holy Names University by the mercy rule. Pitcher Michelle Duncan remained undefeated on the year to go 24-0 with Dixie’s 9-1 win in the opener. Pitcher Aryn Feickert improved to 18-5 by throwing a one-hitter and striking out four in a 12-0 shutout in the back half of the DH.
“We knew that (Holy Names University) was not a strong team,” Dixie State head coach Randy Simpkins said. “But they are just good enough to be dangerous. They have beaten both Cal Baptist and Sonoma State. Even though they are at the bottom of our conference, we wanted to play them tough and not take them lightly.”
In the first game, the score stayed close through the first four innings with DSU holding a 3-1 lead. Two of those runs were batted in by last year’s team MVP, Nikki Chavez. The Red Storm then pulled away by putting up three runs in both the fifth and sixth innings.
“Our whole line-up can hit the ball,” said Chavez on senior day. “We seem to be peaking at the right time. It is bittersweet as a senior, but we know that we have not seen our last home game with the postseason coming.” The Red Storm will graduate seven seniors. All of them play extensively.
Mallory Paulson hit a one-out double to left field. She scored on Courtney Sherwin’s double. Gelter followed with the third straight double to score Sherwin. After Gelter stole third, she scored on a single by Bailey Freeland to give the Storm a 6-1 advantage after five.
In the sixth, Chavez began the scoring with a solo homer. Courtney Hine drew a walk, then advanced to third on a single by Marla Reiter. Kristie Johnson pinch ran for Reiter. Hine scored on a wild pitch and Johnson advanced all the way to third. Paulson then singled in Johnson to end the game.
Duncan struck out three and scattered five hits in the win. Vanessa Pulido took the loss for HNU and fell to 3-22 on the year.
In the second game, the bats were a crackin’ for the Storm. In the first, Janessa Bassett had a triple. She scored on a single from Hine. A single from Reiter put runners at first and second. Paulson then doubled to center field, scoring Hine and advancing Reiter to third. Sherwin then hit a two-RBI single to center field. The lead was 4-0 after one.
After a scoreless second inning, Sherwin added two more RBIs on a two-out double to left center, scoring Paulson and Chavez.
The Storm would put the game away in the bottom of the fourth by scoring six runs. Josey Hartman began the inning with a triple. She scored on a Freeland single to right center. Bassett singled on a bunt. Chavez and Hine drew consecutive walks, scoring Freeland. Reiter then hit a double to right center to clear the bases and put the Storm up 11-0. Sarah Good pinch ran for Reiter and scored the final run on a fielder’s choice by Johnson.
“We started the day slow offensively,” said Simkins. “But midway through the first game, we picked it up and the momentum carried into the second game. Duncan did a good job limiting their opportunities until the offensive support came.”
HNU’s Karolanne Tipton took the loss, falling to 6-16 on the year.
The Red Storm end the regular season 44-7 overall. They finished a full five games ahead of second-place Cal Baptist in the Pac West with a record of 31-1, the sole loss coming at the hands of the Lancers. Dixie State finished first in the West Region. If the rankings remain the same, the Red Storm will host the sub-regional with visiting teams Humboldt State, Sonoma State and Pac West rival Hawaii Hilo.
“We have either seen or played all of these teams,” said Duncan. “We are confident that we are the best team, but now we have to come out and play as the best team because the teams we will be facing are all elite teams.”
In between the two games, Nikki Chavez received a wedding proposal and ring from now-fiance Tyler Arbuckle at second base. “I was expecting the proposal,” said Chavez. “But how he did it was a pleasant surprise.”
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