ST. GEORGE – Day two of the NCAA West Regionals began with a clash between two teams that know each other well. The winners bracket pitted the Dixie State Red Storm against the Lancers of Cal Baptist, but this time it was no contest, with DSU earning an easy win and a trip to the regional final.
The two teams finished atop the Pac West and maintained national-rankings the whole season. The ending of the game was a bit anticlimactic as Dixie put up a sizable lead that cut the game short after four and a half innings due to the mercy rule, winning 11-0.
The Lancers were able to load the bases in each of the first two innings before Dixie starter Michelle Duncan pitched out of the jams. “We told Michelle ‘We don’t need you to be perfect,’” said Simkins. “Just give us your best and the team behind you will do the rest.”
The Red Storm put up a run in the first inning. Leadoff batter Janessa Bassett singled to left. She then stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. Courtney Hine then laid down a sacrifice bunt to squeeze Bassett home. At the end of one, DSU led 1-0.
In the bottom of the second inning, Courtney Sherwin led off by reaching on a fielding error. The play would be a harbinger for how the rest unfolded. Mallory Paulson singled to left field, advancing Sherwin. Autumn Woodfall singled down the left field line, scoring Sherwin.
After Sheila Gelter popped out, Josey Hartman laid down a perfect bunt to score Paulson and put base runners at the corners. Kristie Johnson came in to pinch run for Woodfall at third. The next batter, Bassett, drew a walk to load the bases.
Nikki Chavez then smacked a line drive but straight to the CBU pitcher, Kayla Hatch, for the second out. Hine then singled to the shortstop, barely beating the throw out at first. The hit brought in Johnson to move the score to 4-0. Marla Reiter then hit the ball to the shortstop who attempted to get the runner out at third base. The only problem was, that runner happened to be the speedy Bassett who beat the throw, scoring Hartman.
“We tell our players to hustle on every play,” said Simkins. “Routine fly balls, routine ground balls — you still hustle. It is the first few steps out of the box that determine these plays. Hustle and the softball gods will smile on you occasionally.”
The next batter was Sherwin, who began the inning. She rocked Hatch’s 2-0 pitch over the right center fence for the grand slam. The lead had climbed to 9-0.
“Sherwin’s grand slam took the wind out of their sails,” said Simkins. “It deflated them. Plus, our pitcher is now pitching with a big lead. It certainly was a huge swing in momentum.”
Lancer head coach Bill Baber called in his other ace, Loie Kesterson, to replace Hatch. Kesterson struck out Paulson to end the inning but the damage had been done.
The Lancers Jenna Lieber replaced Kesterson in the fourth after Bassett reached on a fielding error. Lieber quickly struck out Nicole Chavez and Hine. Bassett stole second. Reiter doubled to right center, scoring Bassett. Bailee Freeland pinched ran for Reiter. Sherwin’s single brought in Freeland for the left fielder’s fifth RBI of the day. Aryn Feickert took over for Duncan in the fifth inning, collecting a strikeout on the final batter.
The Dixie defense played very well, turning base hits into outs. Hartman chased several hard-hit ground balls and threw scorching throws to first to get the out.
“We watch Marla for the pitch call,” said Hartman. “So we have a feel for where the ball will go before the swing. Today I got some good jumps with the anticipation.”
Duncan scattered four hits over four innings and struck out three. She stays undefeated and improves to 26-0 for the season. Kayla Hatch falls to 20-4 for the Lancers. Hatch gave up nine runs (only one earned) on six hits.
CBU will face the winner of Friday afternoon’s first elimination game between Saint Martin’s University and Chico State University. The winner of that contest will then meet Dixie State on Saturday at noon. If the Red Storm lose that game, a second game is scheduled for 2:30 to determine the Region Pod champion.
Stats: DSU 11, CBU 0
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