ST. GEORGE – Line up two of the top fast-pitch hurlers in the nation and two top teams stacked with offensive talent and something had to give. Today it was the offense from both teams. Dixie State eked out a 2-1 victory against the visiting Seawolves of Sonoma State. Michelle Duncan remained undefeated on the mound picking up her 28th win.
“Getting that first out of the inning was crucial. It really limits what Sonoma likes to do offensively running the bases,” said Dixie State head coach Randy Simkins. “Duncan did a great job with that. I think they only had one inning where they got the first batter on base and that was the inning they scored.”
Duncan retired the first 14 batters she faced. Tolliver broke up the perfect game with a double in the top of the fifth. Duncan struck out Holli Brown, looking to end that initial threat. “In my opinion, one of the biggest plays of the game,” said Simkins. “Brown is a good hitter, and they had just put their first base runner on. Duncan’s strikeout swung momentum immediately back in our direction.”
On the opposite side, another all-region pitcher was equally baffling the Dixie batters. Amanda Llerena scattered five hits over six innings, but it was two of those in the third that provided the only firepower the Red Storm needed for the victory. Janessa Bassett hit a slow spinner to Llerena. The pitcher bobbled the grounder for just an instant, but that was enough for the speedy Bassett to reach first. Nicole Chavez then rocked a 1-2 pitch over the left-center fence.
“I had just whiffed on the earlier pitch,” said Chavez. “I was just trying to hit it in the gap. I knew I had to get Cheetah (Bassett) home.”
The home run smash broke the scoreless tie and gave Duncan a 2-0 cushion. “It is difficult to pitch to Chavez,” said Sonoma head coach Jennifer Bridges. “She is a deliberate batter and it is an advantage for Dixie to have players like her who can swing for the fence.”
In the sixth, Jordann White hit a slow blooper to Duncan’s left. Duncan was unable to corral the ball and get it to first before White reached for the base hit. Alison Strycula pinch ran for White. She was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Olivia Lucchese. On an 0-1 pitch, Storm catcher Marla Reiter rifled the ball to Chavez, trying to catch Strycula off base. The throw was perfect. The tag was perfect. But the umpire immediately called obstruction as it appeared Chavez’ left foot blocked the runner from the bag.
Keeley Ray then singled to Josey Hartman, who threw a perfect strike to Reiter to get Strycula at the plate. However, the ball came loose and the plate umpire ruled Reiter did not have the ball long enough to record the out. Sonoma State had halved the lead, 2-1.
The Seawolves would threaten again in the top of the seventh. After Kaser flew out to center field, Rossetta hit a double to left field. However the runner was stranded as Duncan got the next two batters out to preserve the win.
“We battled,” said Bridges. “We just did not hit the ball hard enough. I think with a few minor individual adjustments we can come out with a better game tomorrow. We did not get this far playing poorly. We will come out with what we have done all year.”
Llerena fell to 26-13 with the loss. She recorded six strikeouts, while both runs scored by DSU were unearned. Duncan pitched a complete game in the win and allowed only four hits. The run scored against Dixie was also unearned.
The Red Storm improve to 48-7. Sonoma falls to 42-20. The two teams resume their best-out-of-three match-up Saturday. Game 2 will start at 1 p.m. and game 3 will start at 3:30 p.m. if the Seawolves win Game 2.
Stats; DSU 2, SSU 1
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