ST. GEORGE – Jessica Gonzalez delivered a clutch hit to help Dixie State’s softball team sweep past Hawaii Pacific Saturday afternoon at Brooks Field. DSU won 13-1 in the early game and 7-4 in the late game.
In the bottom of the 10th, with two runners on and the score tied 4-4, Dixie State’s designated player Jessica Gonzalez came to the plate. Facing HPU’s ace Paige Crawford, Gonzalez took the first pitch and rocked it to center field for the walk-off home run.
“She had put one down the middle earlier,” said Gonzalez. “Coach told me that we were in an RBI situation now. Don’t take pitches. If it was a good one to hit, then swing away.”
Dixie State head coach Randy Simkins said Gonzalez was ready for the occasion.
“Jessica (Gonzalez) has been our most productive at the plate this year getting on base,” he said. “We have been batting her and Autumn (Woodfall) behind Cheetah (Bassett) and Shelby (Yung). It has worked well for us.”
The home run completed a two-game sweep on the first day of the four game series with Hawaii Pacific. In the first game the Storm crushed the visitors 13-1 in five innings.
“The first game was very atypical for Hawaii Pacific,” said Simkins. “We have been successful against them lately, but most of our games are by one or two runs or in extra innings.”
Hawaii Pacific is consistently in the top three teams in the Pacific West Conference and won the national championship in 2010.
The Storm came out hot in the first game, scoring all 13 runs in the first two innings. Bassett began the game with a single through the left side and would later score when Gonzalez drew a bases-loaded walk. Yung then scored on a passed ball at the plate, while Woodfall and Taylor Godfrey advanced to third and second to set up a two-RBI double by Brooklyn Beardshear. Josey Hartman capped the six-run first inning with a two-run blast over the wall in left-center field for her first home run of the season.
Bassett singled to open the bottom half of the second inning for DSU, followed by Yung’s first hit of the day, a single through the right side. Bassett scored on the next play when Woodfall singled to center field. Beardshear then singled to score Yung from third. Dani Bartholf and Kristie Johnson also recorded RBI singles in the inning, while Bassett recorded a two-run double and Yung capped the inning with an RBI single of her own as the Storm batted around.
HPU would add a run in the third inning, but could get no closer as the Storm retired the final six batters of game to earn the 13-1 win in five innings.
Bassett, Yung and Beardshear each had multiple hits, combining for a total 7 for 7. Aryn Feickert earned the win in the pitcher’s circle, striking out five and allowing just two hits.
In the second game, Dixie State scored the first run in the second inning. Mallory Paulson scored on a fielding error after earlier reaching on a fielder’s choice.
Hawaii Pacific matched Dixie State’s run in the top of the fifth inning. Arista Honey reclaimed the lead for the Storm with her own home run over left center field.
HPU took the lead in the top of the sixth inning with a two-run shot that gave the Sharks a 3-2 advantage.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh and Bailey Gaffin on first, Bassett stepped to the plate as the Storm’s last chance to take the lead or tie the game and send it to extra innings. Bassett worked the count to a full count and then rapped the ball to left center field for an RBI triple. The Storm could not get her home, however, and the game went to extra innings.
After two scoreless innings, the conference tiebreaker rule went into effect. HPU placed a runner on second to start the top half of the 10th inning and took a 4-3 lead off an RBI single.
Down 4-3, DSU placed Hartman on second to start the bottom of the 10th. Hartman advanced to third on Gaffin’s sacrifice. She scored when Bassett doubled to center field to tie the game at 4-4. Yung drew a walk, followed by a popup by Woodfall for the second out of the inning. That set up the walk-off by Gonzalez to end the game
Bassett led the way at the plate for DSU, going 4 for 5. Feickert got the win in both games to improve to 10-3 on the season.
Both teams had only one error in the 15 innings of play.
“Our defense has really improved,” said Hartman. “With so many new players at the beginning of the year, it took some time for us to gel, especially in the infield. But we are getting to know each other’s instincts and timing.”
Dixie State and Hawaii Pacific wrap up their four-game series with a doubleheader at Karl Brooks Field on Sunday starting at noon.
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