DSU softball: Red Storm sweep their way back to Nationals in OKC

Dixie State wins the Super Regional tournament, Dixie State University vs. Sonoma State University, Softball, St. George, Utah, May 16, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Oklahoma! Oklahoma! Oklahoma! The chant brings memories of the Ruprecht chant in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” The Red Storm softball team and the Dixie State faithful are perhaps even more excited to return to Oklahoma City for the NCAA Division II Softball National Tournament.

dsulogoMichelle Duncan left little suspense in the deciding game of the Super Regional, holding Sonoma State scoreless in a 6-0 shutout Saturday at Karl Brooks Field. Duncan is now 29-0 on the season. She faced a total of 25 batters in seven innings. She retired 21 of them, striking out five. She gave up only three hits and had her first walk in 14 innings of baseball. Only one base runner even made it to third base, that being Olivia Lucchese.

Dixie State players, including Michelle Duncan (21), celebrate their win in the Super Regional tournament, Dixie State University vs. Sonoma State University, Softball, St. George, Utah, May 16, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Dixie State players, including Michelle Duncan (21), celebrate their win in the Super Regional tournament, Dixie State University vs. Sonoma State University, Softball, St. George, Utah, May 16, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Unlike Friday’s 2-1 thriller, Duncan got plenty of run support. Dixie jumped out early in the first. Janessa Bassett singled, stole second, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Marla Reiter laid down a sacrifice bunt to score Bassett.

The score would remain 1-0 until the Red Storm came to bat in the fifth. Mallory Paulson began the inning with a single up the middle. Sheila Gelter bunt-sacrificed Paulson to second. Josey Hartman got on after being hit by Sonoma pitcher Amanda Llerena. Bassett then hit a 1-2 pitch to right field for a triple, scoring Paulson and Hartman. Nicole Chavez then took Llerena’s next pitch and sent it over the right-center fence for her team-leading 12th home run of the year.

“It was an outside pitch,” said Chavez. “I have been struggling with those this year. So I have been working on that lately. Today it paid off.”

Janessa Bassett motors around first base, Dixie State University vs. Sonoma State University, Softball, St. George, Utah, May 16, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Janessa Bassett motors around first base, Dixie State University vs. Sonoma State University, Softball, St. George, Utah, May 16, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

At the end of five Duncan had a 5-0 cushion. The Red Storm would add another insurance run in the top of the seventh. Bassett got her second triple of the game with a shot down the right field line. Chavez got her fifth RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly to left field.

“The key again was getting their lead-off batters out,” said Dixie State head coach Randy Simkins. “We were playing a team that relies on their base running and speed. Duncan kept their big hitters in check.”

The three hits that Duncan gave up came from the bottom of Sonoma’s lineup.

“I definitely get more relaxed once we get a couple of runs,” said Duncan. “I know I have a great defense behind me and good batters for run support.”

Llerena took the loss for the Seawolves and finishes the season 26-14. Along with improving to 29-0 with the two wins, Duncan also lowered her ERA to 1.24 as the only run scored by SSU was unearned.

Courtney Sherwin runs down a fly ball for Dixie State, Dixie State University vs. Sonoma State University, Softball, St. George, Utah, May 16, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Courtney Sherwin runs down a fly ball for Dixie State, Dixie State University vs. Sonoma State University, Softball, St. George, Utah, May 16, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Sonoma State finishes the season 42-21. “This is the farthest we have ever advanced,” said Sonoma head coach Jennifer Bridges. “I am proud of our team and the way they played here. We faced a great team.”

Courtney Hine was the only player on either team to score multiple hits in both games. Hine finished 2 for 3 and also drew a walk. She was joined by Bassett, who finished the day 3-4 with two triples. In all, the Red Storm collected four extra-base hits.

DSU improves to 49-7 and wins the West Region for the second time in a row. They are the sole returning team from last year’s nationals. With the victory, the Red Storm completed an undefeated season at home, going 25-0. They have a 43-game home win streak extending back to last season. As of now, DSU is the highest-ranked team to advance to Nationals.

“We are excited to get back to Nationals,” said Dixie’s Bailee Freeland. “Losing last year left a bitter taste in our mouths because we knew we could beat the teams that went to the championship.”

DSU plays the California University of Pennsylvania next Thursday at 6 p.m. (Central time) in the first round of the national tourney.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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