Dixie State softball advances at NCAAs with another Duncan masterpiece

Michelle Duncan delivers a pitch on the live feed on NCAA.com during the NCAA Division II Tournament in Oklahoma, City, Ok., May 22, 2015 | Photo courtesy NCAA.com

OKLAHOMA CITY – Michelle Duncan is on fire and she is carrying the Dixie State softball team to new heights.

21_Duncan
Michelle Duncan

The senior from Gilbert, Ariz., continued to pitch shutout softball at the NCAA Division II National Tournament. Duncan shut down the Adelphi Panthers offense en route to a 2-0 victory Friday evening. The right-handed pitcher, now 31-0, scattered five hits, struck out three and lowered her ERA to 1.16.

Michelle Duncan delivers a pitch on the live feed on NCAA.com during the NCAA Division II Tournament in Oklahoma, City, Ok.,  May 22, 2015 | Photo courtesy NCAA.com
Michelle Duncan delivers a pitch on the live feed on NCAA.com during the NCAA Division II Tournament in Oklahoma, City, Ok., May 22, 2015 | Photo courtesy NCAA.com

“Duncan is not going to get the glamour with a lot of strikeouts,” said DSU head coach Randy Simkins. “But she did not walk anybody tonight. She did not have any balls hit hard that stayed fair. She just gets batters out. Batters are going to hit her screwball hard — in foul territory. All that means is strike one or strike two.”

Duncan is NCAA Division II’s only undefeated pitcher.

For the second game in a row, the offense from the Red Storm was sparse. The top regular-season offensive team at the tournament only managed to plate two runs despite coming into the tourney averaging 7.5 runs per game. The field conditions altered play for both teams as the outfield was slick and the infield slowed ground balls considerably.

“The field was all torn up,” said Dixie State shortstop Josey Hartman. “I was focused on the grounders and anticipating bad hops.”

Storm second baseman Nicole Chavez said her team was unfazed.

“We have played in these conditions before,” she said. “We adjusted and played well .” Chavez did not have the bat going, but made several great fielding plays to provide the stellar defense behind Duncan.

“Nikki (Chavez) and Josey (Hartman) had some balls hit sharply at them,” said Simkins. “Coach (Dean) Winningham has been working with the infield on sharp hits, especially when we were preparing for Sonoma’s slap hitters last week. I think that preparation benefited our infield tonight.”

Courtney Hine readies to run off of first base  on the live feed on NCAA.com during the NCAA Division II Tournament in Oklahoma, City, Ok.,  May 22, 2015 | Photo courtesy NCAA.com
Courtney Hine readies to run off of first base on the live feed on NCAA.com during the NCAA Division II Tournament in Oklahoma, City, Ok., May 22, 2015 | Photo courtesy NCAA.com

Unlike yesterday’s game, though, the Red Storm put up the first run early. Lead-off hitter Janessa Bassett drew a walk, then stole second. Courtney Hine followed with a walk of her own. Marla Reiter then singled to the shortstop, beating out the throw. Brooklyn Beardshear, who got the start at third base, then got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score Bassett.

That run would prove to be the only necessary one, but DSU added an insurance run in the top of the fourth. Mallory Paulson started the hitting with a single to right field. Josey Hartman then took a 2-2 pitch all the way to the fence. The slippery conditions did not allow the fielder to crisply snag the ball and make a good throw, allowing Paulson to score and Hartman to get to third for a triple.

“Our six through nine batters produced tonight,” said Simkins. “Josey has had a good two days and is hitting the ball hard.”

The Panthers did threaten in the bottom of the fifth. Mary O’Reilly singled up the middle, putting the lead-off batter on. Melaney Reichelt pinch ran for O’Reilly. With one out, Krista King singled to third base advancing Reichelt to second. Jordan Catalano then grounded sharply to Beardshear, who stepped on third, then threw the ball to first for the double play to end the inning.

There were some tense moments in the bottom of the seventh for the Red Storm. Megan Lewis singled to get the lead-off batter on. Nicole Camera flew out to Duncan for the first out. Duncan then struck out O’Reilly looking. Then Palmenteri popped up for what should have been the third out. However, miscommunication on the play led Duncan and Paulson to collide and the ball fell to the ground. The fielding error put base runners on first and second and the winning run at the plate. Duncan got Krista King to hit a blooper to Hartman for the last out of the game.

Lindsey Mapes took the loss for the Panthers, falling to 19-10 on the year.

Coach Randy Simkins  speaks to his team just after Friday's victory on the live feed on NCAA.com during the NCAA Division II Tournament in Oklahoma, City, Ok.,  May 22, 2015 | Photo courtesy NCAA.com
Coach Randy Simkins speaks to his team just after Friday’s victory on the live feed on NCAA.com during the NCAA Division II Tournament in Oklahoma, City, Ok., May 22, 2015 | Photo courtesy NCAA.com

The Red Storm have now won 16 in a row and improve to 51-7. Adelphi falls to 31-21. Dixie State stayed in the winner’s side of the bracket. The Storm will have Saturday off as all the teams with one loss will play on Saturday. Shorter University upset Indianapolis University in the upper bracket to join the Red Storm as the only teams without a loss.

The Red Storm has defied the trend at the nationals as the only higher-ranked team to win a game. In each of the other contests, the lower-ranked team has advanced.

Dixie State will not play again until Sunday. The Red Storm will have to see who emerges from the one-loss side of the bracket. That team will then have to beat Dixie twice to remain alive. The team that emerges from those games will then face the winner from the upper bracket for a winner-take-all game on Monday.

Game time Sunday is tentatively scheduled for 2:30 p.m. (Central time). Start time is subject to change depending on weather and field conditions.

Stats: Dixie State 2, Adelphi 0

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

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