SALEM, Va. — Faced with a win-or-go-home prospect Saturday, Dixie State jumped out to a big lead against West Chester (Pa.), then held on for dear life for a 4-3 victory at the NCAA Division II softball College World Series at the Moyer Sports Complex.
The Red Storm, 51-9, scored two runs in the first inning and built the lead to 4-0 by the fourth inning. But the Golden Rams’ Laura Altenburger hit a 3-run home run in the sixth and West Chester also got the tying run to third base in the inning after the homer. Relief pitcher Michelle Duncan induced a pop-out, a ground-out and a fly out to end the inning.
“Aryn Feickert pitched a gem of a game,” DSU coach Randy Simkins said. “She just made one mistake and gave up that home run that just barely cleared the fence. But Michelle came in and got some ground balls and finished it up. They contrast each other well. Feickert is a rise-ball pitcher and she gets a lot of strikeouts with it. Duncan is a ground-ball pitcher and was huge for us as well.”
Altenburger’s homer came two pitches after DSU had dropped an easy fly ball that gave the Rams two on and no one out. She took an 0-1 pitch to left field that changed the tenor of the game, making it 4-3 after DSU had led big most of the game.
“We came out and scored two runs in the first inning and that was huge after yesterday (an 8-0 loss to Valdosta State),” Simkins said. “As is usually the case, we go as our lead-off hitter goes and Chavey (Nicole Chavez) was great. She started the game off with a hit and stole second base and she also had a home run.”
After Chavez’s opening hit and steal, Courtney Sherwin had a one-out double that brought Chavez home. Autumn Woodfall, who got the start as designated player and had three hits in the game, made it 2-0 with an RBI single that scored Sherwin.
A solo dinger to left by Chavez made it 3-0 in the second inning. Feickert, who allowed just five hits in the game, kept the West Chester bats quiet as Dixie State then built the lead to 4-0 in the fourth on an RBI double by Courtney Hine that scored Brooke Budge.
After the sixth-inning rally was stopped by Duncan, the Rams had one last chance in the seventh. Kelly Anderson singled and West Chester’s Jessica Schuck tried to bunt her over into scoring position. But Schuck popped the ball into the air and DSU catcher Marla Reiter made a leaping grab, then fired to first base to double off the base runner. Duncan then forced a harmless ground out to end the game.
“We played excellent defense today,” Simkins said. “That play by Marla was the play of the game. Josey (Hartman) also had an incredible play in the fourth inning. She caught a line drive that was a sure double. She kind of leaped, dived and lunged for it and made an amazing catch.”
Dixie State had nine hits in the game and committed just one error while allowing just three walks. In Friday’s loss, DSU had just one hit while committing three errors and walking seven.
The Red Storm play in the bracket finals Sunday at noon (EST) against West Texas A&M with DSU needing to beat the Buffaloes twice Sunday to advance to Sunday’s noon championship game. The “if necessary” game would be at 5 p.m. (EST) if Dixie can capture Monday’s early game.
“They’re very good, but certainly beatable,” Simkins said of the Buffaloes. “If we play like we know we can, I stack my team against anybody in the country.”
Valdosta State and Southeast Oklahoma State are the other two teams remaining in the CWS, with VSU holding the upper hand with no losses.
Stats: DSU 4, WCU 3
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