SALEM, Va. — Josey Hartman gave it a ride. Oh, did she give it a ride.
The Dixie State freshman came up in the seventh inning of a 2-1 game with the bases loaded and ripped a 3-1 pitch to deep left field. Deep, but not deep enough.
The long fly ball ended up being a fly out to center field and was the last out of a phenomenal season for the Red Storm. With the out, West Texas A&M punched its ticket into the NCAA Division II Softball World Series championship game Monday at noon against Valdosta State (Ga.). For Dixie State, it is a disappointing end to a remarkable season.
“Fifty-one wins, conference champs, Region champs, Super Regional champs, a couple of wins in the World Series — I’d say it was an amazing year,” DSU coach Randy Simkins said. “This team had great chemistry and an incredible amount of talent. I would never say we over-achieved because we had a lot of talent. And we have a lot of it coming back next year.”
At 51-10, DSU won the most games in the school’s NCAA Division II history and was victorious (twice) in the D-II World Series for the first time. All this from a team that lost four all-region players and one All-American from last season’s squad.
“A lot of people would probably have predicted that this team would struggle to measure up to last year,” Simkins said. “But there’s a lot of talent on this team. Obviously having (pitcher) Aryn Feickert transfer in helped a lot. But the freshmen that came in contributed right away and really gave us a boost. It’s going to be hard to replace the leadership and chemistry that (seniors) Brooke Budge and Marla Reiter have provided, but we’re also very excited about the recruiting class we have coming in for next year.”
As for Sunday’s elimination game, Dixie State had its chances against a very impressive pitcher by the name of Rita Hokianga. She held the Storm to one hit, no walks and one unearned run through six innings. And then came the seventh.
With one out, Autumn Woodfall, representing the tying run in the 2-1 game, singled to left field. Mattie Snow followed with her third hit of the game, a single to left. After a pop out for the second out, Reiter gutted out a five-pitch walk to load the bases and bring Hartman to the plate. The Dixie State shortstop had played a phenomenal tournament on defense, but struggled at the plate. She worked the count to 3-1.
“At 3-1, she got a ball right down the middle and hit it hard to left-center,” Simkins said. “She just didn’t quite get all of it, but she gave it a ride.”
The flyout sparked a celebration for the Lady Buffs, but left Hartman and the Red Storm players thinking about what might have been.
“We certainly wanted to play two games today,” Simkins said. “We played very well today and had a chance. Feickert pitched an incredible game. She allowed just a couple of hits. One probably should have been counted as an error and the other one was just a blooper, barely out of reach.”
The DSU pitcher did allow five walks in the game and hit a batter. Two of the walks and the hit-batsman came in the fifth inning. The Red Storm had just taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth on a WT error that brought Kristie Johnson home.
A lead-off walk in the bottom of the fifth by Lacey Taylor was followed by a fly out and then back to back singles to load the bases. Reneee Irwin then leaned into a Feickert pitch and was hit, forcing home the tying run. The next batter, Kaisha Decosin, fell behind 1-2, then drew three straight balls to force home another run, making it 2-1 for the Buffs. Feickert struck out the next two batters to end the rally, but the damage was done.
Both teams went down in order in the sixth, setting up the thrilling seventh inning.
West Texas A&M improved to 58-7 with the victory and will face Valdosta State, 47-14, for the D-II title.
Stats: WT 2, DSU 1
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