ST. GEORGE – The No. 15-nationally-ranked Dixie State baseball team split two games with visiting Point Loma Nazarene Saturday afternoon, leaving their chances at getting into the NCAA Tournament up in the air.
The Red Storm took the opener with a late rally in the eighth inning, 5-2, but dropped the final game of the season to some standout pitching from the Sea Lions 8-1. The split mirrored the first two games of the series in Friday’s doubleheader and knotted the series 2-2. It was also the final home games for nine graduating seniors.
In game one, the Red Storm broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth. Zach Watts began the inning with a single to center. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tanner Morache. Drew McLaughlin singled in Watts with a hit through the right side. After Donald Glover lined out to left field, Kevin Kline hit a two run shot over the left-center fence.
Dixie struck first earlier in the game, putting the first two runs up in the fourth inning. McLaughlin started the inning with a single to second base. Glover doubled him in with a shot to left center. Kline advanced Glover with a grounder to third. Sam Hall walked to put runners at first and third. Dixie attempted a squeeze play with a bunt from Trey Kamachi, but Glover was tagged out at home. Yuto Kata singled in Hall with a shot to center field.
The Sea Lions knotted the score with a run in both the fifth and sixth innings, the latter a solo shot from starting pitcher Kellen Sheppard.
Dixie’s Kolton Brost earned the win in a relief role, improving to 3-0. PLNU’s Sheppard fell to 4-2 with the loss. Dixie reliever Evan Parker got his 12th save of the year.
In the second game, PLNU freshman pitcher Trevor Abshire scattered four hits over five and a third innings to shutdown the Dixie State bats. The Red Storm could only manage one run in the first inning. Kline singled in Glover, who had doubled earlier in the inning.
The Sea Lions put their eight runs up in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. The last four came on a grand slam by pinch hitter Alex Campos.
Abshire got the win, improving to 7-2. Dixie reliever Julian Borrola suffered his first loss of the year.
“We have really struggled the past two weeks,” said Dixie State head coach Chris Pfatenhauer. “Our two best returning pitchers have gone down this season with injury and that has overtaxed the bullpen, especially towards the end of the year.”
Senior pitchers Chance Abrath and John Conquy went down earlier this year. “Abrath was able to take a medical redshirt,” said Pfatenhauer. “Conquy had an MRI this week and we will be able to see if he can pitch in the postseason.”
There is still an outside chance that Dixie State could win the PacWest and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in the unlikely scenario that Cal Baptist loses twice to Holy Names in their remaining series this Monday. Barring that, Dixie will finish second in the PacWest to the Lancers. The Red Storm came into the weekend as the fifth-ranked team in the West with PLNU just behind in sixth. Their postseason is still up in the air, depending on the outcome of the conference tournaments of the other conferences in their region.
“My guess is that we will switch spots with PLNU, since they split with us on our home field,” said Pfatenhauer. “If there is an upset in the other conference tournaments, we may be left out of postseason play.”
Dixie finishes the season with an overall record of 31-17 and a conference record of 24-8. Point Loma finishes 33-16 overall, and tied for third in conference play at 19-13.
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