ST. GEORGE – Sophomore lefthander Aaron Pope fired 7.1 innings of two-hit baseball, while juniors Drew McLaughlin and Jerome Hill II each belted home runs, as Dixie State blanked Northwest Nazarene, 5-0, Saturday afternoon at Bruce Hurst Field.
Pope improved to 2-0 and had a no-hitter into the seventh inning, having faced just one batter over the minimum through his first six innings of work. DSU (7-0) broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning when McLaughlin connected on his second home run in as many days, a solo shot to left field, to give the Storm a 1-0 lead.
Hill II followed an inning later with a towering two-run blast to left field off of Crusader starter Jaramy Jacobs (L, 0-2) to extend the advantage to 3-0.
Meanwhile, Pope was dominant as he needed only 64 pitches to navigate through the first six innings of his start. His no-hit bid ended in the top of the seventh as Crusader infielder Tyler Davis grounded a ball through the hole in the left side of the infield for a clean single. Pope induced a groundout from the next batter he faced to escape the frame with the shutout intact.
NNU (2-3) mounted a threat in the eighth as outfielder Ryan Johnson blooped a one-out double to right field off of Pope. DSU made a call to the bullpen and senior reliever Spencer Greer retired both batters he faced in order to get the Storm out of further trouble.
Dixie State would tack on a pair of insurance runs in the home half of the frame thanks to an RBI-infield single from McLaughlin and timely base-running by junior Trey Kamachi, who stole home on the back end of a bluffed steal attempt by McLaughlin. Greer then worked around a one-out hit in the ninth to clinch DSU’s seventh-straight victory to open the season.
“We love what Aaron [Pope] did today, he threw a ton of strikes and pitch-count wise he could’ve gone for a complete game, but it’s still early and we’re really being protective with our starters,” DSU coach Chris Pfatenhauer said. “[Pope] was good with all three of his pitches, which was really impressive, and he was hitting both sides of the plate. We played good defense behind him. It was probably our cleanest game defensively, so I’m excited about that.”
DSU outhit Northwest Nazarene 6-3, with McLaughlin leading the way with his two safeties. Pope finished with five strikeouts in picking up his second win of the season.
“We got a couple big hits with Jerome [Hill II] and D-Mac [McLaughlin], it’s not really our [game] with the home run, but in a game like that you’re going to need a couple of big swings and we got them,” Pfatenhauer said. “I’m excited about the energy we’re playing with and we’ll try to keep it going.”
Dixie State closes its four-game weekend Sunday afternoon with a match-up vs. Montana State Billings at 2:30 p.m., at Bruce Hurst Field.
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