ST. GEORGE – The Dixie State softball team opened the 2017 season with a doubleheader sweep of Northwest Nazarene on Thursday, defeating the Crusaders 11-1 in five innings in game one, and 8-2 in game two.
The Trailblazers pounded out 11 hits in game one, including a grand slam by Dani Bartholf in the fourth inning, while Josey Hartman and Jessica Gonzalez each hit a two-run homer in game two to help seal the doubleheader sweep.
“It was a good opening series for us,” said Dixie State head coach Randy Simkins. “Except for some pitching staff, all of our players got to play. It is nice to get the wins to start the season.”
Dixie State retired three of the first four NNU batters of the game, then set the tone offensively with six runs in the bottom of the first.
Janessa Bassett drew a walk, then stole second and later scored on a Hartman single down the left field line. Hartman scored two batters later when Mallory Paulson singled up the middle, sending Bailey Gaffin to third. Paulson rounded first on the play and was caught in a rundown between the bases, allowing Gaffin to make a break for home. Paulson then advanced to third and Gaffin scored as the throw to the plate skidded past the catcher. Paulson scored on the next DSU at-bat, as Arista Honey drove a sacrifice fly to left field. Gonzalez then doubled to center field, and scored on a Shelby Yung single up the middle. Yung later scored on a Bassett sacrifice fly to center field, and DSU led 6-0 after one inning.
Northwest Nazarene scored in the top of the third on a home run to right center field to cut the DSU lead to 6-1, but after a scoreless fourth inning, the Trailblazers added another five runs in the bottom of the fourth to seal the victory.
Paulson started the rally, drawing a walk to lead off the inning and later advanced to second on a wild pitch. Gonzalez and Yung both walked later in the inning to load the bases. Two pitches later, Bartholf cleared the bases with a blast down the left field line for a grand slam and her first home run of the year. Gaffin later singled to score Brenna Hinck to bring the final tally to 11-1.
Bartholf and Hartman each finished at 2 for 3 on the game to lead the DSU attack. Bartholf finished with 4 RBI, while Hartman added another two. Brooklyn Beardshear picked up the win in the pitcher’s circle, giving up one run on five hits with four strikeouts in four innings of work.
The Crusaders opened a 1-0 lead in game two with an RBI single in the top of the first, but Dixie State picked up where it left off offensively and answered with four runs in the bottom of the first.
Bassett singled up the middle to start things off, then stole second. Four pitches later, Hartman sent the 2-1 pitch over the wall in right center for a two-run home run. Paulson later drew a walk and scored two batters later when Gonzalez crushed the first pitch she saw for a two-run home run to left field to give the Trailblazers a 4-1 lead.
Dixie State added another four runs in the bottom of the fourth, taking advantage of three NNU errors in the inning for three runs, while Paulson drove a sacrifice fly to center field for the fourth run of the frame.
NNU added another run in the top of the seventh on a home run to center field, but DSU tightened on defense, and Alexis Barkwell caught the final Crusader batter looking to clinch the 8-2 victory and doubleheader sweep.
“We had some hiccups in the second game,” said Simkins. “When you have runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs you have to figure out how to get them across. We also had an inning with runners at 2nd and 3rd with one out. We need to get those runs scored.”
Gonzalez led the way in game two, going 2 for 3 with 2 RBI, while Bassett finished the game with three hits in four trips to the plate. Alexandria Melendez earned the victory in the pitcher’s, allowing one run on three hits with three strikeouts. Barkwell threw the final three innings of the game and earned the save.
For the opening series the Blazers hit .351 and displayed power (2 HRs by Gonzalez and Bartholf) and speed (6 SBs by Bassett (3), Gaffin (2) and Tyteca).
“I thought our freshmen played well today,” said Simkins. “Brenna Hinck was a last minute replacement to start right field when Taylor Godfrey injured her ankle. Hinck played well. Another freshman Riley Tyteca showed her speed on the basepath.”
The Trailblazers return to action on Monday, hosting Montana State-Billings in a 3 p.m. doubleheader at Karl Brooks Field.
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