ST. GEORGE – The Dixie State softball team swept visiting Azusa Pacific in two very different ball games Saturday at Karl Brooks Field. In game one, the Trailblazers scored nine runs in the first inning en route to a mercy-rule finish, 11-2. In game two, Bailey Gaffin hit a walk-off double to score the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning, 4-3.
DSU 11, APU 2
“In the first game APU’s coach was trying to get one of their lesser-experienced pitchers some innings,” said Dixie State head coach Randy Simkins.
The Trailblazers were nearly through their lineup before the pitcher was replaced in the first inning. But even with the pitching change, the momentum continued as DSU got four more hits and a walk to get to nine runs. In all, the Blazers had seven players hit safely and three more batters walk. Another base runner reached on a throwing error.
“You could sense that our scoring in the first inning seemed to deflate them,” said starting pitcher Alexis Barkwell. “It certainly took the pressure off me to get that kind of run support.”
The Blazers put up two more in the second inning. That proved to be sufficient enough to end the game in the fifth as the Cougars could only plate two runs the rest of the game.
Gaffin led the team with two hits. Arista Honey led the team with three RBIs. Dani Bartholf and Jessica Gonzalez had two RBIs apiece. Barkwell pitched the complete game (5 innings), allowing two runs on five hits.
DSU 4, APU 3
The second game was more difficult for DSU to find hits. Through the first three innings, the Trailblazers only got one hit.
“We still had scoring opportunities,” said Simkins. “We stranded a small village of runners (eight). In the third, we had bases loaded.”
Down 1-0, the Trailblazers finally broke through in the fourth. Brenna Hinck started the inning with a double to left center. Josey Hartman then sacrifice-bunted her to third. Janessa Bassett then drew a walk. Bartholf then hit a double to score both runners. Bartholf then advanced to third and then home on two separate wild pitches. Dixie State led 3-1.
The Cougars responded by scoring a run in the fifth and the tying run in the top of the seventh. Barkwell was called on to relieve Brooklyn Beardshear in the top of the seventh. She entered the game with no outs and runners on the corners.
“I felt a little more pressure in the second game,” said Barkwell. “But I knew I had good players behind me. Even when they got the tying run, I was confident that my teammates would pick me up in the next at-bat.”
In the seventh, it looked as though the game would go extra innings as the first two batters were retired in order. Kenzie Sawyer broke that trend with a walk. Simkins called on Taylor Godfrey to pinch run.
“Taylor is a very fast runner,” said Simkins. “And if we were back in the field, she is also very good defensively and has the best arm on the team.”
Godfrey stole second easily. “I am not sure why the catcher threw to second so late,” said Simkins. “She may have been trying to frame the pitch for the umpire. It seemed everyone in the ballpark knew Taylor was going.”
The steal proved big as two pitches later Gaffin hit a 1-2 pitch to left center field. It was a stand up double for Gaffin, but more importantly, scored the winning run.
“I was frustrated with my play yesterday,” said Gaffin. “I put it behind me, though, and played much better today. They had been throwing the outside fastball and the changeup to me all day. I was expecting the changeup on the pitch I hit but the threw the outside fastball. I was able to hit it solidly.”
Gaffin was again the only multi-hit player, going 4 for 6 on the day. Bartholf led the team with two RBIs. Barkwell got her second win of the day from the circle and stands now at 7-1.
The sweep moves Dixie State to 30-8 overall and 15-5 in the PacWest. APU falls to 12-6 in conference play and 20-11 overall. The Trailblazers will now play Division I UNLV in a non-conference matchup on Wednesday night in Las Vegas. They will resume conference play at home with a doubleheader against Notre Dame de Namur on Apr. 8.
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