Dixie State baseball lets lead slip away late in Division I debut

Dixie State baseball's Jimmy Borzone pitches in the Trailblazers' Division I debut at Bruce Hurst Field, St. George, Utah, Feb. 25, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Dixie State Trailblazers baseball team became the latest squad to break into Division I play, but they dropped the inaugural game 6-3 against Washington State.

Washington State baseball at Dixie State, Bruce Hurst Field, St. George, Utah, Feb. 25, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

Dixie held an early lead, but late bullpen struggles let the Cougars pull away with the win.

“The biggest takeaway, like we told our guys right when it was over, is, ‘You should feel like you belong here,'” Dixie State head coach Chris Pfatenhauer said. “We just went toe-to-toe with a PAC-12 school opening night and really we had them beat and gave it away.”

A slow start on a cold night defined the game. Dixie’s first base runner of the new era, freshman catcher Kaden Hollow, was picked off after walking. Neither team recorded a hit until Tanner Harper recorded the first on an infield single in the third. The first run came in the next at-bat as Hollow rolled a ball up the middle, getting the RBI fielder’s choice.

Washington State Ethan Ross starter had already issued six walks to that point and was relieved from the game after 2.1 innings, leaving with two runners on. Though he didn’t allow a hit, half of his 12 batters faced reached base. Remarkably, Dixie State failed to capitalize until Ross had exited the game.

Conversely, Dixie’s Jimmy Borzone cruised through the early going. He issued a walk to the second batter of the game on a full count but otherwise allowed no base runners through the first three frames. Only one ball left the infield, a lineout to right by Jake Meyer. In the first inning, Borzone induced a worm-burner that he picked up and sent to first, got a foul out behind the plate to catcher and a strikeout. No ball even reached the infield dirt.

Borzone exited the game after 5.2 innings, allowing just three hits and no runs. He struck out five and walked just one. At the time of his departure, Dixie held a 3-0 lead.

Washington State baseball at Dixie State, Bruce Hurst Field, St. George, Utah, Feb. 25, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

The Trailblazers rallied for two in the fifth with a pair of outs. Tanner Hollow shot a double down the right field line and came around to score on a Tanner Harper single. Hollow drew a throw to the plate, allowing Harper to advance to second. Kaden Hollow then hit a hotshot between the legs of Cougars first baseman Kyle Manzardo, bringing Harper down.

Issues started for Dixie in the seventh. The Cougars recorded three hits in the first four at-bats of the frame, including a triple off the bat of Brady Hill, who scored on a sac-fly one hitter later to knot the game.

Control problems for Dixie reliever Zack Thomas gave Washington a three-run lead in the eighth. Entering with a runner on, Thomas hit back-to-back hitters leading to a run scoring on a groundout. Thomas then got a strikeout before throwing a wild pitch that allowed another to cross the plate. A single would cap the scoring.

Dixie State went quietly in the bottom half of the eighth but threatened in the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate. With runners on first and second and two out, Harper hit a slow chopper toward short. Washington third baseman Jack Smith made a nice play cutting in front of the shortstop and throwing across his body to end the contest.

Harper accounted for two of Dixie’s three hits. The team stranded 10 on base, drawing nine walks but striking out 13 times. The ‘Blazers went 2-for-13 with runners on base.

Dixie plays game two of its four-game set with Washington State on Friday. First pitch is at 3:05 p.m.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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