With the regular season winding down, the Dixie State University softball team earned an important split over a four-game series with Concordia Irvine University.
“We wanted to win all four games, but [CUI] is a good team, and we did not hit it well enough to sweep the series,” head coach Randy Simkins said. “We had a few players hit it well over the weekend, but for the most part, we needed to swing the bats better and string together some more runs.”
The Trailblazers traveled to Irvine, California, to take on the Eagles for a Friday and Saturday series — a battle of two of the top three teams in the Pacific West Conference.
On both days, the Trailblazers dropped the first game, but then rallied to win the second. DSU won the final game of the series for its first win in extra innings all season.
In the first game of the series, DSU struggled to find any offense. The exception to this issue came thanks to junior outfielder Kenzie Sawyer. Sawyer broke the scoreless tie in the top of the second inning after a two-out single. Sawyer then stole second and was driven home by a hit to the right center wall by senior outfielder Shelby Yung.
The Eagles responded with a run in both the second and third inning to take a 2-1 lead. By the end of the game CUI pushed its lead to a final score of 5-1.
The Trailblazers responded early in the second game to retake momentum. With two outs in the top of the second, Sawyer drew a walk and senior first baseman Mallory Paulson hit a two-out single. With two runners on and two outs, freshman outfielder Brenna Hinck crushed a three-run home run over the right field wall.
‘There were two balls in the count and coach just told me to see my pitch and hit it a mile so tried to do what he said,” said Hinck, a biology major from Tremonton. “My teammates were there to back me up and give me confidence to see the ball and put it in play.”
The Eagles rallied to tie the game 4-4 in the fourth inning. The score remained tied until the top of the seventh when DSU delivered the knockout blow.
Senior shortstop Josey Hartman hit a lead-off single which was followed by a walk by junior outfielder Janessa Bassett. An RBI-single by Yung gave the Trailblazers the lead for good. A sacrifice-fly by sophomore catcher Jessica Gonzalez gave the Trailblazers more insurance and DSU held on for a 7-4 victory.
DSU dropped the first game on Saturday 6-3. The Trailblazers got down 4-0 through the first two innings and could never recover. A two-RBI single from Hinck cut the deficit to 4-3 in the third inning, but the Trailblazers failed to score over the final four innings.
The final game was almost imperative for DSU in its quest to keep pace with California Baptist University for the top spot in the PacWest.
The Eagles struck first in the final game, leading 1-0 after the first inning.
DSU responded in the third after Gonzalez hit a leadoff double. Gonzalez was driven in by sophomore second baseman Dani Bartholf to tie the game, 1-1.
Neither team scored again through seven innings, so the game went to extras. With one out in the eighth inning and Bartholf on first, Hinck doubled to right and suddenly two Trailblazers were in scoring position. The next pitch was driven deep into the left centerfield gap by Sawyer for a two-RBI double and a decisive 3-1 lead.
“I had seen change-ups all day, so I knew I was going to swing at the first strike I saw,” said Sawyer, a biology major from Cedar City. “I hit it as hard as I could, and I’m glad it helped the team.”
CUI could not answer back and the series ended in a 2-2 split.
At 34-11 overall, and 19-7 in PacWest play, the Trailblazers travel to Riverside, California, to take on No. 17 CBU.