Even two rain delays and the 27-win Azusa Pacific University Cougars were not enough to slow the surging Storm down.
DSU came into the four-game series with APU ranked No. 4 in the nation and carrying a 39-7 overall record.
Game one would be a hard-fought battle as Dixie State had to fight back from a 4-1 deficit in the bottom of the fourth. Senior catcher Marla Reiter fueled the comeback by driving in four RBIs on 2-3 from the plate. After a single that scored two runs, Reiter came up with the biggest play of the game with the game tied in the sixth.
With two runners on, Reiter blasted one over the left field wall to give DSU the 7-4 win. With the win, DSU clinched its third consecutive Pacific West Conference championship.
The second game started similarly to the first when APU jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. That lead too would not last. The Storm exploded in the second inning thanks in part to a flurry of runs. An Autumn Woodfall double scored two runners to stretch the DSU lead to 9-3 before another kind of storm unwound in the northern sky. As the sky opened up with rain, lightning struck too close to the field and resulted in a game delay that would last until Saturday morning.
When play resumed, DSU immediately extended its lead to put the game out of reach, beating the Cougars 13-4.
The originally scheduled double-header ensued. The second half of the series would not be reminiscent as the first, as Dixie State controlled from start to finish. Another lightning delay paused game three with a 2-0 Storm lead. Senior Michelle Duncan continued to dominate from the circle when they returned. Duncan allowed just two hits on the day and picked up her 23rd win of the year.
“We are taking it one game at a time,” Duncan said. “We can’t look at our record or look ahead. We have to stay focused on where we are now.”
As a senior and one of the teams vocal leaders, Duncan knows just what it takes to get back to where the team was last year.
“We have to push each other at practice and remind the team that it takes everyone to get where we were last season,” she said.
Assistant coach Doug Rogers backed up her sentiments.
“The girls have been there before and know what it takes,” Rogers said. “Michelle is a great leader, and the younger girls follow her in staying focused.”
DSU came out swinging again in the final game of the series, as Reiter once again propelled the Storm. She went 3-4, while senior infielder Nicole Chavez and junior outfielder Kristie Johnson followed suit by both going 2-3. Aryn Feickert picked up the win as the Storm completed the series sweep of APU, improving to 42-7 (29-1 in PacWest).
DSU will finish off the regular season at home with a two-game series against Holy Names University at noon Saturday. After the series with the Hawks, the Storm will await their seeding for the NCAA tournament, which begins the following weekend.