Stifling pitching and defense helped the Dixie State University softball team nearly sweep the Pacific West Conference leading California Baptist University.
The Trailblazers won the first three games against the Lancers, and in those three wins the Trailblazers only gave up one total run.
“This was the best I have ever seen us play,” said senior pitcher Brooklyn Beardshear, an exercise science major from Tucson, Arizona. “Our dugout was huge for us and we really wanted to win the series.”
DSU went into the series second in the PacWest, three games behind CBU. A sweep of the Lancers would have given DSU sole possession of first place.
“Everyone knew what the stakes were [for this series],” said sophomore second baseman Bailey Gaffin, a general studies major from Glendale, Arizona. “We all wanted it so bad. We wanted to win the [PacWest].”
Beardshear continued her dominant season in the first game of the series Friday. Beardshear struck out nine and only allowed five hit, none of which translated into runs.
Up until the seventh inning, the Trailblazer offense could not get on the board. Then Gaffin stepped up to the plate to lead off the final inning. With the count 1-2, Gaffin launched the next pitch over the center field wall for the 1-0 lead. Neither team would score again and DSU held on to win 1-0.
The second game was much like the first, but instead of Beardshear, it was sophomore pitcher Alexis Barkwell on the mound who pitched a complete game shutout.
DSU tallied its only run of the game in the first inning when senior first baseman Mallory Paulson hit an RBI-single through the right side to score sophomore third baseman Dani Bartholf. DSU defense held string again, and DSU won 1-0 for the second consecutive game.
The first of the final two games on Saturday nearly followed suit of the first two games. Beardshear retired 12 of the first 15 batters and her offense gave her a 3-0 cushion in the first inning.
The scoring started off when senior outfielder Shelby Yung hit a sacrifice fly to send junior outfielder Janessa Bassett home. Two more Trailblazers got on base and sophomore catcher Jessica Gonzalez sent them home with a two-RBI single.
The Lancers never threatened to score until the bottom of the seventh. With one run already on the board, and the bases loaded, DSU ended the game with a force out at home and a groundout to short for a 3-1 victory.
“We were getting really timely hitting which was a boost for our pitchers,” said head coach Randy Simkins. “[Beardshear] and [Barkwell] were amazing for us.”
With DSU now one game away from being tied in PacWest standings with CBU and owning the critical tie-breaker, there was a lot on the line for the final game of the series.
Paulson blasted a first inning home run to take another early lead. The 1-0 held up until the fourth inning when three consecutive walks loaded the bases for a Lancer grand-slam. CBU tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning for 7-1 advantage.
The Trailblazers used four hits to score four runs in the top of the seventh, but with bases loaded and two outs, the rally fell just short and the Lancers secured the PacWest title.
“We just could not get the outs we needed in that final game,” Simkins said. “[CBU] is a great team though. Now we just want to focus on getting better this week and finishing the season strong.”
Next up for DSU is a two-game series with the Academy of Art University Saturday starting at 12 p.m. at Karl Brooks Field. It will be senior day for the 37-12 Trailblazers.
Additional reporting by Kylea Custer.