The No. 3 Dixie State softball team rallied to salvage a doubleheader split, 4-2 and 6-3, at Hawai’i Hilo on Saturday at the Vulcans Softball Field in Hilo.
The Trailblazers (22-2, 8-2 PacWest) were unable to dig themselves out of an early 3-0 hole in the first game, eventually falling 4-2. DSU trailed 3-1 late in the second game, but it rattled off five runs in the final two innings, behind a two-run double by Riley Tyteca and a three-run homer by Jessica Gonzalez, to secure a 6-3 win and the doubleheader split.
Hawai’i Hilo scored three runs on three hits in the top of the first inning, taking advantage of a DSU walk and hit-by-pitch, to take a 3-0 lead. The Vulcans added to the lead with an RBI groundout in the bottom of the second to push the lead to 4-0.
Dixie State began to chip away at the lead in the top of the third. Dani Bartholf opened the frame with a leadoff single to right field, then moved to second on a passed ball. Kaitlyn Delange doubled to right field in the ensuing at-bat, allowing Bartholf to score and cut the lead to 4-1. However, the Trailblazers stranded runners at second and third and could not cut further into the lead.
The Trailblazers again trimmed the lead in the fifth inning when Bailey Gaffin doubled to right field to score Janessa Bassett, who singled earlier in the frame, from second to cut the lead to 4-2. But two-consecutive pop-ups brought the promising rally to a screeching halt.
Dixie State saw a final opportunity to extend the game in the sixth inning, placing runners on first and second with two outs, but a strikeout on a called third strike ended the inning and extinguished the Trailblazers hopes of a comeback.
Delange and Brenna Hinck led the charge at the plate, and each finished with two hits. Cambrie Hazel (8-2) suffered her second-consecutive loss, allowing four hits with four strikeouts in 2.0 innings pitched. Alexandria Melendez tossed 4.0 solid innings in relief, allowing just two hits with three strikeouts.
Dixie State opened the scoring in game two, taking a 1-0 lead after an RBI single by Gaffin. Bassett, who drew a leadoff walk and stole second, scored from second on the play.
Unfazed, Hawai’i Hilo answered with two runs on two hits and one DSU error in the bottom of the first to take a 2-1 lead. The Vulcans extended the lead to 3-1 with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the third.
Trailing 3-1, and facing the possibility of being swept in a doubleheader for the first time since the 2016 season, Dixie State found the momentum it needed in the top of the sixth. Kenzie Sawyer and Gonzalez opened the frame with back-to-back singles, and Meagan Anders entered as a pinch-runner for Gonzalez. Kori Gahn then moved both runners up a base with a sacrifice bunt, setting the stage for game-tying pinch-hit double to center field by Tyteca to even the game at 3-3.
The DSU defense made sure the game remained tied in the bottom of the sixth, retiring the UHH side in order to set up some seventh-inning dramatics.
The Trailblazers seemed destined to play for extra innings after consecutive groundouts to open the frame. But Gaffin had other plans and drove a single to right field. Sawyer followed suit with a single to center field. Gonzalez provided the fireworks in the next at-bat with a three-run blast over the center field fence to push the score to the final tally of 6-3.
Gahn, Gaffin, Gonzalez and Sawyer each finished with two hits, while Gonzalez (three RBIs) and Tyteca (two RBIs) finished as the only Trailblazers with multiple RBIs. Alexis Barkwell (5-0) earned the complete-game victory in the pitcher’s circle.
Dixie State now has a 10-day break in its schedule, while other teams in the region compete at the Tournament of Champions in Turlock, California. The Trailblazers return to action with a four-game series vs. Azusa Pacific on March 28-29, at Karl Brooks Field.
Keric Seegmiller is Assistant Coordinator of Media Relations at Dixie State University and the Voice of Trailblazer Athletics. Contact him at [email protected].