Dixie State split its final two Pacific West Conference road games by matching 6-5 scores in a Saturday doubleheader at Concordia-Irvine played at Eagles Field. The Trailblazers wound up with a split of their four-game series with the Eagles, which moved DSU to 22-24 overall and 18-18 in PacWest play.
In the opener, the Trailblazers struck quickly for three first-inning runs and plated another in the second to bolt out to a 4-0 lead. All three DSU runs in the opening frame came after two outs as Gabe Taylor singled ahead of consecutive walks to Logan Porter and Jake Engel.
Then after a passed ball scored Taylor and a Bryce Feist walk, Kyle Hoffman rifled the first pitch he saw down the left field line for a ground-rule double to drive in Porter and Engel. Taylor extended the DSU cushion an inning later when he doubled home Brody Clifford, who also reached on a double with one out in the stanza.
The early run support bolstered a strong start by junior left-hander Aaron Pope (ND), who retired 12 of the first 13 Eagles he faced through four innings, including three on strikes. However, Concordia-Irvine (19-27, 16-20 PacWest) did touch DSU up for a pair of unearned runs in the fifth, which cut the Trailblazer lead in half at 4-2.
That fifth-inning breakthrough seemed to ignite the Eagles when, after DSU was retired in order in the top of the sixth, CUI led off the home half of the frame with three-straight singles to pull to within 4-3. The Eagles then tied the game on a Tony Garcia III single and plated the go-ahead run when Alex Dimascio scampered home from third with two outs before Garcia III was tagged out in a rundown between first and second base.
Still trailing 5-4 with two outs the ninth, Dixie State managed to tie the game on its final strike as Porter doubled in Clifford, who walked to lead off the frame and had advanced to third on a passed ball and fly out.
In the CUI ninth, Hunter Holland reached on a leadoff double, and then after an error and an intentional walk, Chris Martin laid down a squeeze bunt to bring home Holland with the game-ending run.
DSU lost despite out-hitting CUI, 9-8, including two hits apiece for Clifford, Taylor and Hoffman. Senior reliever Tanner Howell (L, 3-2), who came on in the sixth, was saddled with the loss after surrendering four runs and six hits in 3.1 innings of work with three strikeouts.
It was “deja vu all over again” in the nightcap as the Trailblazers again tallied three first-inning runs to jump out to an early lead. Clifford led off the game with a triple and later scored on a wild pitch. Then after a Taylor walk, Porter (five) belted a towering two-run home run to straight-away center field.
CUI countered with an unearned run in the home half of the first, but Dixie State played small-ball to score two more runs in the second to extend to a 5-1 advantage. Jagun Leavitt and Clifford both bunted in runs to cash in early inning base runners to extend to a four-run advantage.
Meanwhile, freshman right-hander Jimmy Borzone (W, 3-0) had it working in his second collegiate start as he struck out a career-high five and limited the Eagles to just the one unearned run and three hits in four solid innings.
Dixie State plated an insurance run in the fifth on a Taylor RBI single after Joe Raymond reached on a one-out double. That run proved to be the difference as Concordia-Irvine mounted a furious seventh-inning rally, scoring three runs on five-straight hits to lead off the frame to pull to within 6-4. CUI then loaded the bases after an error, but DSU managed to surrender only one more run in getting the final three outs to escape with a Saturday and series split.
Dixie State will enjoy a nine-day layoff before wrapping up the 2018 season with a mid-week four-game series against PacWest rival California Baptist on May 8-10. The series will serve as the final PacWest games for the Trailblazers and Lancers, who are both leaving the league on June 30.
Steve Johnson is the Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations and Collegiate Licensing at Dixie State University. For more DSU Athletics news, please visit www.dixiestateathletics.com and follow Dixie State on Twitter at @DixieAthletics.