SALEM, Va. -- In a must-win situation at the DII Softball Championship, Dixie State turned to its veteran leadership to guide it to a gutty 4-3 victory against West Chester at the Moyer Sports Complex on Saturday.
The Red Storm (51-9) turned to their juniors Nicole Chavez, Courtney Hine, Courtney Sherwin and sophomore Autumn Woodfall to supply the much-needed shot in the arm to the offense.
Head coach Randy Simkins also opted to make a change to the batting lineup and throw a wrinkle in defensively. He turned to Woodfall as the designated player, Kristie Johnson to play left field and Aryn Feickert to start in the circle. Two of the three changes really paid off in favor of Dixie State.
Chavez did just that as she started the game with a solid single up the middle and followed by stealing second base. Sherwin followed with a line-drive double into right-center and traded places with Chavez to give DSU a 1-0 lead. After a Sheila Gelter walk, Woodfall deposited a ball just over the head of the shortstop for an RBI single to give the Storm a 2-0 lead.
In the second frame Chavez hit a two-out home run to left field, her 11th of the season that pushed the DSU lead to 3-0.
Feickert continued to pitch out of near-misses as the Golden Rams stranded a runner in the first, three in the second and one in the third. She reached her cruise control in the fourth and fifth frames as she retired the side in order.
After a Brooke Budge single to left-center, Chavez drew a two-out walk and Hine followed with the eventual game-winner, a double just past the third baseman to extend the DSU lead to 4-0.
Feickert and the Storm seemed to be cruising and in complete control of the contest as she had retired seven West Chester (42-22) batters in a row. But the pesky Golden Rams drew a leadoff walk in the sixth and Kim Murl followed by hitting a high fly ball to short left field that was misplayed and dropped that allowed West Chester to threaten with runners on first and second and no outs. The very next batter, Laura Altenburger, deposited the 0-1 Feickert pitch over the left-field fence for just her second home run of the season to cut the DSU lead to 4-3.
Simkins turned to Michelle Duncan to close out things, but a pair of singles once again put the tying run in scoring position. Duncan then induced a failed sacrifice bunt popout to Gelter, followed by a foul ball flyout that allowed the tying run get within 60 feet. But Duncan forced a groundout to Chavez to end the threat.
DSU threatened in the seventh inning, but were turned away by Murl after Sherwin reached third base.
The Golden Rams were not going away as they led off the seventh with a single to right field. But for the second consecutive inning Duncan induced a popout on a sacrifice bunt as this time Marla Reiter sprung from her crouch and caught the bunt and fired to first base to double off the pinch runner Sarah Walasavage. Murl followed with a groundout that Duncan corralled and flipped to Gelter to dispose of the Rams and keep the Storm's postseason hopes alive.
Woodfall led DSU with three hits, but Sherwin and Chavez each added two in the win. Feickert picked up the win to improve to 21-6 and Duncan earned her first save of the season in relief.