MADISON, S.D. – In the battle of the top two teams in the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) Softball conference, No. 2 seed Dickinson State (N.D.) used a fast start to kick off the second championship game versus No. 1 seed Jamestown (N.D.) Sunday afternoon at Thue Softball Complex. The Blue Hawks held off the Jimmies' late comeback for a 9-7 victory, earning the NSAA's automatic bid to the NAIA Softball National Tournament Opening Round.
Dickinson State came from the loser's bracket of the NSAA Softball Tournament after losing to No. 3 seed Valley City State (N.D.) 5-0 Friday night. The Blue Hawks reeled off four straight elimination game victories to claim the conference tournament champion, outscoring its opponents 46-12.
The Blue Hawks, who handed the Jimmies their first loss of the tournament in the first championship game by the score of 10-2 earlier Sunday, quickly raced to a 5-0 lead in the opening inning. Rebecca Lopez and McKenzie Kenobbie recorded back-to-back walks to start the game.
Alex Vargas hit a sacrifice bunt to advance Lopez to third and Kenobbie to second in the top first inning for DiSU. After the second out was recorded, the Blue Hawks went on an outburst by scoring five straight runs starting with a 2-RBI single by Regan Lawrence. Brianna Grayson added a 2-RBI double, followed by Monique Yslas' RBI single to open up a five-run lead for Dickinson State.
Emily Newman smashed a solo home run in the bottom first frame as the Jimmies trimmed DiSU's lead to 5-1.
Jamestown reduced their deficit to 5-4 in the bottom second after Sydney Jeffers hit a 3-run inside-the-park home run.
Dickinson State put together a 4-run outburst in the top third inning as their lead grew to 9-4. Janell LaRont hit a 2-run home run in the inning. Rebecca Lopez added an RBI single and Kenobbie recorded an RBI walk as DiSU takes a five-run lead.
Rylee Perez hit a solo home run over the right field fence in the bottom fourth inning as Jamestown trimmed Blue Hawks' lead to 9-5.
Perez recorded an RBI single in the bottom sixth inning as Dickinson State's lead had decreased to 9-6.
The Jimmies mounted a comeback in the bottom seventh inning. With runner on first base (Brittany Rheault reached on base by a single) and two outs, Brook Rheault reached on base by DiSU's defensive error and advanced Kalea Chapman – pinch runner for Brittany Rheault – to second base. Jeffers produced an RBI single to score Chapman as Jamestown trail 9-7.
After Perez reached on base by a walk in the bottom seventh for UJ, Dickinson state closed the game as Newman was struck out swinging.
Grayson was 2-of-3 at the plate with a double, single and collected two RBIs for the Blue Hawks. Torres added a double. Lopez, LaRont, Lawrence and Yslas each had a hit. Lawrence and LaRont each produced two RBIs. Lopez, Kenobbie and Torres each reached on base by a walk twice.
Newman, Jeffers and Perez each hit a home run for the Jimmies. Jeffers tallied four RBIs. Perez also added two hits and two RBIs. Jessica Snow had three singles.
Jamestown outhit Dickinson State 12-7 in the game. The Jimmies left 11 runners on base while the Blue Haws had 7 runners left on base.
Lawrence (23-5) earned her fourth straight victory on the pitching mound for Dickinson State. She started the game and worked for 3 2/3 innings before pulling out in the bottom fourth inning. Alexzandria Watson tossed three innings in relief and allowed two runs (one unearned) on four hits.
Lawrence closed the game in the bottom seventh inning. She gave up five runs on eight hits and issued four walks. Both Lawrence and Watson recorded three strikeouts.
Brittany Rheault (19-6) recorded the loss for Jamestown. She pitched 2 2/3 innings and allowed nine runs on five hits. She issued five walks in the game. Hanna Dunnigan tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up two hits and three walks. She struck out four DiSU's batters.
Dickinson State (41-10 overall record) awaits to hear from the NAIA national office for their location in the upcoming 2015 NAIA Softball National Tournament Opening Round, which is held at 10 different sites announced from the NAIA. The national tournament opening round takes place on May 11-13, with each opening round site's winners advancing to the NAIA World Series in Sioux City, Iowa from May 22-28 in Sioux City, Iowa.
Jamestown finished their season with an overall record of 36-14, which included the 2015 NSAA Softball Regular-Season Champion.
Nick Huntimer, Dakota State University Sports Information Director