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Extra-inning thriller: Lopez hits 3-run homer to lead DSU past Jamestown in 12 innings

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Dickinson State sophomore Janel LaRont connects with a solo home run in the fourth inning against Jamestown College during the NAIA Unaffiliated Tournament on Saturday at Gress Softball Complex.

In the 10th inning, Jamestown College intentionally walked Dickinson State's Janel LaRont and Alex Vargas to load up the bases for Rebecca Lopez.

The DSU freshman had an opportunity to end the game with a base hit. Instead, she flied out to end the inning.

She didn't let a second opportunity at a game-winner slip away.

With runners on second and third in the bottom of the 12th, Lopez tattooed a ball over the left-field fence for a three-run, walk-off homer as DSU defeated the Jimmies 5-2 in 12 innings during the NAIA Unaffiliated Tournament on Saturday at Gress Softball Complex.

"The entire team was waiting for it," Lopez said with a smile. "I think we are too excited right now. We need to relax a little bit, play like we've been playing and we'll be fine."

Once the ball left the bat, DSU's senior starting pitcher Taysia Kaufman knew it was gone. She couldn't stop jumping for joy.

"I saw the ball go over and I was so ecstatic and so relieved, and cried a little bit to tell you the truth," Kaufman said. "I was just so happy to finish. It was so nice."

Kaufman, who pitched seven innings on Friday, threw all 12 innings, allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out two.

The Blue Hawks now sit in the driver's seat for a spot in the NAIA national tournament. They play in the championship game at 12:30 p.m. today against the winner of Jamestown and Great Falls, who play at 10 a.m. The winner has to beat DSU twice to end the Blue Hawks' season.

"I think we need to come out with the same focus we had today and finish it five to seven innings if we can," Kaufman said. "We just need to play as hard as we did today and give the same fight to never give up, because we want to go to nationals."

After colliding with the glove of Jamestown's first baseman on a hustle play down the line, Kaufman split her upper lip. But she wasn't about to be taken out of the game. She finished out the final two innings.

"She takes one off the face on offense and she still goes out there and shuts them down," DSU head coach Kristen Fleury said. "She's out there fighting for us and that she does. She wants to be out there and we want her out there."

After facing DSU four times during the regular season, Jamestown starting pitcher Emily Snow knew there were batters she couldn't take lightly.

Snow pitched 11 innings, allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out four. Her only mistake through the first nine innings was a pitch LaRont ripped for a home run to straight-away center.

"We just watched film over and over again to see which hitters we should stay away from and which hitters we could really attack," Snow said.

Jamestown tied the game in the sixth inning on a Kristi Michaud RBI sacrifice fly to deep left. The Jimmies (21-12) took their first and only lead of the game in the top of the 10th with the bases loaded and no outs.

Yet, Kaufman managed to navigate through the inning after allowing that run on a Kate Johnson RBI sacrifice fly.

DSU responded as Monique Yslas hit into a RBI groundout scoring Dani Benito to keep the game alive.

The Blue Hawks landed the knockout punch in the 12th inning as Jamestown relief pitcher DJ Johnson was tagged with the loss.

"We just wanted the win so bad and we kept fighting and fighting," Kaufman said. "We never lost focus."

Despite taking the loss, the Jimmies felt good about their strong performance against DSU.

Jamestown's strongest attribute in the game was the play of its defense. The Jimmies didn't have an error and robbed DSU of multiple home runs and extra-base hits.

"We really definitely disappointed that we lost, but we all feel great about how we hard we played," Snow said.

JC 000 001 000 100 -- 2 7 0

DSU 000 100 000 103 -- 5 9 5

Emily Snow, DJ Johnson (12) and Kristi Michaud. Taysia Kaufman and Aubrey Ayala. W-Kaufman. L-Johnson. HR-DSU, Janel LaRont, Rebecca Lopez.

Highlights: JC, Allison Roper 2-for-5, 2B; Rachel Ivelia 2-for-6; Kate Johnson 1-for-4, RBI, run; Sarah Heinemann 1-for-4, 2B; Coutney VanDen Bussche 1-for-6, run; Michaud RBI. DSU, Lopez 2-for-5, HR, 3 RBIs, run; Monique Yslas 2-for-5, RBI, run; LaRont 1-for-2, HR, RBI, run; Alex Vargas 1-for-4; Kaufman 1-for-5; Daniel Benito 1-for-4, run; Justeena Gutierrez 1-for-4.

Records: JC 21-12, DSU 24-13