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Courtesy Photo by Roger Ternes Dickinson State sophomore Sara Jane Webster tosses a pitch on Thursday during the third-ranked Blue Hawks' opening pool play game against Northwood University at the NAIA national softball championships in Decatur, Ala. Webster tossed a one-hitter and hit a grand slam in DSU's 10-0 win.

Webster powers Blue Hawks to win

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DECATUR, Ala. -- Dickinson State didn't have to worry about a slow start in this year's NAIA national softball championships.

Sara Jane Webster was on fire from the belt and the plate as the third-ranked Blue Hawks crushed Northwood University (Texas) 10-0 in five innings during the opening Pool C game for both teams Thursday.

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"We tried our best to be out of there in a hurry so we could go back to the hotel and just rest," DSU coach Guy Fridley said.

DSU (37-3) had the game well in hand before the second inning was complete. Webster hit a grand slam and Jody Lantz followed it up with a solo homer to highlight DSU's seven-run second that put Northwood on its heels and gave the Blue Hawks plenty of breathing room.

"It was just a great way to set the tone for ourselves in terms of going out there, hitting the ball with a lot of confidence," Fridley said.

Webster earned her 23rd win of the season by striking out eight and allowing one hit in four innings of work -- Northwood's Leigh Anne Rainey had a single to the shortstop in the fourth inning.

Nikki Marcoux relieved Webster, who threw just 58 pitches, in the fifth and retired the side while striking out one.

Fridley said keeping Webster fresh early in the tournament is important since winning a national title requires a team to play at least seven games in six days.

"We didn't overuse her," Fridley said. "That was our big key. Last year, I think we overused her."

He was also impressed by Marcoux's pitching presence in her first national tournament appearance. Marcoux was 6-0 this season and is expected to see plenty of time in the upcoming week.

"It was very encouraging to see her go out there and get her feet wet in the circle as well," Fridley said.

At the plate, Webster and Lantz weren't the only Blue Hawks who had big days.

Kelly Jahn went 2-for-3 with an RBI single to open the second inning, a double to lead off the third and drove in two runs in the fourth after Northwood's Katie Pfannerstill committed a throwing error to first base trying to throw Jahn out.

Vanessa Adame went 1-for-3 from the leadoff spot, driving in Jahn in the second and plating Amanda Mickey in the third on a Northwood error.

The Blue Hawks continue pool play against Missouri Valley at 11:30 a.m. today. The Vikings were one of the teams to defeat DSU this season, winning 4-2 at the Tucson (Ariz.) Invitational in March. DSU must win all three of its pool games if it wants to advance to next Monday's Final Eight tournament.

However, Fridley said Missouri Valley is the team DSU has been vying for a shot at since it lost earlier in the season.

"The big thing is to win all your pool play games, then you're guaranteed you're going to move on," Fridley said. "Tomorrow is the one our kids have circled. Right when we got to pool play, they circled that one right away."

For box score, see Scoreboard on Page B2.

Northwood 000 00 -- 0 1 3

DSU 071 2x -- 10 11 1

Ashley Westerman, Claudia Flores (3) and Courtney Hayley. Sara Jane Webster, Nikki Marcoux (5) and Erika Arvizo. W-Webster (23-2). L-Westerman. HR-DSU, Jody Lantz, Webster.

Highlights: Northwood, Leigh Anne Rainey 1-for-2. DSU, Sara Jane Webster 1-for-3, 4 RBI, HR, 4 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 8 K, 0 BB; Vanessa Adame 1-for-3, 2 RBI, run; Jody Lantz 2-for-3, HR, RBI; Nikki Marcoux 2-for-3, 2 runs, 1 IP, 1 K, 0 H, 0 BB; Kelly Jahn 2-for-3, 3 RBI, run.

Records: DSU 37-3, Northwood 24-29-2.

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