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DSU looks to continue power surge

There has been no shortage of power for the Dickinson State softball team in the last seven games.

During that stretch, the Blue Hawks have averaged more than 11 runs per game. That includes four games where they scored in double digits.

The credit for the seven-game win streak has been a healthy supply of power. DSU head coach Kristen Fleury said the team is settling into its roles and pitchers are having solid outings.

"The team has settled into their role and position and they started to play as a team a lot more," Fleury said. "The bats are coming around and, one through nine, we are swinging the bats well."

The spark in the right direction couldn't have come at a better time for the Blue Hawks as they travel to Jamestown College on Friday for the Dakota Athletic Conference Tournament. The team will play Jamestown on Friday and Mayville State on Saturday.

"We just have fun before games," LaRont said. "We still stay focused, but we have fun and stay relaxed."

Aubrey Ayala, a senior catcher, said the calmness at the plate and in the circle is going hand in hand. Thanks to the run support, the pitchers are only giving up 4.6 runs per game.

"I feel like once on person gets on, it sparks the rest of us," Ayala said. "We all just get excited and it's contagious. When one of us hits, the rest of all get hits and there go the runs.

"I feel like the more runs we get for our pitchers, the more comfortable they are in the circle."

To put the power numbers in perspective, the Blue Hawks have hit 19 home runs during the seven-game win streak. However, some of that power has come in the most unlikely spots -- sophomores and freshmen.

DSU sophomore infielder and pitcher Janell LaRont is hitting .427 with seven home runs, eight doubles, four triples with 31 RBIs. LaRont isn't the only underclassmen making an immediate impact. Freshman Alex Vargas has been a tear, batting .398 with seven home runs, 11 doubles, two triples and a team-high 45 RBIs.

"It feels really good," LaRont said. "It's weird because we haven't really been working on hitting a lot, so maybe we are just more relaxed coming to the plate."

LaRont feels that anyone in the lineup has the ability to put the ball in play.

For the most part, she's right.

DSU's team batting average is .354 with an on-base percentage of .408.

Leadoff batter and senior Taysia Kaufman gets the wheels turning with a .408 average, four doubles, three triples and two home runs. Freshman No. 9 hitter Justenna Gutierrez doesn't skip a beat, batting .364 with three home runs, three doubles and 17 RBIs.

"One through nine, we are all hitting the ball and it's really relieving as a pitcher," LaRont said.

Before the team's opening four-game series with Jamestown College on April 6, the only pitcher that had a winning record was LaRont, who was 2-1 at the time. Now the team only has one pitcher with a losing record as Nicole Lobato is one game under .500 at 2-3.

"Our pitchers are moving the ball around a lot more, changing speeds and keeping the other team off balance," Fleury said. "They are also getting run support, which I think gives them a lot of confidence going out each inning."