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Knights end Blue Hawks season in 8th

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Dickinson State softball team was flying high with momentum after rallying from three runs down against Marian (Ind.) University to tie the elimination game at 3 in the sixth inning.

The Blue Hawks had the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh Tuesday afternoon, but couldn't drive in the winning run.

Marian responded with a pair of runs in the eighth to take a 5-3 win over DSU in the opening round of the NAIA National Tournament on the campus of Park University, eliminating the Blue Hawks and ending their season.

"We were down all game, and were able to tie the game up in the sixth inning and capitalize on some of their errors," DSU coach Kristen Fleury said. "We had (other) opportunities to score. We just couldn't execute."

Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Alex Vargas hit a sacrifice fly to score Taysia Kaufman. The Blue Hawks (25-16) tied it when Rebecca Lopez singled to right center, which brought Monique Yslas home.

DSU loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but Yslas and Janel LaRont each popped out to end the inning.

Allie Foley and Jennifer Sears hit RBI singles for Marian (32-10) off of Kaufman in the top of the eighth to put the Knights ahead.

Nicole Lobato reached first base for DSU in the bottom of the eighth off an Emily Gwaltney error. Regan Lawrence then hit a two-out single to keep DSU alive. But the Blue Hawks' hopes were dashed after Dani Benito popped up for the final out.

"Early on, we gave them their runs," Fleury said. "You can't do that in this type of tournament. Everybody's here because they're a good team. You can't give good teams runs. Unfortunately, we didn't take care of the ball on defense like we should have."

DSU concluded its season as A.I.I/Frontier Conference Tournament champions, while making its second NAIA tourney appearance in four years. DSU drops to 14-12 all-time in the national tourney.

Seven Blue Hawks graduate this year, including Kaufman, the A.I.I./Frontier Pitcher of the Year.

"Our seniors were able to kind of go out on top and make it back to the national tournament," Fleury said.

Many underclassmen return for Fleury next season, meaning the future of DSU softball indeed looks bright.

"We're a young team and we got hot when we needed to," Fleury said. "We didn't stay hot at the right time, but it was great experience for our younger kids. We just got to grow from that."

See scoreboard for box

MU 012 000 02 -- 5 10 5

DSU 001 002 00 -- 3 6 3

Amy Tamer and Helen Rogers. Janel LaRont, Taysia Kaufman and Aubrey Ayala. W -- Tamer (16-3). L -- Kaufman (10-6). HR-Name.

Highlights: MU, Emily Gwaltney 3-for-3; Eleni Prewitt 2-for-3, run; Michelle Marcum 2-for-3, run, RBI; Jennifer Sears 2-for-4, RBI. DSU, LaRont 2-for-4; Kaufman 1-for-3, run, RBI; Danielle Benito 1-for-3, run.

Records: MU 32-10, DSU 25-16