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DSU meets Cal State San Marcos at regionals

Press Photo by Meaghan MacDonald Dickinson State junior Regan Lawrence pitches against Mayville State on April 26 at Dickinson’s North Complex.

Welcome back to the national stage.

After finishing its impressive regular and postseason play in the North Star-Frontier Conference, the Dickinson State softball team found out its fate in the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round on Tuesday.

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The Blue Hawks are the No. 4 seed in the College of Idaho bracket and will play No. 1 Cal State San Marcos for the second year in a row. No. 2 Oregon Tech and No. 3 College of Idaho are the other two teams in the bracket.

“Obviously they’re a different team this year, we’re a different team this year so we can’t really go back on what happened last year,” DSU head coach Kristen Fleury said about their opponent. “Whoever we played was going to be a tough team, so we just got to go out and play our game.”

Last season, the Cougars beat DSU 7-1 in the opening round and scored seven unanswered runs.

This year, CSSM finished with a 37-7-1 overall record and was the No. 2 seed in the Association of Independent Institutions Softball tournament.

“They have a new coaching staff, they’re a completely different team than they were in the past and they’re a top five team and they’re going to be a tough team to play,” Fleury said.

DSU (39-13-0) was the No. 1 seed in the Unaffiliated/North Star-Frontier Conference Tournament and clinched the championship after beating University of Great Falls 2-1 on Sunday.

The Blue Hawks completed their noteworthy season on a 22-game win streak and ranked in the top 10 of the NAIA in six categories.

The team was No. 2 in doubles per game (2.115), No. 4 in total doubles (110), No. 6 in batting average (.373), No. 7 in slugging percentage (.546) and No. 9 in total RBI (319) and hits per game (10.038).

The opening round features 10 locations each with four-team double-elimination tournaments which will compete Monday through Wednesday. DSU and CSSM, as well as the other No. 1 and No. 4 matchups, will be the first games on Monday.

With its opponent in its crosshairs, DSU will now prepare for a rematch against the Cougars and look to come out on top this time around.

“We just got to continue on what we got going for us and got to go in as the underdogs,” Fleury said. “We got nothing to lose and the kids are excited, they’re hungry and even after playing Cal State San Marcos last year. We kind of want to go in there and feel like we need to have revenge on them.”

DSU dominates All-Conference teams, honors

A total of nine softball players were named to the 2014 NAIA Unaffiliated/North Star-Frontier Conference All Conference teams on Tuesday.

Eight players — Lindsay Sullivan, Monique Yslas, Rebecca Lopez, Alex Vargas, Brianna Grayson, Janell LaRont, Justeena Gutierrez and Regan Lawrence —made it on the first team, while junior pitcher Tiffany Morgan collected second-team honors.

“It’s just a testament to how hard the kids have worked all year,” Fleury said. “We had eight first teams and one second team and they deserved it.

“With me, all 20 kids would be All-Conference. We had a heck of a year and the kids have been playing well and they deserve it.”

The Blue Hawks also swept the postseason awards of player, pitcher and coach of the year.

Fleury was given the honor after leading the Blue Hawks to a 39-13 overall record, 20-1 conference record and clean, 3-0 sweep in the playoffs en route to its second consecutive national opening round appearance.

Vargas, the player of the year, was named Rookie of the Year last season and finished this season ranked in six categories in the NAIA which included total hits (76), total RBI (57), batting average (.461) and total bases (113).

Vargas also shattered the Dickinson State single-season record for most hits with 76.

“Alex is a tremendous athlete,” Fleury said. “She has all the natural ability in the world and she struggled early on in the season for us but she found her groove … got focused and put up some tremendous numbers for us.”

Lawrence had an equally successful season in the circle and ranked in four categories — wins (21), total innings pitched (187), strikeouts (167) and earned run average (1.760).

“When (Janell LaRont) got hurt she was someone we looked to and she finished 21-4 just in the regular season and conference tournament,” Fleury said. “When you have a pitcher who’s 21-4 you know you’re having a good year.”

Meaghan MacDonald

Meaghan is the sports page designer and copy editor for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.  After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism and was a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press and covered Dickinson State athletics. Meaghan has been working for the Forum since June 2015.