Blue Hawks softball wins NSAA after three-game series victory

ABERDEEN, S.D. -- While they weren't the prettiest victories, Dickinson State simply knew how to win in the end.The No. 16-ranked Blue Hawks survived a three-game series with Valley City State 5-0, 3-6 and 2-1 to win the North Star Athletic Assoc...

ABERDEEN, S.D. - While they weren’t the prettiest victories, Dickinson State simply knew how to win in the end.
The No. 16-ranked Blue Hawks survived a three-game series with Valley City State 5-0, 3-6 and 2-1 to win the North Star Athletic Association Tournament championship on Sunday at Players Softball Complex. The win gives DSU an automatic berth into the NAIA National Tournament opening round starting on May 16.
After having not lost a game in the NSAA Tournament, the Blue Hawks seemed poised to seize the title with a 5-0 win off the bat.
Alex Watson, who was named NSAA pitcher of the year, posted a five-hit shutout while striking out eight batters.
DSU gave her run support from the very beginning with a two-run first inning thanks to Monique Yslas stealing home and McKenzie Kostelecky following with an RBI to drive in NSAA player of the year Alex Vargas.
In DSU’s next inning, Vargas cranked out a three-run home run over the right-field fence on a 1-2 pitch. That would give Watson all the room she needed to get the win.
However, the No. 2-seeded Vikings wouldn’t go away easily and replied with a 6-3 win to force a third game.
Cejay Hilhorst started VCSU’s scoring with a two-run homer in the fourth at-bat of the game on Watson.
DSU climbed back and took the lead in the first frame with a three-run double from Kostelecky, giving the Blue Hawks the lead.
But that was all DSU could fathom against Morgan Nalley, who gave the Vikings the win from the circle by allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out five.
Hilhorst drove in another run in the third inning, and Kelsey Hamade brought in a runner and Katie Cameron cranked out an RBI triple to give VCSU a 5-3 advantage.
The only other run of the game came in the fifth when VCSU’s Tatum Lundin scored on one of DSU’s three errors.
Though VCSU took a 1-0 lead in the first inning off an RBI double to deep left-center field in the third game, the Blue Hawks wouldn’t be denied.
In fact, that was the only run DSU allowed in its 2-1 win for the championship.
In the second inning, the Blue Hawks came back with an RBI single from Morgan Glowa.
The game stayed tied at 1 until the top of the fifth - the inning that included what came to be the game-winning score. Vargas and McKenzie Kenobbie reached base on walks and Brianna Grayson singled to left to leave the bases loaded for Kostelecky.
The junior hit a sacrifice fly to left to send pinch runner Andrea Rodriguez home for the lead and the eventual win.
Abi Brooks started the game for DSU and allowed one run and five hits in her 2 1/3 innings of work. Then Watson took the circle and earned the win with 4 2/3 scoreless innings. She struck out three batters and gave up three hits and three walks.
Watson, Vargas, Yslas, Kenobbie and Grayson were named to the first-team all-conference roster and Brenda Cruz and McKenzie Bassett were named to the second team after the game. Grayson was also named to the NSAA gold glove team, while Brooks was named freshman of the year. Vargas and Watson also received their awards for player of the year and pitcher of the year, respectively, following their championship win.
Pairings for the national tournament will be announced on Wednesday.

Dickinson State 5, Valley City State 0
VCSU 000 000 0 - 0 5 3
DSU 230 000 0 - 5 7 0
Morgan Nalley, Ashley Metcalf (2), Kathleen Gallais (5) and Taylor Schroeder. Alex Watson and Brianna Grayson.
W–Watson. L–Nalley. HR–DSU: Alex Vargas.
Highlights: VCSU: Kelsey Hamade 1 for 3; Cejay Hilhorst 1 for 3; Kelli Moore 1 for 3; Cassie Pautz 1 for 3; Tatum Lundin 1 for 2. DSU: McKenzie Kenobbie 1 for 4, run; Monique Yslas 2 for 4, run; Vargas 2 for 2, 2 runs, 3 RBI, 2 walks, HR; McKenzie Kostelecky 1 for 3, RBI; Shannen Donnelly 1 for 3; Morgan Glowa run.

Valley City State 6, Dickinson State 3
VCSU 203 010 0 - 6 6 0
DSU 300 000 0 - 3 4 3
Morgan Nalley, Ashley Metcalf (7) and Taylor Schroeder. Alex Watson, Abi Brooks (4) and Brianna Grayson.
W–Nalley. L–Watson. HR–VCSU: Cejay Hilhorst.
Highlights: VCSU: Katarina Boychuk 1 for 4, 4run; Kelsey Hamade 1 for 3, 2 runs, RBI; Katie Cameron 1 for 3, run, RBI; Hilhorst 1 for 2, run, 3 RBI, HR; Cassie Pautz 2 for 3; Tatum Lundin run. DSU: McKenzie Kenobbie 2 for 4, run; Alex Vargas 3 walks, run; Grayson run, walk; Mckenna Kostelecky 2 for 3, 3 RBI.

Dickinson State 2, Valley City State 1
DSU 010 010 0 - 2 4 1
VCSU 100 000 0 - 1 9 0
Abi Brooks, Alex Watson (5) and Brianna Grayson. Ashley Metcalf, Morgan Nalley (4) and Taylor Schroeder.
W–Watson. L–Nalley. HR–none.
Highlights: DSU: Andrea Rodriguez run; Grayson 1 for 4; McKenzie Bassett 1 for 3; Monique Yslas 1 for 2, run, walk; Morgan Glowa 1 for 3, RBI. VCSU: Katarina Boychuk 1 for 2, 2 walks; Kelsey Hamade 1 for 4; Katie Cameron 3 for 4, run; Cejay Hilhorst 1 for 2, RBI, 2 walks; Cassie Pautz 1 for 3; Tatum Lundin 1 for 3.

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