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Blue Hawks endure grueling losses against tough spring invitational opponents

DSU loses six straight in Arizona despite good showings by Ari Martinez and Hailey Enriquez.

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DSU suffers six consecutive losses during the first three days of doubleheaders in Arizona, despite strong performances by Ari Martinez and Hailey Enriquez.
Forum News Service file photo

TUCSON, A.Z. — The Tucson Invitational Games is host to DII, DIII and NAIA spring training collegiate baseball and softball tournaments. They proudly host over 400 schools, family and friends. Since its inception in 2002 the T.I.G. has grown in popularity and competitiveness. Despite their high aspirations, Dickinson State University softball remains winless after three brutal days of doubleheaders in the scorching Arizona heat.

DAY 1, GAME 1

The Blue Hawks took to the field in their first game of the trip in an exciting match-up against perennial opponents in the Dakota Wesleyan Tigers.

Ari Martinez, the Arleta, Calif. native and DSU first base standout, came out swinging. Martinez landed a dinger to start the first inning and set the tone right out the gate that the Blue Hawks were ready. However, the Tigers were not to be outdone and they quickly responded with a run of their own to tie the game early.

In the second inning, sophomore utility player Kara Conway would go long with a remarkable pitchers count home run that would see the Blue Hawks take a 3-1 lead. On cue, the Tigers launched their second comeback of the pairing with three runs of their own to take a narrow 4-3 lead.

Kaitlyn Rizo, junior Catcher, would sail a DSU home run in the sixth inning to tie the game. The Elko, Nevada native has had 26 plate appearances on the season and boasts an on-base percentage of .360 to pair with her slugging percentage of .421.

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The Tigers managed to score the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning, clinching a 5-4 victory for Wesleyan in a game that gave the favorites an unexpected run for their money.

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Kaitlyn Rizo, Dickinson State University Softball
Photo courtesy of Dickinson State University

DAY 1, GAME 2

With little time to regroup, the Blue Hawks would take to the diamond for a challenging second game of the day against an entirely new Tiger’s team.

The Olivet Nazarene Tigers (10-6) entered the game with a team batting average of .306, with an on-base percentage of .397 and a slugging percentage of .401.

From the outset, ONU came out with guns blazing and quickly scored three runs in both the first and second innings, to take their lead to 6. Reeling from the onslaught, the Blue Hawks struggled to mount any defense against the Tigers.

From the frying pan and into the fire, the fourth inning proved to be the nail in the coffin for DSU as Olivet Nazarene managed to tally up four runs. While the Blue Hawks were down, they were certainly not out as seniors Hailey Enriquez and Rhea Paiva stepped up to the plate, landing an impressive RBI single and a double, respectively.

Despite the late rallying attempt under the motivational guide of their seniors, the Blue Hawks were ultimately unable to match ONU, falling 15-4.

DAY 2, GAME 1

The second day for Blue Hawks would play out much like the first, starting their day with a 7-2 loss to York (NE) who had been sub .500 in the early season, boasting a 13-16 overall record.

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The Blue Hawks would improve that record courtesy of cold bats as DSU struggled to get hits, only managing to knock four in the game. However, Dickinson would compensate for their lack of hits by being patient and disciplined at the plate, wearing down the opposing pitchers and working nine walks.

It wouldn’t be until the fifth inning that the bats would come alive, as Ari Martinez managed to land a solo home run in the fifth inning. Martinez's game against York was as successful as possible, with only one at-bat she got her team rolling.

Senior Hailey Enriquez, taking her cue from Martinez, nailed a beautiful RBI single in the gap that would keep the Blue Hawks in the game in the sixth inning. But it would prove too little and too late as York would close the game for the victory.

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Ari Martinez, Dickinson State University Softball
Photo courtesy of Dickinson State University

DAY 2, GAME 2

In their final game the day, the Blue Hawks squared off against familiar foes and quasi-rivals in Dakota Wesleyan. The high-scoring game kept fans on the edge of their seats as the pairing was filled with big hits and runs. Dakota Wesleyan would score in every inning except the second, while Dickinson State scored in every inning except the third and sixth.

The shootout would find Dakota Wesleyan defeating the Blue Hawks 15-11, courtesy of an offense led by Alyssa Burke — who had four hits and scored five runs, while her partner in crime Peyton Bagley, drove in four runs.

Blue Hawks relied heavily on the output of Enriquez who garnered two home runs and had eight RBI's for Dickinson State, but it wasn't enough to overcome Dakota Wesleyan's strong hitting throughout.

Meghan Daffern earned the win for Dakota Wesleyan, pitching five innings and allowing ten runs, while Ari Martinez took the loss for Dickinson State — giving up ten runs over 5 and 1/3 innings.

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Hailey Enriquez, Dickinson State University Softball.
Photo courtesy of Dickinson State University Softball

DAY 3, GAME 1

As the sun rose on day three of the spring invitational on Mar. 8, the Blue Hawks looked to right the ship and close out the first half of the Tucson Invitational with solid performances against in-state rivals in the University of Jamestown.

The Jimmies would walk away with a decisive 12-1 victory over Dickinson State coming out strong from the outset and dominating the game from the first pitch to the last.

While Kara Conway managed to briefly tie the game at 1-1 for DSU with a sacrifice fly in the top of the second, the Jimmies responded with a whopping five runs in the bottom half of the inning to take control of the game.

Senior pitcher Arjana Eilers collected the team's only other hit of the game, a one-out single in the third inning, but six errors would lead to six unearned runs for Jamestown enroute to their dominant win. Hope Fath, former Dickinson High School stand-out and Dickinson State freshman, was called in to pitch against Jamestown's potent offense.

DAY 3, GAME 2

Concordia quickly took control of the game, building a 7-0 lead before junior Dallis Mitchell doubled home Rhea Paiva in the third inning to score DSU's first run.

Despite Mitchell driving in two more runs with an RBI single in the fifth inning and Hailey Enriquez doubling home Mitchell for the final DSU run, Concordia's hot bats proved to be too much for DSU. The team collected 18 hits, seven of which went for extra bases, to secure their 11-4 win over DSU. Although Concordia made four defensive errors, their offensive dominance more than made up for it.

James B. Miller, Jr. is the Editor of The Dickinson Press in Dickinson, North Dakota. He strives to bring community-driven, professional and hyper-local focused news coverage of southwest North Dakota.
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