Can the Blue Hawks get back on track at home?
Following a trip to Valley City State last weekend, the Dickinson State softball team is mired in a four-game losing streak.
With a four-game home stand up next on their schedule, the Blue Hawks are looking to turn their 13-14 overall record into a winning one against Viterbo University (Wis.) on Saturday, April 6, at the North Softball Complex.
"We've got to find a way to click on all cylinders. We got to get our offense, our defense, our pitching all working together," Dickinson State head coach Kristen Fleury said. "Once we do that, I think we'll be a lot more successful."
Over the last eight seasons, the Blue Hawks have gone 88-21 at home, including 8-1 in 2018. Since the teams first meeting in the spring of 2016, Dickinson State holds a 12-2 advantage over the V-Hawks.
Viterbo is desperate for a victory as the team is riding a six-game losing streak. The V-Hawks are fifth in the North Star standings with a 3-5 record against conference opponents and 8-17 overall. Meanwhile, the Blue Hawks are right behind in sixth with the same conference record.
The first doubleheader will start Saturday at 2 p.m., with games three and four beginning on Sunday at noon.
What the visiting V-Hawks got
Unlike Dickinson State, which boasts seven seniors, the V-Hawks have just three, with Caitlyn Kozik playing the biggest role of the trio.
Kozik has frequented the mound more often than any other teammate, pitching 57 innings this spring, accumulating a 5.04 ERA. She's struck out 23 batters, with sophomore Brooklyn Ottelien following with 19 K's over 31 innings.
Ottelien, who bats cleanup, is also the team's best batter, boasting a team-high .426 average, 30 hits and 19 RBI. Junior Alyssa Nilssen, who also graces the hardwood for the Viterbo basketball team, bats .442 in the No. 2 slot.
"They have a couple returners at the top of their lineup that can swing a bat," Fleury said of the V-Hawks. "They're three, four, five are pretty successful. I think they struggle in the pitching category, but it does look like they have a lot of kids that throw for them. It's tough for us with Viterbo being new to our conference the last couple years, we haven't seen them a lot."
With a sporadic offense, the V-Hawks average 4.44 runs per game. Of the 111 runs scored this year, 75 have come through in the first three innings.
Breaking down the Blue Hawks
Behind the plate is senior Claire Shoffit, who leads the team with a .433 batting average and an impressive 1.188 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Shoffit bats third for the Blue Hawks, with seniors Andrea Rodriguez and Sonja Lawrence in the top-two slots in the lineup.
Rodriguez and Lawrence are consistent at the plate, swinging for .344 and .337, respectively. Over her 28 hits, Lawrence has four doubles and a team-high pair of triples. She's also only struck out four times, the lowest among Blue Hawks who have played in 21 or more games this year.
"She's kind of a triple threat for us at the plate," Fleury said. "We've had her at a few different positions in the lineup ... and she's kind of found her way at the two spot where she can kind of move runners over, but also potentially drop a bunt down and run it out for a base hit."
Dickinson State averages 4.6 runs per game, just a smidge higher than the V-Hawks. This weekend will more than likely showcase the two teams in tight battles as they strive to move up in the conference standings.
"You got to take every game and every team like it's the best team in the country and you can't play down to another team's level," Fleury said. "We just got to go into the weekend and play each game. Obviously, it'll be nice to be at home, have our home field, have our home crowd, have a lot of fans support. The weather is supposed to be nice and if we just play our game, I think we'll be okay."