Bellevue University (Neb.) had no problem putting away Dickinson State, as the Bruins outscored the Blue Hawks 18-9 on Sunday, April 14.
Bellevue, who is receiving votes in the NAIA Coaches' Top 25 poll, won the first game on Monday, 6-4.
The final game was the lowest scoring of them all, with Dickinson State scoring just three runs. Fortunately for the Blue Hawks, that's all they needed to win, as senior pitcher Abi Brooks allowed just one run for the 3-1 victory from the North Softball Complex on Monday, April 15.
"Obviously, considering the way we've been playing, it was huge to at least get one from them, to bounce back after (Sunday)," Dickinson State head coach Kristen Fleury said. "You always want to end a series with a win."
Brooks was phenomenal. Throwing seven full innings, she allowed a sole run on six hits while striking out four and walking none. Nearly 70% of her 95 pitches were strikes, and over 28 batters faced, she threw a first-pitch strike 21 times.
"Honestly, Abi Brooks, she schooled us," Bellevue head coach Michala Cimino said. "They stepped to a game plan that worked for them, but overall, I'm happy to come away with a series win. Overall, our kids made really good adjustments."
Bellevue freshman shortstop Ellie Bliemeister opened the back half of Monday's doubleheader with a triple, scoring as senior third baseman Erin Sharpe singled in the next at-bat.
After a one-two-three top of the second, the Blue Hawks countered. Brooks singled to get on base and moved to third as senior right fielder Kayla Stephens doubled off the first pitch she saw. As freshman third baseman Caitlyn Welch singled, Brooks dashed home to tie the game at one.
Freshman second baseman Emilie Sickler hit a grounder and reached on a poorly-executed play at third, loading the bases. Next, a walk to senior outfielder Andrea Rodriguez pushed Stephens home and the score to 2-1.
The Blue Hawks (16-19, 6-10 NSAA) defense dismissed nine of the next 11 Bruins (29-15, 12-4 NSAA) batters, maintaining the fragile lead. In the fifth, Rodriguez singled, senior shortstop Sonja Lawrence doubled, and senior catcher Claire Shoffit walked to load the bases.
Sophomore Jaya Allen stepped into the box and used a two-strike line drive to bring Rodriguez in, concluding the scoring.
"We have so much potential as a team, we haven't been able to, thus far this year, get everything clicking: our pitching, our defense and our hitting," Fleury said. "We continue to say the same things, and we continue to make the same mistakes. I don't know if we're putting too much pressure on ourselves or we're looking at the outcome of the game rather than playing the game and doing the little things. It's been tough trying to figure out what's working. Hopefully, this can be our turning point of the season."
Welch played a big role on offense, even in the earlier 6-4 loss.
Down 5-0, Welch led off the bottom of the third with a bunt single. With senior catcher Jordan Menke at the plate, Welch moved to second on a passed ball. Menke's sacrifice bunt pushed her one base further to third, and a sacrifice fly from Rodriguez brought Welch home and put the Blue Hawks on the board.
In the fourth, Welch doubled to bring in freshman pinch runner Rhea Paiva, going 3-for-5 over the two games on Monday.
"I started to believe in myself more and that really helped me," Welch said of her late hits. "I started believing in other players and that they could get on and help me score."
In the final inning of game one, Lawrence hit a two-run home run off Bellevue starting pitcher Monique Ashley to bring the score to 6-4. After Ashley walked Shoffit, Brienna Brock took over on the bump and induced two ground outs to end the game.
Aside from the final game, the Bruins offense was buzzing. On Sunday, Bellevue put up 25 hits, including seven doubles and four home runs.
Freshman Ashley Young went 6-for-9 over the first two games, while fellow freshman Ellie Bliemeister led the way with four hits over eight at-bats in the second doubleheader. Additionally, the Bruins scored first in all four games, forcing the Blue Hawks to play from behind.
"Any time you can score first, it swings the momentum your way. It's a good thing," Cimino said. "The whole weekend our kids had really good mindsets and good approaches at the plate and to jump on them early."
Dickinson State 3, Bellevue 1
BU 100 000 0 - 1 6 0
DSU 020 010 X - 3 7 2
BU, Emily Rochford (5), Ashlyn Teran (1). DSU, Abi Brooks and Claire Shoffit.
W-Brooks. L-Rochford. HR-None.
Highlights: BU, Ellie Bliemeister 2-4, 3B, R; Rochford 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R (3 ER), 1 K, 3 BB. DSU, Sonja Lawrence 1-3, 2B; Shoffit 1-2, 2B; Kayla Stephens 1-1, 2B, R; Andrea Rodriguez 1-3, R; Caitlyn Welch 1-2; Rhea Paiva 1-1; Brooks 1-3, R, 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R (1 ER), 4 K.
Bellevue 6, Dickinson State 4
BU 023 010 0 - 6 12 0
DSU 001 100 2 - 4 9 3
BU, Monique Ashley (6.1), Brieanna Brock (0.2). DSU, Jaya Allen and Jordan Menke.
W-Ashley. L-Allen. S-Brock. HR-Name.
Highlights: BU, Erin Sharpe 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI; Ashley 6.1 IP, 9 H, 4 R 94 ER), 6 K, 2 BB. DSU, Lawrence 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI; Welch 2-3, 2B, R, RBI; Rodriguez 2-3, R, RBI; Stephens 2-2; Whitney Mesi 1-4; Allen 7 IP, 12 H, 6 R (5 ER), 2 K, BB.
Bellevue 7, Dickinson State 4
BU 200 201 2 - 7 9 0
DSU 120 010 0 - 4 7 2
BU, Brock. DSU, Brooks and Shoffit.
W-Brock. L-Brooks. HR-BU, Teran, Brock, Grace Glotfelty. DSU, Menke.
Highlights: BU, Teran 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI; Brock 1-3, Hr, 2 R, 2 RBI, 7 IP, 7 H, 4 R (4 ER), 8 K, 2 BB. DSU, Menke 1-3, HR, R, 2 RBI; Allen 2-3, RBI; Emilie Sickler 1-3, 2B, R; Rodriguez 1-3, R; Shoffit 1-3, RBI; Brooks 1-3, 2B, R, 7 IP, 9 H, 7 R (6 ER), K, BB.
Bellevue 11, Dickinson State 5
BU 400 221 2 - 11 16 1
DSU 000 230 0 - 5 6 2
BU, Sharpe. DSU, Jaya Allen (6), Abi Brooks (1) and Shoffit.
W-Sharpe. L-Allen. HR-BU, A Young. DSU, Whitney Mesi 2, Allen.
Highlights: BU, Teran 3-3, 2 R, RBI; Young 3-4, 2 R, RBI; Sharpe 4.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R (5 ER), 9 K, 2 BB. DSU, Mesi 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI; Shoffit 1-2, 2B, R; Lawrence 1-3; Emilie Sickler 1-3; Allen 1-3, 2 R, 2 RBI, 6 Ip, 12 H, 9 R (7 ER), 5 K, 2 BB; Brooks 1 Ip, 4 H, 2 R (2 ER).