Dickinson State senior pitcher Abi Brooks maintained a 2-1 advantage during the back end of a doubleheader against Dakota State (S.D.) before running into a bit of trouble in the top of the fourth inning.
Trojans sophomore infielder Xitlali Lopez and senior outfielder Tatum Ronke each fell behind during their at-bats before delivering singles with two strikes. Following a sharp line out to short from freshman infielder player Sarah Torres, senior infielder Taylor Poe loaded the bases for the road team when lunged at a two-strike pitch, dropping in single.
In the most critical frame of a 6-1 Blue Hawks victory, Brooks rared back and battled her way out of a tough spot. She struckout freshman right-fielder Annalisa Ingui with an outside slider for the second out before Brooks escaping the jam when she froze freshman infielder Madison Aldendifer with a beautiful pitch that caught the inside corner for strike three.
"It was huge for her," Blue Hawks head coach Kristen Fleury said. "We expect her not to give up those two-strike singles, but they'll happen. For her to come back and get out of that inning, she finished that inning with a strikeout, that was a good inning for her."
The Aldendifer strikeout was the last hitter Brooks faced on Friday, April 19, from the North Softball Complex, but that moment proved to be a big momentum shift, as the Blue Hawks responded with three insurance runs in the bottom of the frame.
Senior infielder Kayla Stephens led off the inning with a double down the third-base line, and scored one batter later on a Poe error. After sophomore outfielder Emilie Sickler pushed freshman infielder Caitlyn Welch over to second with a sacrifice bunt, Welch reached home plate on an RBI single from senior centerfielder Andrea Rodriguez. Next, Dickinson State senior shortstop Sonja Lawrence produced the inning's big blow, drilling an RBI triple to the opposite field gap to give the home team a 5-1 cushion.
"Once you shut down a team when they had the bases loaded like that, to come back and put some runs up kind of puts the dagger in 'em," Fleury commented.
Jaya Allen closed out the final three frames. She was also in the pitcher's circle during game one, in which Dickinson State earned an 8-0 win in five innings.
Facing just one batter over the minimum, Allen was dominant. The sophomore relinquished just one base hit - a fourth-inning bloop single by junior catcher Nicole Stewart. She fanned five and didn't allow a walk through 61 pitches.
"I was really locating the ball and realized later in the game what their weaknesses were at the plate, and focusing on those weaknesses," Allen said. "I was pushing hard off the rubber and throwing as hard as I could."
The Blue Hawks jumped ahead 1-0 during the opener when a single from senior infielder Whitney Mesi brought home senior infielder Clarie Shoffit during the bottom of the first. Mesi added a two-run single in the third.
"We came out the first game and we got on them early," Fleury said. "We didn't score a lot of runs in an inning, but we pretty much scored in every inning. So it was just good to see us continue to put pressure on them and make things happen."
Leading off the fifth with her team holding a 4-0 advantage, Allen aided her cause on the mound by lifting a solo home run over the center field fence. Allen's shot sparked a four-run frame, with Rodriguez closing out the game with a two-run double.
"I just remember the first pitch was outside and I'm not super strong on the outside," said Allen of her at-bat. "She gave me one high and I know how to keep my hands high, and I just took the ball out."
Dickinson State 8, Dakota State 0 (F/5)
DaSU 000 00 - 0 1 3
DiSU 102 14 - 8 11 0
DaSU: Xitlali Lopez (5.0) and Nicole Stewart. DiSU: Jaya Allen (5.0) and Jordan Menke.
W-Allen. L-Lopez. HR-Allen.
Highlights: DaSU: Stewart. 1-2. DiSU: Allen: 5IP, H, 0 BB, 0 R, 5 K, 1-3, HR, RBI, R; Andrea Rodriguez 3-4, 2B, 3 RBI, R; Whitney Mesi 3-3. 2B, 3 RBI, R.
Dickinson State 6, Dakota State 1
DaSU 100 000 0 - 1 8 2
DiSU 011 310 x - 8 12 0
DaSU: Stefani Gollin (6.0) and Nicole Stewart. DiSU: Abi Brooks (4.0), Jaya Allen (3.0) and Claire Shoffit.
W-Brooks. L-Allen. HR-DaSU: Stewart.
Highlights: DaSU: Stewart 1-3, HR, RBI, R; Sarah Torres 1-2, 2B; Taylor Poe 2-3. DiSU: Kayla Stephens 3-3, 2B, 2 RBI, R; Shoffit 3-4, RBI; Sonja Lawrence 1-4, 3B, RBI; Brooks 4 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, ER, 3 K.