GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota received another brilliant performance in the circle from Kaylin VanDomelen on the way to a 6-1 victory over Sacramento State in the rubber game of a three-game Big Sky Conference softball series at the Apollo Sports Complex.
The two teams split a doubleheader to open the series yesterday, and the Hornets dropped to 14-22-1 overall and 4-7 in the Big Sky with today's loss. Meanwhile, North Dakota, which finished in last place a season ago, improved to 19-25 overall and 5-6 in league. The top six teams in the eight-member league qualify for the Big Sky Tournament, and, with three weeks left in the regular season, the Hornets currently hold down that sixth and final spot.
Montana sits in first place with a 9-3 record, followed by Weber State (8-3), Southern Utah (7-5), North Dakota (5-6), Idaho State (5-6) and Sacramento State (4-7) to round out the top six. Northern Colorado and Portland State are just a half game back of the Hornets with 4-8 records.
VanDomelen (10-12) picked up the win in both games of the series, allowing one run to the Hornets yesterday as well. In fact, in 14 innings pitched against Sacramento State, VanDomelen allowed just nine hits and two runs while walking two and striking out 18 batters. The Hornets pounded the other two North Dakota pitchers to the tune of 12 runs, 17 hits, five home runs and 34 total bases. That effort came in yesterday's 12-6 Hornet nightcap win after North Dakota won the first game by a 4-1 score.
The only bright spots in today's game for the Hornets were the efforts of a pair of true freshmen. Left fielder Suzy Brookshire crushed her team-leading 10th home run of the season. One day after setting the Sacramento State record for most single-season home runs by a freshman, Brookshire now finds herself just two homers shy of the overall record for most round trippers in a season (12), set by Jamie Schloret in 2008.
In addition, freshman designated player Traci Shaw, who started her first two games of the season over the last two days, went 2-for-3 with a double in today's game. In her two starts, which included a home run yesterday, Shaw is a combined 4-for-7 with two doubles, a homer and three RBIs.
North Dakota touched up Hornet pitchers Taylor Tessier (1.0 ip, 2 h, 2 r), Celina Matthias (2.0 ip, 4 h, 3 r) and Danielle Sperry (3.0 ip, 4 h, 1 r) for six runs and 10 hits. Tessier (4-10) got the loss.
The Fighting Hawks put up three runs in the second inning, one more in the third and two in the fourth. Sacramento State's lone run came on Brookshire's opposite field home run to open the sixth. North Dakota clubbed four home runs, getting round trippers from VanDomelen, Marina Marzolino, Dani Romero and Autumn Cervantez. VanDomelen is the team's No. 3 hitter, but the other homers came from the their Nos. 6, 7 and 8 batters in the lineup.
The Hornets finished with just five hits, and Shaw was the only Sacramento State player with a multiple-hit game. Brookshire, Hinton and Jessica Ravetti had one hit apiece. Sacramento State left just four runners on base, and advanced only three runners past first base the entire game (Brookshire and Hinton in the 6th, Shaw in the 7th).
The Hornets will play their final regular season game on Wednesday against Cal at 4 p.m. in a game that got postponed earlier this season because of rain. Sacramento State will then jump back into Big Sky play for a three-game road series at Southern Utah on April 21-22.
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