(Neb.)- CSC Takes To The Softball Diamond In Utah
CHADRON, Neb. -- The Chadron State softball team returns to action Thursday afternoon after a fairly successful start to the season, as they travel to Utah for the Dixie State University Easton Classic for five non-conference games.
The competition in St. George, Utah, should be a step up from what the Eagles last saw in Texas. Host Dixie State, ranked No. 9 in NCAA Division II during the preseason, is a returning NCAA qualifier, as is California Baptist University, who was rated the 28th best team in the nation in January. Both are among the softball powerhouses in the PacWest conference. Montana State University Billings, whom the Eagles open the tourney with at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, is 4-1 and statistically among the best in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference in most categories.
The other two opponents, Dominican University and Northwest Nazarene, have not won big early on, but have individual players who can compete.
"This is one of those tournaments that's competitive enough," said coach Kaley Scearcy, "where, if we don't play our game, we could go 0-5. On the other hand, I feel like we have momentum after our last game, and if we don't make mistakes, we're talented enough to go 5-0."
Chadron State opens with Billings, who is 4-1 after hosting their own invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada. There, the Yellow Jackets handed Colorado Christian University its only loss so far of the season, and won run-rule shutouts in two other games. They have two players, Heather Tracy, and Megan Dettling, each hitting .550 or better. Tracy finished 15th in the nation last season with a .458 average.
At 3 p.m. on Thursday, the Eagles have Northwest Nazarene, another GNAC member, who is 2-5 to start the season. Junior infielder Cassidy Fifield started the season off hot batting 11-for-21 with four walks, six RBI, and two home runs. Freshman pitching ace Jordan Adams has a 2.94 ERA, allowing opponents to hit .273 and striking out 12 so far.
Dominican (0-4) is the Eagles' Friday morning opponent. The Penguins feature three players who have hit the ball for an average of better than .400, and their leading pitcher, Freshman Alyssa Waltman, boasts a respectable 1.87 ERA, giving up just four earned runs in 15 innings. They are a young team, as well, with their two seniors having seen one start between the pair in four games, and have committed 10 fielding errors in their first four games.
Friday afternoon, CSC faces defending PacWest Conference champ California Baptist, who received votes in the national preseason poll but have only played two games so far this season. On opening day they split with California State University-San Marcos on their home field. The Lancers return three NFCA West All-Region players in sophomore outfielder Caitlyn Lloyd, junior designated player Hannah Thieroff, and sophomore pitcher Ciara Stapp. Two players, juniors Halle Rosario and Cheyann Tucker, hit a combined 8-for-13 on opening day, accounting for half of the team's 10 total RBI.
Finally, the weekend ends with CSC facing host No. 9 Dixie State at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. The Trailblazers are 2-0 having a run-rule win and a shutout against Northwest Nazarene at home. They are led by senior outfielder Janessa Bassett, a three-time All-American and former NFCA Freshman of the Year, who started both games but had only one base hit, a triple, against NNU. Junior infielder Bailey Gaffin is another top returner with All-Region honors for 2017, when the team was the PacWest runner-up. Cambrie Hazel was their top pitcher on opening day, allowing only three hits in six innings against NNU to take partial credit for the shutout.
Chadron State hit .270 as a team last weekend, led by an 8-for-15 effort by senior outfielder Aspen Eubanks. After five games, the CSC pitching staff leads the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference with 1.0 strikeouts per inning pitched and also stands in front of the pack allowing opponents to bat only .181. The Eagle twirlers are tied with Colorado Mesa for the best ERA at 2.76. Sophomore Megan Horn leads the conference individually with a .100 opponent batting average.
The team will depart Tuesday, with an overnight stop in Rawlins, Wyoming. Then it is on to Salt Lake City, where practice will take place at Taylorsville High, alma mater of sophomore Francine Boston, before arriving in St. George.
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