ST. GEORGE, Utah -- Based on how the Dixie State offense started Saturday’s doubleheader against Azusa Pacific, it looked like the Cougars were in for a long afternoon against the No. 22-ranked Red Storm. However, after surrendering five quick runs in the first two innings of Saturday’s opener, true freshman Carly Xepoleas threw a six-hit shutout to follow up junior Destinee Levesque’s four scoreless innings of relief to pick up a doubleheader split Saturday afternoon.
After dropping the opener, 5-2, Xepoleas scattered six hits and two walks while striking out three in a 4-0 win, resulting in Dixie State’s first shutout loss since March 23, 2013, when the Red Storm were blanked in a split with Pacific West Conference rival California Baptist. Xepoleas stranded runners in six of seven innings, including the first inning when Dixie State loaded the bases with two outs before an inning-ending groundout back to Xepoleas.
The Cougars produced a pair of runs in the first inning to give Xepoleas an early lead to protect, scoring two runs on sophomore first baseman Jessica Melcher’s bases-loaded, two-out single to left. In the top of the fourth, junior centerfielder Renae Chappelle led off with a single and scored on a one-out error, and Chappelle tripled and scored again in the sixth inning on freshman rightfielder Abry Moreno’s two-out single to center.
Eight of nine Cougars in the lineup hit safely in the game, and Chappelle reached safely a third time when she was hit by pitch.
With the split, Azusa Pacific is now 13-4 overall and 4-2 in PacWest play, while Dixie State is now 10-3 overall with a 1-1 conference mark. The teams meet again next week, when the Cougars host No. 9-ranked California Baptist and No. 22 Dixie State in back-to-back doubleheaders in Azusa next Thursday and Friday, Feb. 27-28.
In the opener, a two-out hit batter in the bottom of the first sparked Dixie State to a two-run frame, and the Red Storm used a leadoff walk in the second to put together another three-run inning and take a 5-1 lead. With one out in the second, Levesque took over, striking out the second batter she faced before getting out of the jam with an inning-ending popup.
The Cougars got one run back in the second inning on sophomore Narissa Garcia’s two-out single that scored sophomore catcher Madison Hernandez. The Cougars cut the lead to 5-2 in the fifth when pinch-runner Rebecca Dawson scored another two-out run on Moreno’s two-out single to left.
Although Dixie State pitcher Aryn Feickert didn’t strike out a single batter, she only surrendered three hits and one walk in the opening-game win. Levesque put together 4.2 innings of two-hit scoreless relief striking out four to keep the Red Storm within striking distance.
Moreno and Hernandez were Azusa Pacific’s only two batters who hit safely in both games of the doubleheader, while Marla Reiter and Nicole Chavez led the Dixie State offense with two hits each. Chavez, the leadoff hitter, was one-for-four with a run and two RBIs in the opening-game win, and Reiter was one-for-three with a double, which was the Red Storm’s only extra-base hit of the afternoon.