Rita Hokianga's Gem Lifts the Lady Buffs to National Title Game
SALEM, Virginia – The top ranked Lady Buffs of West Texas A&M found themselves down a run headed to the bottom of the fifth inning but the disciplined WT offense drove in a pair of runs with the bases loaded while junior left hander Rita Hokianga tossed a gem in the circle as the Lady Buffs topped #15 Dixie State, 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at the Moyer Sports Complex to advance to the 2014 NCAA DII National Championship Game. The Lady Buffs move to 59-7 on the year while the Red Storm end their season at 51-10.
“I though today was a classic pitcher’s duel, we really dug down and had the good part of our lineup in the fifth and these kids just find a way to win no matter the situation. The opportunity that lies before us is to play for the National Championship and we’re one of two teams in DII Softball that get the chance to say that” said WT head coach Kevin Blaskowski “I’ve been doing this for 23 years and this is my first time, I wouldn’t want to go into battle with any other group of young ladies. Valdosta State is a great team and we know that it’s going to be a war when we step between the lines tomorrow afternoon, but that’s what you expect in the national title game.”
The opening few innings turned into a pitcher’s duel as both team managed just one base hit during the first three frames as WT’s Lacey Taylor layed down a bunt single in front of the dish with one out and moved to second on a Brittany Gehle sacrifice bunt to become the first base runners for either team to move into scoring position, the inning would end with a grab in right center field on a liner by Alyssa Lemos as the teams remained tied 0-0 headed to the fourth.
Rita Hokianga continued to roll as she set the Red Storm down in order in the top of the fourth inning before the Lady Buffs threatened in the home half of the frame. Tyler Wilkinson registered a leadoff walk with a full count followed by Renee Erwin being hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs, Dixie forced a popup to left field for the first out followed by a Jessica Sipe flyout to deep left as the runners advanced to second and third. Allie Cranfill walked on a 3-1 offering to load the bases with two outs before Dixie ended the inning with a strikeout to send the teams to the fifth still tied at 0-0.
The Red Storm threatened the top of the fifth inning as Mattie Snow registered her second hit of the day with one out with a grounder thru the left side, Hokianga responded as she forced a popup to Gehle in shallow right field before Dixie plated their first run of the game with a single to Lemos at short before an errant throw to first followed by a misplayed ball at the plate let the Red Storm take the 1-0 lead to the bottom of the fifth inning.
The home half of the fifth saw Taylor register a leadoff walk followed by a flyout and a Lemos single to left center to put runners on first and second with just one out, Wilkinson tallied a bloop single over the head of Dixie State shortstop Josey Hartman to load the bases with one out before Erwin drove in a run with another hit by pitch to make it 1-1 with one out. Dacosin gave WT the lead with a bases loaded walk on a full count offering by Red Storm pitcher Aryn Feickert before Dixie State registered two strikeouts to end the inning as the Lady Buffs took the 2-1 lead into the sixth inning.
Hokianga continued her run thru the potent Red Storm batting order as the junior left hander sat Dixie State down in order in the top of the sixth inning with a groundout and a pair of flyouts, the Lady Buffs failed to add to their lead in the home half of the frame as Dixie State sat WT down in order as the head headed to the seventh inning.
The top of the seventh saw Lemos made a great play in shallow left field for the first out followed by a Red Storm single to left field, Snow continued to stay hot at the plate with her third hit of the game thru the left side to put runners on first and second with one out. Gehle made a Top-10 diving catch on a blooper behind second base for the second out followed by a walk to load the bases on a 3-1 Hokianga offering before a flyout to Wilkinson in center field on a 3-1 count ended the game with WT moving onto the NCAA DII National Title game with the 2-1 win.
The Lady Buffs continue their dream season on Monday afternoon as they square off with the #16 Blazers of Valdosta State for the 2014 NCAA Division II National Championship with first pitch set for 11 a.m. at Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, Virginia. The Blazers advanced to the title game with a 5-3 victory over Southeastern Oklahoma State earlier this afternoon.