Saint Martin’s falls, 7-5, to Dixie State in NCAA West Regional softball opener

The offense and run production Saint Martin’s softball coach Rick Noren hoped to see came too little, too late.

Blame Mother Nature, in part, for that.

First, lightning delayed the start of the Saints’ NCAA Division II West Regional softball opener by two hours, then lightning made for two additional in-game postponements, in the first and fifth innings.

Did it have an effect on his team’s offensive rhythm? Yes, Noren said, particularly the mentally side with the in-game delays adding up to more than an hour.

But did it affect the game’s outcome?

“It’s hard to say, but I think so,” Noren said after Saint Martin’s 7-5 loss to No. 2 seed and host Dixie State on Thursday night in St. George, Utah. “It’s really difficult to be at the ballpark for that many hours (eight in all).”

The seventh-seeded Saints (41-19) now play Chico State, which lost, 8-1, to Cal Baptist on Thursday, in a loser-out game at 12:30 p.m. (PDT) Friday.

SMU trailed 7-0 entering the seventh inning as Mary Dettling’s fourth-inning single accounted for the team’s only hit off pitcher Michelle Duncan. But the Saints erupted for five runs in the seventh, including four runs with two outs.

After fouling off five consecutive pitches, Dettling smacked an RBI single that made it a 7-2 game. A Dixie State fielding error scored Jackie Schmaeling from third base, and Sam Munger’s two-RBI single made it 7-5.

“Our kids came off the bench and executed the game plan that we put in place all along,” Noren said. “That was really exciting to see and have the energy to see really tough at-bats.”

Munger was the final batter Duncan faced, as the Saints’ second-leading hitter, Taviah Jenkins, was due up. Aryn Feickert struck out Jenkins looking with two runners on to end the game.

Munger, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference co-player of the year and GNAC pitcher of the year, left after 51/3 innings, allowing seven runs (all earned) on 11 hits, with six strikeouts.

“She did a very good job,” Noren said. “We have to play better defense. We gave them way too many opportunities.”