Friday afternoon at Triton Ballpark, the Red Storm won Game Four of the NCAA West Baseball Regional by defeating Sonoma State, 6-5.
Dixie State improved to 36-16 on the year coming out triumphant in a game that saw three lead changes. Sonoma State dropped to 27-18, ending their season with two straight losses in the Regional and four consecutive defeats overall.
The Storm struck in the first inning for the second consecutive day when Tyler Blair laced a single to right field scoring Drew McLaughlin.
Abrath battled through his first inning to leave the bags full of Seawolves. Sonoma State would score three runs to take their only lead with a two-run single followed by another run-scoring hit. Abrath would settle down and retire 12 of the next 15 batters.
Johnson brought the Storm within a run, 3-2, with his first career home run for Dixie State. He tomahawked an elevated pitch over the wall in left field for a two-out solo shot.
The tide ultimately turned in DSU's favor in the fifth inning. With one out, Yuto Kata pulled a single through the left side. A pair of successive walks to Kevin Kline and Blair set a bases-loaded stage for Kris Kaplan. On a 1-1 pitch, Kaplan drove a ball deep the right-center field that bounced off the fence scoring two for a 4-3 lead. Two wild pitches from two different SSU pitchers plated a couple of runs to cap a four-run frame.
Abrath (8-1) would pitch into the seventh inning and hand the ball to southpaw Taylor Stone. His strikeout to end the inning left a runner stranded. Stone began the eighth frame allowing a single and inducing a ground out. Matt Hill entered to face a right-handed pinch hitter. After a fly ball that advanced the lead runner to third, Hill allowed an RBI single to allow Sonoma State within two runs, 6-4.
DSU turned to Evan Parker after maintaining its two-run cushion entering the ninth. Parker, who had not pitched in a save situation since April 26 and not thrown in a game since May 2, looked rattled early. He put two on with a single and a walk. After a fly ball to center advanced a runner to third, Parker allowed an RBI single through the right side. SSU put the tying run at third and potential go-ahead runner at second with a double steal. But Parker (13), as the top save man in the PacWest this year, froze his final batter on a curveball for the game-ending strikeout.
The Storm won the hit battle 12 to 11 thanks to multi-hit game from McLaughlin, Kata, Kline, Kaplan and Johnson.
NCAA Regional play continues Saturday at 3 p.m. for Dixie State. The opponent is to be determined. If Cal Poly Pomona defeats UC San Diego to avoid elimination, the Broncos and Storm will tangle. If CPP loses, Dixie State will get the loser of Friday night's matchup between Chico State and California Baptist.
NOTES: This was the first ever baeball meeting between the schools since Dixie State became a NCAA school ... The 36th win is a new single-season high in the Division II era, the Storm fininshed with 35 wins in Mike Littlewood's last season (2012)