College Sports

Stanislaus confident heading to Dixie State

TURLOCK — Everything is sunshine and roses for the Cal State Stanislaus softball team, and there are no tinted glasses in sight.

For the second consecutive weekend, the Warriors are on the road, confident they can win another regional series and return to the Division II National Championships.

Where playing in Arcata last weekend was seen as a plus for its familiarity — it's the home of California Collegiate Athletic Association opponent Humboldt State — flying to St. George, Utah, for the West Super Regional against Dixie State is viewed positively for its freshness.

"There's a feeling that it's something special," Stanislaus coach Jan Schefkowitz said.

If the Warriors continue to play the way they did at the West Sub-Regional Tournament six days ago, they're sure they can win the best-of-3 series that begins today at 10 a.m.

A series win and the next stop would be Salem, Va., and the second Division II championship appearance in three years for Stanislaus.

"I think we're playing better now because we know our season is coming to an end," senior pitcher Jessica Gaumnitz said. "It makes every game that much more exciting."

The Warriors overcame long odds at the West Sub-Regional, defeating Sonoma State twice on Sunday after losing to the Seawolves the day before.

Stanislaus beat defending national champion Humboldt State and opened the tournament with a win over Montana State-Billings, despite playing without starting third baseman Erica McIntyre.

The junior leadoff hitter's head cold developed into a full-blown case of bronchitis during the bus ride north, and she spent the opening day of the tournament in bed with a fever.

Some rest and antibiotics made McIntyre feel well enough to get back on the field, and she hit a two-run homer in an 8-0 rout of Humboldt State.

"No drug is going to make you better in a day," said McIntyre, who still has some lingering effects of her illness. "As long as I didn't have the fever, I felt well enough to be out there for the team; to get balls hit back to me at third and confident I could hit.

"It felt great to be able to contribute against Humboldt. We win as a team. But I felt like it was my win, too."

It seems unfathomable that anything could flatten the Warriors' energy. Gaumnitz said she could tell Stanislaus would advance based on its momentum, while the Sonoma State dugout was quiet.

Extending the season was exhilarating for the Warriors and Gaumnitz, who is three strikeouts away from beating her single-season school record (140).

As pleased as she is with her collegiate résumé — she holds three school records and has a career-low 1.69 ERA this season — Gaumnitz is soft-spoken and happier talking about her teammates.

The Warriors are looking for more of what got them to Utah. While the environment is unfamiliar, the opponent is no mystery.

Stanislaus (34-19) defeated Dixie State 6-0 at its Tournament of Champions at Pedretti Park five weeks ago.

Schefkowitz expects a little knowledge to go a long way.

"They're a fast team," Schefkowitz said of the Red Storm. "They're very aggressive on the basepaths. We have to be sharp."

Dixie State (39-10) has only played eight games since losing to Stanislaus on April 3. The Red Storm placed second in the Pacific West Conference, finishing play April 11.

Stanislaus has played 21 games in that same time period, with one week off between the end of the CCAA season and the West Sub-Region Tournament last weekend.

This is Dixie State's third year as an NCAA program after upgrading from community college status, and first year as postseason eligible.

The Red Storm, which was ranked as high as 10th in the nation this season, is 22-2 at home.

McIntyre said the setting doesn't matter. "We're focused on going to nationals," she said.

For live play-by-play of today's game, visit www.warriorathletics.com.

Bee staff writer Kelly Jones can be reached at 578-2300 or kjones@modbee.com. Read Jones' blog at thehive.modbee.com/pointafter.

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