A Hope College softball team fueled by youth and experience shut out Calvin College 2-0 on Monday to capture a regional championship in the NCAA Division III Tournament and advance to this weekend's Super Regional.
The 17th-ranked Flying Dutch will play Case Western Reserve (Ohio) at home for a spot in the May 24-29 national championship in Oklahoma City.
Photo of Noelle Jackson by Lynne Powe
Hope (33-10 overall) beat the Knights twice on Monday at Wolters Stadium, including a 9-6 Game 1 victory.
"I told them at the start of the day, 'Let our love for each other be what drives our effort today,'" head coach Mary VandeHoef said. "I want to practice with this team tomorrow. Let's play for that, another day, another week. It's been a special season."
The Flying Dutch set a school record for most wins in a single season while adding to their growing list of accomplishments. The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament champions surpassed the 2006 Hope team that finished 32-14.
Dixon, a shortstop from Niles, Michigan (Edwardsburg HS), propelled Hope to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning by following a two-out walk by senior designated player Katie Singer of Howell, Michigan (Hartland) with a two-run hit to left.
"Getting a lead in the first or second inning is huge for a pitcher. It allows me to settle in," said Jones, the righthander from South Lyon, Michigan (East). "Going through that game I have so much confidence in my defense. All around just making amazing plays for me. I give up a huge hit to left-center, and Jo comes up with a huge catch (at the warning track)."
Calvin pitcher Ellie Borst held the Flying Dutch to just one hit after the first inning, but Jones (20-5) outdueled her.
Hope's first 20-game winner blanked the Knights (32-10) on three hits for her ninth shutout of the season and the school-record 24th of her career.
Jones struck out six — extending her career school record to 709 strikeouts the most by a Flying Dutch pitcher. She allowed four baserunners, including one hit by pitch. No Calvin runner advanced past second.
With her 54th career win, Jones broke a tie with Lisa Larzelere (1996-99) for most wins all-time by a Hope pitcher.
Jones was named the regional's Most Outstanding Player. She headlined a 10-player all-tournament team that included Dixon, junior centerfielder Noelle Jackson of Grand Blanc, Michigan (Grand Blanc), senior second baseman Sierra Mutschler of Wayland, Michigan (Wayland), and senior catcher Hayley Reitsma of Grand Rapids, Michigan (Grand Rapids Christian), Calvin's Jessica Brosser, Kelsey Frank, Anna Gernant, and Kristen Newman, and Franklin's Natalie Weber.
The Flying Dutch are advancing to their first Super Regional in the current NCAA format. They previously advanced to the national quarterfinals in 1995 and 1991.