Dixon pitches no-hitter as Smyrna edges St. Georges 1-0 to reach softball semifinals

Payton Dixon (Delaware State News file photo)

SMYRNA — Payton Dixon wasn’t Smyrna High’s starting pitcher a year ago.

But the freshman faced her share of pressure situations as a late-inning reliever for the softball state champion Eagles.

All of which helped prepare her for moments like this.

With No. 2 Smyrna locked in a pitcher’s dual with 10th-seeded St. Georges, Dixon delivered a no-hitter as the Eagles blanked the Hawks, 1-0, to return to the state semifinals on Saturday afternoon.

St. Georges’ only two baserunners came on a pair of walks as the sophomore left-hander struck out seven while facing just 23 batters in the complete-game win.

The hard-earned victory gives Smyrna (17-2) a rematch with No. 3 Delaware Military (20-0) on Wednesday at a time and site TBA. The Seahawks beat the Eagles, 7-2, on May 6.

“She can handle high-pressure situations,” Smyrna coach Nicki Shirey said about Dixon. “I think she actually does better. There’s less to think about — just throw the ball hard. She did that and she hit her spots today.”

Nicki-Shirey

“Since it was such a tight going, I just knew I had to keep throwing and trust my defense behind me,” said Dixon. “Being the main pitcher is a lot more pressure than coming in behind her (last year’s starter Jessica Anderson). I just wanted to stay focused.”

After a fifth-inning walk, Dixon retired the final eight batters she faced, including three by strikeout.

But Smyrna needed Dixon to be her best because St. Georges’ pitcher Samantha Carbonara was almost as tough to hit.

The senior allowed just three hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

The two walks came against the Eagles’ leadoff batters to start the game. When Sara Miller then lined a pitch into the left-centerfield gap, it looked like Smyrna would break through early.

But the Hawks’ left fielder, Rebecca Sterling, made a great diving catch. She then got up and threw to second for a rally-killing double play.

Finally, in the fourth, Smyrna found a way to get on the scoreboard. Miller reached base when she lined a pitch back at Carbonara, who had the ball for an instant but couldn’t hang on.

A passed ball moved Miller to second before Julia Thur dropped a single over the third baseman’s head and inside the foul line to bring home Miller.

“Basically, I just knew I had to hit it,” said Thur, a junior first baseman. “I had to get it down. There was a runner on second, it was time. I didn’t hit it as well as I wanted to, of course, but it got the job done.”

Smyrna’s only other hits came from Zoe Wilcox and Alexis Moore.

The Eagles know that runs will probably be tough to come by against DMA, which topped Indian River, 1-0, on Saturday. The Seahawks have posted 12 shutouts this season with four in a row going into Wednesday’s semifinals.

Smyrna is anxious to get another chance, though.

“We’re a hitting team,” said Shirey. “And the first time we faced them this season, we were flat that day. They don’t really care who we have to face.”

“I think that definitely wasn’t our team,” Thur said about the first game with DMA. “And we know that. We’re ready to play them.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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