Bison, Leddy open Tharaldson Park with no-hitter

NDSU see streak snapped at new field

Cara Beatty breaks out of the batter’s box against SDSU on Sunday.

Sometimes it seems that there is no good way to combat Mother Nature, but the North Dakota State softball team now has a trick up its sleeve.

The new Tharaldson Park’s turf surface got a workout ahead of its game debut, with a half-foot of snow getting dumped on the field 48 hours before the scheduled first pitch. Given an extra 24 hours, the surface was clear and good to roll for an opening duel that the Bison eventually won 5-0.

With South Dakota State in town, an opening duel is exactly what the field got, even if the base paths were still shining after the opening game.

“We are excited, excited to have a crowd. We haven’t had a crowd that big before,” Bison pitcher KK Leddy said. “If we didn’t have this, we wouldn’t be playing here (due to the weather).”

The 308 fans on a cold and windy afternoon witnessed a pitcher’s duel break out among two of the best this year in the Summit League, Leddy and the Jackrabbits’ Kendra Conard.

Leddy set the tone in the top half of the first inning, taking just eight pitches to sit down the first three Jacks, putting up a pair of strikeouts in the process.

Conard followed by allowing a flood of ground balls, retiring seven Bison with groundouts the first time through the lineup.

South Dakota State’s Baily Janssen took the honor of being the first baserunner at the park, drawing a walk from Leddy in the top of the third.

Conard’s bid toward perfection was broken in the fourth. Bison left fielder Madyson Camacho hit a sharp ground ball to Janssen that the second baseman couldn’t handle. The play was ruled an error, but the Bison had their first baserunner.

Nothing came of the runner, and zeroes occupied the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth. Conard started to struggle in the circle, hitting Montana DeCamp with a pitch to start the action. Katie Shoultz got a home turf spin on the infield the following at-bat. Camacho reached on an error by Conard to load the bases.

Zoe Stavrou hit in the first run in the new park with a grounder to short that allowed DeCamp to score when the catcher could not complete the play at the plate. Maddie Hansen and Cara Beatty knocked in two each, and the Bison had a five-run lead.

For the second time this season, Leddy carried a no-hitter into the seventh. This time the senior closed the deal, registering her fifth strikeout of the day on Megan Rushing to seal the 31st no-hitter in program history.

“I didn’t realize I was throwing it until the sixth inning,” Leddy said. “That last pitch, Maddie (Hansen) got really excited, and I was like, ‘Whoa, I just threw a no-hitter.’”

Another pitchers’ duel broke out in the second game of the afternoon. Paige Vargas stepped to the mound for the Bison and held the Jackrabbits at bay for the 1-0 victory.

The Jacks had runners on base in each inning, but they stranded 10 runners in the game.

Otherwise, action was few and far between. NDSU tallied the only run of the game in the third. Vanessa Anderson opened the inning with a stand-up double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. DeCamp hit into a fielder’s choice, but the throw to the plate was off the mark, allowing Anderson to score.

The Jacks threatened in the final frame. Vargas allowed the first two batters to reach, but the Bison defense came up clutch. Camacho charged in hard to make a shoestring catch on Julia Andersen and fired quickly to second for the double play.

Vargas struck out Rushing to end the game with the shutout, her third of the year.

“Sure, the pitcher gets the credit, but you can’t get a shutout without the defense,” Vargas said.

A rainy Monday saw an even longer delay to the action, pushing the game back further four hours. Once the sun came out, the Jacks flipped the script, breaking the Bison’s 20-game win streak with a 6-2 score line.

SDSU got off the line in the second inning, with Lyndsey Crist opening the frame with a double and scoring three batters later on a throwing error.

NDSU put up one run in each of the following two innings, with Camacho and Anderson hitting RBI singles.

But the lead would not last, as the Jacks got to Leddy in the sixth. With the bases loaded, Rushing cleared them all with a double to give the Jacks back the lead. SDSU added two more in the seventh, and Conard kept the Bison bats quiet for the win.

The loss was the first Summit League loss for the Bison this season, but the Herd stay near the top of the league standings. Next up is a three-game series in Vermillion against league leader South Dakota in the final road series for the Bison.

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