The North Dakota State softball team christened the newly renovated Ellig Sports Complex the only way they know how, with a bit of pregame dancing.
After the music was cut and the first game of the afternoon began, it was Jacquelyn Sertic’s pitches that were dancing around the strike zone. The Bison senior dominated in the first game of the afternoon as NDSU beat Fort Wayne 5-0 before repeating the score line in the second game.
Despite the change of view with the new stadium behind the plate, Sertic spent no time before throwing strikes.
Sertic needed just 16 pitches in the first frame to strike out all three Mastodons’ batters.
The Bison bats quickly followed suit. Madyson Camacho led off the inning with a hit that dropped in shallow left. Zoe Stavrou laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Camacho reached third following a Bre Beatty single. Vanessa Anderson lifted a high fly ball to right that was caught, but Camacho tagged up to open the scoring.
Sertic struck out another pair in both the second and the third. The rising fastball gave Fort Wayne hitters trouble, and the pitch was on for Sertic.
NDSU used some aggressive base running in the third and caught a break. Katie Shoultz beat out a throw for an infield hit to open the frame. On Camacho’s following sacrifice bunt, the redshirt junior dug for third and appeared to be doubled up.
However, the Fort Wayne second baseman was called for obstruction on the play, and Shoultz was ruled safe at third.
“We can create some things (with the runners) when the bats aren’t working,” Bison head coach Darren Mueller said. “You kind of take a few more chances here and there just to get a little more offense.”
Stavrou followed with a single to right to score Shoultz and double the Bison advantage.
Offensively, Fort Wayne could not figure out Sertic. In the fifth inning, Sertic picked up her 10th strikeout of the day. It was the 14th time this year the senior reached the double-digit mark.
“When things are working, it is usually what Darren is calling,” Sertic said.
Despite not needing it, Anderson added insurance in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs and runners at the corners, the junior lifted a deep shot to right field. Even with the wind blowing the ball in, it cleared the fence for a three-run home run.
It was the fifth home run for the year for Anderson, and NDSU took the 5-0 lead.
Fort Wayne threatened for the first time in the top of the sixth. Lauren Watson hit a quick ground ball past third and stood on second on a passed ball. Laxey Wilzbacher made it two runners with a sharply hit grounder to the shortstop and beat out the throw.
Sertic recovered by forcing a foul out and ended the threat by striking out Demitra Burns.
The Bison senior came out in the seventh to finish off her third consecutive complete game shutout. The Mastodons went down one-two-three.
Sertic struck out Stephanie Hanic for the second time of the contest to finish with 13 strikeouts. She improved to 20-7 on the year.
In the second game of the day, KK Leddy picked up right where Sertic left off, with zeros on the scoreboard.
But Leddy had to work for it. Fort Wayne put at least one runner on in each of the first three innings. In the third, the Mastodons left runners on the corners without scoring a run.
In the bottom half of third, the Bison’s speed came into play. Julia Luciano opened the inning with a liner to left center. The ball dropped, and the junior dug for second and slid in safely. Shoultz drew a walk, and Camacho beat out an infield single to load the bases.
Luciano came home on Stavrou’s single to open the scoring, and Beatty drew a walk to plate Shoultz.
The Bison added another run in the fourth. Camacho hit a sharp grounder down the left field line called fair that brought Jamie Barta, pinch running for Luciano, in from first.
NDSU took advantage of sloppy defense from Fort Wayne in the fifth. Anderson crushed a 3-2 pitch to right center and was in with a stand-up double.
Tabby Heinz followed with a deep shot to center that was dropped by the centerfielder. Stephanie Soriano laid down a squeeze bunt to score Anderson. The throw down to first was wide of the mark, and Heinz came in from second to make it 5-0 NDSU.
Leddy allowed just two more hits to complete the game with a shutout. Combined, Sertic and Leddy have tossed 36 straight innings without giving up a run.
“I am proud with how they have done. They have both just been working and been doing different things,” Mueller said. “It is definitely nice to see and hope it can continue.”
NDSU and Fort Wayne played a third game after press time Sunday. With the pair of wins Saturday, NDSU set up a key series with Summit League leading Western Illinois next weekend at the Ellig Sports Complex.