NDSU holds the #3 seed, faces Kansas City at Summit League Tourney
The Bison softball team returned to Tharaldson Park on Friday afternoon, just five days following their series against UND. Coming into Fargo to close the regular season was the Omaha Mavericks. With a sweep of the Mavericks, the Bison would slide into second place going into the Summit League Tournament next week.
Late surge puts Omaha over NDSU 7-1 in series-opener
Making her 100th career start in a Bison uniform, Paige Vargas toed the rubber against another great pitcher in the Summit League, Omaha’s Kamryn Meyer.
Both pitchers were excellent for most of the game on Saturday afternoon. Vargas did not allow a single baserunner until the top of the fifth inning when Ava Rongisch drew a two-out walk. Those first 14 outs included a lot of pop-ups and swings and misses as Vargas sent down six Omaha batters on strikes and got seven outs through the air.
Meyer, meanwhile, was untouchable during the first trip through the lineup. The senior from Wilton, Iowa struck out nine of the first ten batters she faced until Carley Goetschius broke up her perfect game bid in the fourth with a double to deep center field.
“I think it’s good for us to see that,” NDSU Head Coach Darren Mueller said of facing a great pitcher like Meyer. “Hopefully that’s something we can take the good things and take it over to our next game.”
That was when the Bison opened the scoring as three batters later, first baseman Zoe King flared a single into right field to score Goetschius to put the Bison up 1-0.
NDSU maintained that lead until the sixth inning. After the bottom two hitters in the Omaha lineup reached, leadoff hitter Lynsey Tucker tied the game with a long single into deep right field. The Mavs then grabbed the lead as Maggie O’Brien reached on a bunt single because no one was covering first base for the Bison. That made the score 2-1.
Two batters later, Sydney Ross reached on an infield single to short to keep the rally going. That was not all as Bella Dean’s throw was offline and allowed a third run to score. Dean, who was hit in the wrist area back in the fourth inning, was removed from the game after the error for Riley Leadstrom. Vargas and the Herd would surrender no more but still trailed 3-1.
In the top of the seventh, the Mavs were back to business as they added four more runs. Centerfielder Marra Cramer led off the frame with a base hit up the middle and two batters later came around to score after an error on Chloe Woldruff.
After two more errors by the NDSU’s new shortstop, the inning was kept afloat for Sydney Ross. The Mavs’ catcher cleared the bases with a triple into right field. The Bison were retired in the bottom half of the inning to put the finishing touches on a 7-1 victory for Omaha.
The loss drops the Bison out of contention for the #2 seed in the Summit League Tournament but still needed wins to maintain the #3 seed over South Dakota.
Vargas; L (14-10) 7 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K; King 2-3 RBI
NDSU drops a 10-inning affair 3-2 in the second game of twin bill
In each of the last two games that the Bison lost, they had a 1-0 lead before their opponent made a late-game surge. That streak continued into game two of the series against Omaha as the Bison gained an early 1-0 lead before surrendering late.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Bison were able to get that 1-0 lead. Due to Dean’s absence from the lineup, Chloe Woldruff was moved up to the five spot in the order and drew a one-out walk in her first plate appearance. For the second time in five days, Woldruff stole second base on a delayed steal. Kaylee Moore then drove in her 10th run of the year drilling a ground-rule double into right-center. A little bit of déjà vu, the Bison were up early on the Mavs with Lainey Lyle in the circle.
It was not until the fourth inning that Omaha finally pushed across a run. With two outs and runners on the corners, centerfield Marra Cramer hit a weak ground ball in between Lyle and Moore. The excellent placement and Cramer’s speed allowed her to reach and tie the game at one.
The pitching duel persisted between Lyle and Sydney Nuismer for the next few innings. That is until the bottom of the sixth.
With one down, designated player Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage broke the tie with a solo shot into left field. Despite strong winds, the Tucson, Ariz. native muscled her sixth home run of the season and first at Tharaldson Park to give the Herd a late 2-1 lead.
NDSU’s Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage delivers a hit on Friday afternoon at Tharaldson Park. Aguilar-Beaucage homered in the sixth inning of game two to give the Bison a 2-1 lead. However, the Mavericks swept the Bison in the doubleheader by scores of 7-1 and 3-2. Photo Courtesy | Zach Lucy
After the solo dinger, the Bison looked to add a few insurance runs. After first baseman Zoe King laced a base hit up the middle, Chloe Woldruff snuck a double past Omaha left fielder, Sophie Cerveny. While King was being held up at third, Woldruff kept her head down and sped towards past second. The Bison right fielder was then tagged out for the second out of the inning. Moore then flew out ending the prospect of added cushion for NDSU.
“I think it’s why we weren’t able to win because we still had so many mistakes,” Mueller stated. “If it was defense or baserunning or whatever. Just those little things that way.”
In the top of the seventh, the Mavericks made the Bison pay for their missed opportunity. Leading off the inning, first baseman Alex Olson hit her first home run of the season to tie the game up 2-2. Following the solo shot into left, Omaha tried to put together a little rally, but Lyle induced a flyout to centerfield to end the inning.
Both Lyle and Nuismer remained dominant in the circle, and it was not until the 10th inning that Omaha finally came through with a clutch hit. With Sydney Ross on third, Marra Cramer came through again with another RBI hit. The freshman centerfielder drilled a pitch past a diving Skylar Padgett at second and into centerfield to give Omaha a 3-2 lead.
That would be all Nuismer would need as she shut down the Bison in the bottom of the 10th. The win extended Omaha’s winning streak to 11 games and dropped NDSU to 28-19 on the season and 12-8 in the Summit League.
“We just have to be smarter,” Mueller said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot both games.”
Lyle: L (12-7); 10 IP, 13 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K; Woldruff; 2-3 R 2B, BB, SB
Bison stave off sweep with 3-0 victory on Senior Day
Prior to the series finale between Omaha and NDSU, the Bison honored their seniors who were appearing in their final home game at Tharaldson Park. Kaylee Moore, Paige Vargas, Skylar Padgett, Aba Turner, Carley Goetschius, and Lainey Lyle were those celebrated before the contest.
Needing to avoid a sweep, the Herd hoped to send their seniors off with a win going into the Summit League Tournament. Leading the charge was senior pitcher Paige Vargas. After a tough end to game one on Friday, Vargas returned to the circle in dominant fashion as she shut out the Mavericks in her final career home game.
NDSU pitcher Paige Vargas reacts to a strikeout of an Omaha Maverick on Saturday afternoon at Tharaldson Park. Vargas collected her 15th win of the season in her final appearance at home for the Bison. Photo Courtesy | Zach Lucy
Throughout the game, Vargas allowed just four hits. All those hits came in the first three innings. Thanks to a couple of line-drive double plays, Vargas was able to escape the first two innings unscathed.
With the #2 seed already locked up, Omaha decided to rest both Kamryn Meyer and Sydney Nuismer. Instead, they started junior Abby Flanagan who was making just her second appearance in Summit League play this season.
The Bison finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth thanks to the core of their order. The inning was started with a single by Carley Goetschius and a double from Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage which set up Zoe King. The freshman cashed in with her fifth hit of the series as she drove in each runner with a single to left field to give NDSU a 2-0 lead.
With just one strikeout through the first four innings, Vargas started to rack up the Ks in the fifth and sixth. Vargas struck out four consecutive Omaha batters and had a stretch where she retired ten straight hitters.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Bison scored an insurance run they were unable to score in game two. Aguilar-Beaucage got the inning started with another double to the wall in center field. Three batters later, Chloe Woldruff came through with an RBI single into left center. Heading into the final inning, the Bison now had a 3-0 lead for their pitcher.
“We didn’t come through on that yesterday and today we did,” Mueller said. “We didn’t need it, but it was nice just for us to come through. That’s something building off yesterday we did a good job with.”
In the top of the seventh, Vargas surrendered her first baserunner since the third inning by way of a leadoff walk. However, Emilee Buringa nullified that quickly. After flagging down a flyball in center, she doubled off Sydney Ross at first to complete the double play
That terrific play ended up being the end of the day for Vargas as Mueller gave her a curtain call and brought Lainey Lyle in for one final bow as well.
“I think what both Paige and Lainey have done for our program, for us in the last four to five years have been incredible,” Mueller said of his senior pitchers. “It was cool for Paige to get that and I’m glad Lainey got some of that as well too at the end.”
Three pitches later, Lyle got Marra Cramer to fly out to the wall in left to clinch the 3-0 victory. The Bison improved to 29-19 on the season and 13-8 in the Summit League with the victory.
The win also secured the #3 seed in the Summit League Tournament for North Dakota State. The Bison will play the #6 seed, the Kansas City Roos on Wednesday, May 10th, at 4:30 p.m. The tournament in Brookings, S.D. will run from May 10-13. If the Bison beat the Roos, they will then play Omaha in the next round.
“I’ll probably feel better once I hear about the injuries,” Mueller admitted. “I think once we find out where everybody’s at each day will probably help us a little bit too as we get into the conference tournament.”
Vargas; W (15-10); 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Aguilar-Beaucage; 2-3 2 R, 2 2B; King; 2-3, 2 RBI