It all materialized in a matter of two and a half weeks for future North Dakota State pitcher Jacquelyn Sertic.
Despite being a three-time all-state selection and tossing a perfect game in high school, Sertic, from Sparks, Nevada, didn’t have a single Division I offer to speak of. That was until North Dakota State softball coach Darren Mueller visited Nevada four years ago.
NDSU struck gold in the Silver State thanks in large measure to the old adage, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” While in Nevada recruiting right fielder Bre Beatty, Mueller stumbled upon Sertic.
Sertic and Beatty played for the same travel softball team based out of Las Vegas. With only two returning pitchers on the roster, one of whom was a senior, Mueller needed to add another hurler.
“Darren basically said, ‘Hey, we need a pitcher, so why don’t you come up for a visit?'” Sertic recalled. With her only interest coming from a Division II school in New York, NDSU quickly became her only serious consideration. “So I came up for a visit, and they made me an offer. Seventeen days later, I said, ‘I want to be a Bison.’ I’ve never looked back since.”
Since making the decision to come to Fargo, Sertic has blossomed into the Summit League’s best pitcher. Her 1.70 earned run average (ERA) is more than half that of the nearest pitcher in the conference, and her 234 strikeouts are nearly 100 more than the closest pitcher this season. Sertic also leads the Summit League with 20 wins and is a major reason NDSU has allowed the fewest runs in the conference.
What’s most remarkable about Sertic’s rise from lightly recruited high schooler to ace is her upward trajectory. As a freshman, the Nevada native — she is quick to point out its pronounced without an ‘h’ — tallied a 3.57 ERA in 20 appearances. That mark has steadily improved to its current conference best sub-two mark. Her strikeout-to-walk ratio has more than doubled since her first season to over five this year.
“I really just think I’ve found my identity,” Sertic said. “It’s been a lot of development, mentally and physically, into a more collegiate player rather than a high school athlete.”
A major component of her mental acuity stems from her approach on the mound. Sertic keeps a short memory, saying, “Nothing matters except for the next pitch. I can’t control the pitch behind me. I can’t control the pitch after.”
Aiding in her climb was the presence of another prolific NDSU hurler: Krista Menke. The two played for the Bison in Sertic’s freshman year, and now Sertic threatens Menke’s career marks in innings pitched and strikeouts.
“I played with Krista for one year, so I know how she pitched,” Sertic remarked. “She was a tiger on the mound: fearless and she attacked everything. The last three years I’ve tried to do everything that she does in hopes that I can be as good as she was.”
Menke’s help gave Sertic the opportunity to grow, and now Sertic hopes she can do the same to give younger pitchers “shoulders to stand on.”
Sertic has earned a place on the All-Summit League first team for two consecutive years and will add a third this year, but the team achievements are her priority. The pre-med student has also been a Summit League All-Academic team honoree twice.
“Really, the only thing that we focus on is the conference tournament,” she stated. “The individual awards are great, but in reality it doesn’t really matter if we don’t get a conference W.”
One of four seniors, Sertic is the Bison’s star and leader. “I take pride in being a leader for my teammates on the mound and being someone they can look to when they’re doubtful and someone they can lean on,” she explained.
NDSU currently sits second in the Summit League standings with Western Illinois at the top of the pack due to strong conference play. Still, the Bison are the conference’s team to beat, having won the league title in each of Sertic’s three seasons.
With Jacquelyn Sertic toeing the rubber, the Bison have what no other team in the Summit League can claim: the ace that everyone missed.