For the first time in 2017, the North Dakota State softball team got to play at the Ellig Sports Complex in Fargo.
Despite the comforts of home, the Bison struggled against the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Jaguars. The Jags controlled game one and came back in game two on Saturday. It was a 3-1 and 11-9 wins for the visiting team.
The Bison’s ace Jacquelyn Sertic took the mound and pitched well. The only issue was the Jaguar’s batters were better on this occasion.
“IUPUI just played better today,” Bison head coach Darren Mueller said after the games.
Sertic was roughed up early, surrendering a two-run home run to third baseman Taylor Chitwood in the first inning. Chitwood’s fourth of the season put the Bison in a hole they could not climb out of.
Keeping the Bison in the hole was IUPUI starting pitcher Erica Tharp. The sophomore was on for the Jags, as NDSU quickly learned.
NDSU got a solo base runner in the first two innings, but could muster nothing more. The Bison did not have the luxury of having a single base runner in the next two frames.
“We were swinging at bad pitches,” Mueller said. “She did not get many strikeouts, but that didn’t mean much.”
While the bats failed to catch fire, Sertic managed to regain her form and keep the Jaguar hitters at bay. She amassed six strikeouts through the opening five innings.
The Bison’s breakthrough came in bottom of the fifth, getting two hits off Tharp. Julia Luciano opened the inning with ground ball single.
Following a sacrifice bunt by Tabby Heinz, Luciano came on home on a Madyson Camacho double. It was the freshman’s third RBI on the season and the Bison were back in touching distance.
Touching distance until the first pitch in the top of the sixth.
Roni Patterson restored the two-run lead, taking Sertic out of the park.
Nickole Finch took over on the mound for Tharp for the bottom half of the inning. Finch did not surrender a hit in two innings to compile the save.
For game two, the Bison sent KK Leddy to the mound, who, like Sertic in game one, was roughed up in the first.
The first four Jaguar batters reached base and two runs scored before Leddy worked out of the bases loaded situation.
But in the top of the first, the Bison bats came alive. With Finch on the mound, Stephanie Soriano took the second pitch over the right center wall. It was the first collegiate home run for the freshman.
Two batters later, sophomore Vanessa Anderson hit her team’s leading eighth home run to the same spot as Soriano.
Madyson Camacho and Zoe Stavrou each knocked in a run in the second to extend the lead. The situation called for Tharp to come out of the bullpen to pitch to Anderson.
Anderson saw one pitch before figuring out Tharp. The ball sailed over the centerfield fence for Anderson’s second home run of the game. It was the sophomore’s second multi-home run game this season, stretching the lead to 6-2.
A pair of runs for the Jaguars in the third and another pair in the fifth tied the game and set up a grandstand finish.
The Bison looked to be the ones to tilt the game in the bottom of the sixth. A pair of one-out hits by Soriano and Camacho followed by a walk by Anderson loaded the bases for Bre Beatty. The right fielder popped a high fly in foul territory that was caught to end the threat.
NDSU paid for leaving the bases loaded in the seventh and final frame. Sertic, who replaced Leddy in the third, allowed six of the first seven batters on base.
A Patterson line down the left field line plated two, as did Mandy Dallas’ line drive up the middle. By the end of the seventh, IUPUI led 11-6.
NDSU attempted a comeback with just three outs remaining.
Montana DeCamp had a leadoff double and scored, along with Julia Luciano, on Tabby Heinz’s double. The lead was cut to two on Soriano’s second home run of the day. The solo shot made Soriano the 16th player to have a multi-home run game, tying the school record.
“We know that Steph has power, it was good to see her get home runs,” Mueller said.
It was not enough as Sertic took her second loss of the day, dropping to 11-17. NDSU’s record is now 15-23 (3-2 Summit League). Game three of the series was Sunday afternoon.
The team will travel to Grand Forks on Tuesday to take on UND before returning back to the Ellig Sport Complex for a three-game set against South Dakota on Friday and Saturday.