Herd wins two in rain-shortened series
The North Dakota State University softball team (22-17, 4-4 Summit) swept a double-header from the Kansas City Roos (8-25, 4-4 Summit) on Saturday at Tharaldson Park in Fargo. Led by pitching performances from Paige Vargas in game one and Lainey Lyle in game two, the Bison swept the Roos by scores of 1-0 and 4-1, respectively. The third game of the series, scheduled for Sunday, was canceled due to rain.
Vargas was never truly threatened in her complete-game shutout win in Game 1. Scattering three hits and a walk over seven innings, Vargas moved to 11-8 on the season, while striking out seven Roos.
The Herd scored their lone run in the bottom of the second. With two out, designated player Reanna Rudd walked. Avery Wysong, the catcher, then singled to centerfield. Kansas City centerfielder Kloe Hilbrenner misplayed the ball, allowing it to roll all the way to the centerfield fence. Rudd, advancing from first, continued on past second on the error and eventually all the way home.
The relay throw to home was late, the Bison were up 1-0 and Vargas had all the run support she would need. “We worked a lot on our running in the fall,” said Bison Head Coach Darren Mueller. “And I think it has paid off. I told them my job is to stop them. I mean really…so, we’re running until I stop them. Especially in this wind, one run might be all we get or all we need.”
It was Vargas’ third shutout of the season and the fifth for the Bison pitching staff. After the Bison gave her the run she did not get last week in the second inning, Vargas had three 1-2-3 innings and allowed only two baserunners the rest of the way on a walk and a single. “Paige did really well,” said Mueller. “She pitched well last week in Omaha but didn’t get the run she got today, and we lost 1-0. She’s kind of been our No. 1 pitcher so far and she really set the tone today.”
On the losing side, all Kansas City starting pitcher Mia Hoveland had to show for her two-hit, three strikeout performance against the Bison, was her 12th loss of the season to go against four wins.
In game two of the doubleheader, it was Lainey Lyle’s turn. Lyle, making her third Summit League start of the season, was only slightly less impressive, turning in her third consecutive complete-game win in a 4-1 victory. Lyle moved to 4-3 on the season.
The Bison opened the scoring in the bottom of the third when Emily Buringa and Molly Gates singled to put runners on first and second. Right-fielder Dez Cardenas then drove a ball deep to left-center, a ball that on any other day would have left the yard, but the wind pushed it down and towards the left-field line. Roos left fielder Katie Slauson was unable to adjust to the effects of the wind and the ball fell in and rolled to the fence. Cardenas would stop at third for a bases-clearing triple and the Bison had a 2-0 lead.
Kansas City answered in the fourth when third baseman Lexi Smith drove a Lyle pitch down the right-field line to score shortstop Allie Vonfeldt to bring the Roos within one at 2-1. However, that is all the closer Kansas City would get as the Bison scored a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning when Nicole Lycea’s two-out double scored Wysong, who had reached via a base on balls, to make the score 3-1.
The Herd would score their final run of the game in the fifth when Molly Gates followed Emily Buringa’s lead-off single with her tenth double of the season, NDSU’s third extra-base hit of the day, scoring Buringa from first base to make the final score 4-1 and chased Kansas City starter, Casey Stout, from the game.
Cardenas and Gates went 2-3 at the plate for NDSU, while Cardenas collected two RBIs. Buringa scored two of the four Bison runs. Meanwhile, Lyle spread out the five hits she gave up over her seven innings of work while striking out one and walking none.
Lyle was helped by a couple of great defensive plays by the Bison defense. In the fourth, with Kansas City already having scored one and threatening to score more, Lyle enticed Kansas City’s Marina Karnes into a tailor-made 5-3 double play when Bison third baseman Carley Goetschius fielded Karnes’ sharp grounder cleanly, stepped on third to force an out and threw over to first for the inning-ending third out.
In the fifth, with Kansas City threatening, Bison center fielder Emily Buringa doubled a Roos runner off of first to end what was starting to look like a rally for Kansas City. Buringa charged the line drive to center then, after making the catch, fired a strike to Cameryn Maykut at first to end the Kansas City threat. Stout (4-6) took the loss for the Roos while Camryn Stickel shut the Bison down after entering the game with one out in the fifth.
Lyle recognized the great defense in a post-game interview. “The team really hit the ball hard and really defended well,” said Lyle. “They made some great plays and made me look better than I did.”
Lyle is now 3-0 in the Summit League with an ERA of 1.29, winning all three games in a complete-game fashion. She appears to be returning to top form coming off of her off-season back surgery. “It’s exciting because I had to put a lot of work in, a lot of rehab in to get back on the field,” said Lyle. “I had surgery, after all, so definitely, it was hard work to get back, and it’s great to see that the hard work is paying off.”
Mueller is happy to see her back on the mound. “She’s close to being a hundred percent, but not quite there yet,” said Mueller. “But it is great to see her back out there and she is close. Even today, she did not have her best outing, but threw well enough for us to win.”
The Bison continue the home portion of Summit League play when they host Western Illinois (7-24, 3-5 Summit) for three games at Tharaldson Park this weekend. First pitches are scheduled for 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. for Friday’s doubleheader and 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Bison / Leathernecks series moved to Omaha, Neb.
Due to forecasted weather in Fargo, this weekend’s North Dakota State series versus Western Illinois has been moved to Omaha, Neb. Game times are still to be determined.