Following a disappointing series at South Dakota State, the Bison hit the road one last time in 2023 before the Summit League Tournament. Traveling to St. Thomas for the first time in program history, Paige Vargas and the Bison sought to improve their 7-5 league record. Vargas, who has endured some ups and downs in league play, put together quite possibly her best outing of the season against a good Tommies offense in the first game of the series. In the game’s initial stages, the 5th-year senior also recorded her 500th career strikeout.
Vargas’ 14-strikeout performance guides NDSU to a 5-0 victory –
While Vargas was dominant all day, it did not come without some difficulty. After the Bison’s offensive threat in the first was aborted, the Tommies made some noise. Freshman centerfielder Avery Wukawitz led off the game with a triple to right field that put Vargas and the Herd in murky water.
However, St. Thomas, missing top hitter Brooke Ellestad, could not bring Wukawitz home. Vargas induced a pop-up to catcher Kaylee Moore and then sent down the next two batters swinging.
However, NDSU finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth as a leadoff walk by Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage was followed up by a 2-run home run to left by Bella Dean. Her Summit League-leading fifth home run and seventh of the year gave Vargas all the run support she needed.
St. Thomas threatened with their third and final hit of the day in the fifth but again left their runner stranded. Vargas then struck out the side in the sixth to guide the team into the final inning.
NDSU’s Bella Dean connects on one of her three hits against St. Thomas in game one of the three-game Summit League series in St. Paul, Minn. Dean went 3-4 with a home run and drove in three runs.
Photo Courtesy | Ben Dishong
In the top of the seventh, Chloe Woldruff led off the inning with a single to right field before the order flipped over. Followed by a walk and fielder’s choice, Aguilar-Beaucage singled to plate Buringa expanding the lead to 3-0. The following batter, Bella Dean, recorded her third hit of the game with an RBI single to right field to tack on another run. Reanna Rudd then drove in the final run of the ballgame with a sac bunt that increased the lead to 5-0 with three outs to record.
Vargas walked her first two batters of the game in the seventh but kept her composure and induced a groundout to first to complete the game. Tying a career-high in strikeouts with 14, Vargas improves to 13-8 allowing three hits and two walks against one of the top offensive teams in the league.
Six different players recorded hits for North Dakota State and the Bison drew four walks while going down on strikes just three times. The Bison would look to carry that success into game two shortly after, with Lainey Lyle in the circle.
Bella Dean; 3-4 HR, 3 RBI; Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage 1-1 2 R, 3 BB, RBI;
Paige Vargas; 7 IP – 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 14 K, 83 P
Bison shut out Tommies again 9-0 for the 25th victory of the season –
With South Dakota State running away with the #1 seed in the Summit League, the Bison could now set their sights on the #2 seed. Sitting at 8-5 on the season in league play, a win in game two of the doubleheader on Sunday would put the Bison just one game behind Omaha for the second spot.
Behind yet another Lainey Lyle shutout and 10-hit offensive performance, the Bison inched closer to Omaha while picking up their 25th win of the season, the 19th time skipper Darren Mueller has reached that mark in 22 seasons at the helm.
Following a quiet first inning, the Bison struck in the top of the second with a pair of runs. Walks by Reanna Rudd and Chloe Woldruff and a bunt single by Kaylee Moore set up leadoff hitter Emilee Buringa with two outs. The St. Charles, Minn. native came through for the first of three hits, driving in a pair of runs with a single.
After a breezy third inning, NDSU was back at it in the fourth as they tallied four runs on four hits. After a leadoff single followed by two pop-outs, the Bison were in danger of another scoreless inning. That was until Chloe Woldruff ripped an RBI triple into right field that brought in NDSU’s third run of the game.
In even bigger fashion than in the second inning, Buringa made a splash in what was a homecoming for the junior. The centerfielder connected on her fourth home run of the season, a 2-run shot, to extend the Bison lead to 5-0. The following batter, Carley Goetschius, followed that up by tying Bella Dean for the team lead in home runs with seven as she slugged a solo shot into left field. Just like that, North Dakota State blew the game open with a 6-0 lead.
Lainey Lyle continued to force soft contact and limit success for St. Thomas. The senior recorded just two strikeouts but the Tommies could only manage four hits. St. Thomas would threaten in the fourth with two on and just one out, but Lyle eluded the pressure yet again to keep the game scoreless.
In the sixth, the Bison expanded upon their large lead with three runs. After Ava Chavarria led off the inning with her second hit of the day, Woldruff and Buringa each singled as well to set up Aguilar-Beaucage. The junior then cleared the bases with a double, her seventh of the season, to expand the lead to 9-0.
Lyle never faltered throughout the game, despite facing some trouble. With runners on first and second and one out, Lyle forced Kameron Monson to tap into a 6-4-3 double play. With the eight-run rule in effect, the Bison completed the Sunday sweep with a 9-0 win.
Improving to 10-6 on the season, Lyle went the distance in the circle pitching six innings. With the shutout, she also improves her streak of consecutive innings without allowing an earned run to 32.2 innings. Lyle allowed nine runs last Monday to SDSU, but all were unearned.
After moving to 25-16 on the season and 9-5 in the Summit League, the Bison would have an opportunity to sweep the Tommies on Monday afternoon before returning home.
Lainey Lyle; 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 2 K; Emilee Buringa; 3-4 2 R, HR, 4 RBI;
Kaylee Moore; 2-3, 2 R; Chloe Woldruff; 2-2, 2 R, 3B, RBI
Dean’s 4-RBI day lifts Bison over Tommies 6-2 to complete sweep –
Coming into Monday, the Bison had not allowed a single run to one of the top-scoring offenses in all of the Summit League and were averaging seven runs per game themselves. North Dakota State looked to claim the sweep and inch just a 1/2 game behind Omaha for the second spot in the Summit League.
Paige Vargas started for North Dakota State, and she picked up right where she left off from game one on Sunday. After Avery Wukawitz led off the game with an extra-base hit, again, Vargas sent down a trio of Tommies in order with three swinging strikeouts. The senior would then pick up two more Ks in the second inning before the offense brought in the game’s first run.
In the top of the third, Chloe Woldruff recorded yet another hit with a single, and Buringa followed that up with a walk. Unfortunately, Buringa would be doubled off first on a Carley Goetschius line out immediately after. However, Aguilar-Beaucage produced her 28th and 29th RBIs of the season with a two-run home run. Her first home run in league play and fifth of the season gave NDSU a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom half of the third, the Tommies were finally able to score against the Herd to tie the game. The Tommies led off the inning with back-to-back singles and advanced each runner up a base with a sacrifice bunt. Coryn Jacobson then drove in her 17th run of the year with a sac fly to right field to get St. Thomas on the board.
Then, following a walk, Abbi Stierlen singled to left to tie the game up at two. Paige Vargas was then relieved by Lainey Lyle after 2 2/3 innings. Lyle ended the inning with a strikeout, but NDSU had work to do in the final four innings.
In the fifth inning, NDSU regained the lead thanks to the top half of their order. Carley Goetschius led off the inning with her league-leading 14th double and then advanced to third on a fly ball. Following that, cleanup-hitting shortstop Bella Dean gave NDSU a 3-2 lead with an RBI single into centerfield to score Goetschius.
Lyle held the Tommies at bay for the next two innings and the rest of the game for that matter. By doing so, she also extends her streak of consecutive innings without allowing an earned run to 37 innings.
In the top of the seventh, the NDSU offense gave their star pitcher even more leeway with a three-run inning. A single and walk by Buringa and Aguilar-Beaucage, respectively, set up Dean yet again with an RBI opportunity. She delivered by hitting her 8th home run of the season and second of the series. The 3-run shot ballooned the Bison lead from 3-2 to 6-2 with one swing of the bat.
That ended the NDSU scoring, but the Tommies’ bats had no answer with their backs against the wall as they went down quickly in the seventh. Lyle picked up the win for the second game in a row and improved to 11-6 on the season. In 4 1/3 innings, she allowed four hits, no runs, three walks, and two strikeouts.
The sweep puts the Bison in third place in the Summit League at 10-5, a 1/2 game behind Omaha for second place. For the series, the Bison outscored the Tommies 20-2 and outhit them 27-16. NDSU also struck out just seven times for the entire three-game series.
Lainey Lyle; 4.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 2 K; Bella Dean; 2-4 HR, 4 RBI;
Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage; 2-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB; Emilee Buringa; 2-3, R, BB
North Dakota State will be back on the field Saturday, April 29 against UND for their home opener at Tharaldson Park. The Bison and Hawks will play a doubleheader on Saturday starting at noon and finish the series on Sunday at 11 a.m. Student tickets are available at GoBison.com/Students.
Saturday’s games will be broadcast on WDAY Xtra and the first and third games of the series can also be found on the radio on BISON 1660/92.7 FM.