Bison win three of four games in Mississippi to close non-conference play

North Dakota State stays hot with 2-0 win over Mississippi State behind Vargas’ 1-hit shutout

Following a five-game slate at the Gopher Indoor Classic last weekend in which they won four out of five games, the Bison were set to take on Utah on Tuesday at the Idaho State Tournament. However, those games were canceled due to inclement weather. The Herd was able to make up four of those six games with a pair of midweek games in Starkville, Miss. against Mississippi State and Purdue before two games at the Rebel Invitational in Oxford, Miss. In the first outing against Mississippi State, the Bison shut out the Bulldogs behind the best outing of Paige Vargas’ already great season.

Not only was Vargas great inside the circle on Tuesday but so was her counterpart Matalasi Faapito. The first time through the order Faapito did not allow a single Bison player to reach base and struck out seven of the first nine hitters.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs recorded their only two baserunners of the game during that stretch. An error allowed one to reach in the 2nd while a double, the only Bulldog hit of the day, boarded another runner in the 3rd. Neither runner threatened to cross the plate as Vargas ended each frame with a strikeout.

The second time through the order fared much better for the Herd as they were finally able to put the bat on the ball in the top of the fourth. Emilee Buringa led off the inning with a single and wound up at third after a groundout and passed ball. With two outs, 1st baseman Reanna Rudd came through with an RBI single up the middle for the game’s first run.

The lone run would be all Vargas would need the rest of the way. Vargas was perfect in the final four innings as she retired the last 14 batters she faced. In her last start against Idaho State on Sunday, Vargas had one of her best starts of the season by allowing just one earned run in a complete-game effort, but she bested that effort on Tuesday. For the game, Vargas pitched a full seven innings allowing just one hit, no runs, or walks while striking out seven on an efficient 90 pitches. This is the first of Vargas’ four career one-hitters where she did not allow a walk.

NDSU pitcher Paige Vargas delivers a pitch last week for the Bison. Vargas collected back-to-back complete-game victories during the road trip to Mississippi. The Bison begin Summit League play this weekend in Kansas City against the Kansas City Roos. Photo Courtesy | Rick Claus

Two innings later in the top of the sixth, the Herd would add another run that was also started by a Buringa single. While the centerfielder was eventually forced out on a fielder’s choice, the Bison still had two on when Kaylee Moore stepped into the box. The catcher came through with an RBI single to right field that brought Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage across the plate. The extra run gave Vargas more cushion as her team now held a 2-0 advantage.

Vargas sent down her last six batters handily, the last of which popped out to Aguilar-Beaucage to end the game. The win was the fourth in a row for Head Coach Darren Mueller and the Herd and their seventh in their last eight games. NDSU’s next game on this trip was against Purdue.

Bison win streak ends at four with 2-1 loss to Purdue

Over the last 9 games, prior to Wednesday, the only opponent the Bison softball team lost to was the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the Big Ten Conference. While the Herd narrowly fell to Minnesota in the Gopher’s own city, it did not stop them from continuing their tear. The loss may have ended the four-game win streak, but that did not stop them from embarking on another. However, this streak also ended on Wednesday afternoon to another Big Ten opponent, the Purdue Boilermakers, in a game that went down to the wire.

North Dakota State’s Lainey Lyle and Purdue’s Alex Echazarreta were each dealing shutouts through the first four innings. However, that did not come without adversity. In the top of the first, the Bison got their first two runners aboard with a walk and an infield single. After a bunt moved the runners up, both runners were stranded following a lineout to shortstop and a flyout to centerfield.

Purdue then made some noise on the basepaths, putting a runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings, but Lyle was quickly able to retire the side. The Herd put two aboard with no outs yet again, but a pair of flyouts and a groundout ended the inning.

In the top of the fifth inning, the Bison were finally able to execute and bring their first and only run in to score. Following a leadoff single, Skylar Padgett was moved over to second on a sac bunt. Two batters later, Carley Goetschius came through and brought in the game’s first run with an RBI single to left.

In the bottom half of the inning, Purdue responded in similar fashion. After a leadoff double, the Boilermakers had a runner at second with two down. Jordyn Ramos, Purdue’s #2 hitter in the order like Goetschius, came through with an RBI single of her own to left field, and the game was tied at 1.

After getting through the top of the sixth inning, Echazarreta went straight from the circle to the batter’s box to lead off the inning. The Boilermaker’s cleanup-hitting pitcher helped herself and her team by smashing a solo home run to left center that gave her team a late 2-1 lead.

A hit batter during the ensuing plate appearance marked the end of the day for Lainey Lyle. Recording the loss and falling to 6-5 on the year, Lyle allowed 7 hits, 2 runs, and 1 walk while striking out 2 over 5+ innings. Piper Reed came in relief and swiftly sent down the Boilermakers, but the Herd still trailed 2-1.

While the Bison came from behind to beat Drake on Sunday, they could not replicate that on Wednesday. Emilee Buringa was hit by a pitch with two outs, but Goetschius grounded out to shortstop to end the game.

The Herd’s four-game win streak came to a halt as they dropped to 14-11 on the season. Purdue and North Dakota State would play against the very next day, but this time in Oxford, Miss. as the Herd was recently added to the Rebel Invitational.

Vargas and Bison shut out Purdue in 4-0 victory

After falling short to Purdue 2-1 on Wednesday, the Bison would get another chance to defeat the Boilermakers the very next day. However, as yesterday’s game was played in Starkville, Miss., Thursday’s matchup would take place in Oxford, Miss. as part of the Rebel Invitational.

While the Herd started a bit lethargically on offense on Wednesday, they came out strong on Thursday. Emilee Buringa initiated the multi-run first inning with a double on the first pitch of the game. The double was followed by a steal of third, walk and steal of second by Carley Goetschius. Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage was sent down on strikes after a lengthy battle, but Bella Dean brought in the game’s first run with an RBI groundout. Goetschius then scored immediately after a wild pitch giving the Herd an early 2-0 lead.

The quick start gave Paige Vargas and the Bison the upper hand early as she took the ball. Purdue produced leadoff singles to start each of the first two innings, but Vargas yielded no runs and ended each inning with a strikeout.

North Dakota State manufactured another run in the top of the fourth to extend their lead. A walk, single, and double steal by Zoe King and Ava Chavarria put the Herd in a prime position to score as each runner was now in scoring position. Following a fielder’s choice, Ella Claus came through with an RBI single to left field for the Bison’s third run of the game.

The Bison scored one more run for the day in the next inning with the heart of the order coming up. A single by Aguilar-Beaucage and a double by Kaylee Moore brought Zoe King to the dish. The catcher delivered with a single up the middle to bring across the game’s final run. The Herd went just 3-11 with runners in scoring position but outdid the Boilermakers who were 0-6.

When faced with trouble or not, Vargas remained poised in the circle. Vargas had a stretch from the third inning to the sixth where she sent down 10 straight Purdue batters. Purdue threatened in the sixth with a two-out walk and double, but Vargas nullified that with a strikeout of the subsequent batter.

After two straight strikeouts, the Boilermakers got another runner aboard in the bottom of the seventh, but Vargas once again thwarted that threat with a strikeout, this one to end the game.

Vargas finished her third straight complete-game victory on Thursday as she allowed six hits and a walk but allowed no runs and struck out eight, which ties her season high. Over her last 21 innings, Vargas has allowed just one earned run and struck out 21 batters while walking just two. Vargas’ 9th complete game of the season lowered her ERA to 1.74 while improving her record to 8-5 and NDSU’s to 15-11.

North Dakota State had one day off before wrapping up its non-conference slate in the Rebel Invitational on Saturday. The Herd would take on the Samford Bulldogs before returning home.

North Dakota State finishes its non-conference schedule with 7-1 win over Samford

Taking the field for the 27th time in the 2023 season, the Bison softball team wrapped up their non-conference schedule on Saturday morning against the Samford Bulldogs. Although these games at the Rebel Invitational were not originally scheduled, along with matchups against Mississippi State and Purdue, the extra competition should keep the Herd fresh before facing Kansas City next Saturday to start the Summit League schedule. The Bison are also playing their best ball of the year and Saturday’s game epitomized that as the Bison jumped out to an early lead.

Starting pitcher Savy Williams faced a little turbulence in the top of the first inning as two of the first three Bulldog batters singled. Nonetheless, Williams got the Herd out of the inning unscathed by forcing a popup and strikeout.

In the bottom half of the 1st, Carley Goetschius and Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage got aboard with a double and single for the first two of the Bison’s ten hits on the day. That brought up first baseman Bella Dean who brought in Goetschius with a sac fly to center field to give the Bison a 1-0 lead.

Another scoreless inning from Williams was followed by a crooked number in the bottom of the inning with the top of the order doing most of the damage. Zoe King and Ella Claus reached with a hit-by-pitch and single until the order flipped over. Emilee Buringa followed that up with a single of her own to load the bases and bring aboard the Herd’s best hitter from a statistical standpoint, Carley Goetschius. The senior third baseman subsequently cleared the bases with a double to left center, the biggest moment of her 3-3 day. Aguilar-Beaucage then grounded out, but the lead was now pushed to 4-0 early in the game.

North Dakota State added one more in the bottom of the third with a pair of extra-base hits. After Bella Dean led off the inning with a ground-rule double and advanced to third on a passed ball, Kaylee Moore drove her in with a double of her own to push the lead to 5-0.

While Williams was pulled from the game after a couple of singles in the third, Piper Reed came in relief to slam the door. She did just that in not only the third but also the fourth. As Reed preserved the lead, the offense extended their lead to a touchdown right afterward. After Buringa singled, Goetschius walked, and both moved up a base on a wild pitch, Aguilar-Beaucage hit an RBI sac fly to center field. Following that up was Bella Dean who roped an RBI single to left field to push the lead all the way to 7-0.

The Bulldogs got the zero off the board in the fifth inning as the top of their order came to the plate. Sarah Squillace, who produced half of her team’s eight hits with four leadoff singles, reached on an infield hit to start the inning. Two passed balls later, Logan Champion knocked her in with an RBI single that trimmed the Bison lead to 7-1. Reed faced more trouble but escaped the inning and was in line for the win, which would be the first of her career.

For the last two innings, Lainey Lyle took the ball looking to end the game. Lyle allowed a pair of walks in the sixth but a fielder’s choice and caught stealing brought the threat to a screeching halt. Although Squillace led off the seventh with another single, Lyle got out of the inning with a groundout to shortstop.

The Bison finished their trip to Mississippi 3-1 and have now won six of their last seven games. Despite a rocky 1-5 start to the season, the Herd have rolled to a 15-6 record since to sit at 16-11 after non-conference play.

North Dakota State will next be in action Saturday, March 25 at Kansas City to start Summit League play. The Bison and Roos will play a doubleheader on Saturday with game times at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. followed by an 11 a.m. game on Sunday.

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