NDSU softball takes two of three from Coyotes

Through their first six games of conference play, the North Dakota State softball team sat with a comfortable 5-1 league record. After riding a 1-0 shutout win on the back of their pitching staff and 13-4 thrashing in the rubber match against Western Illinois, the Bison had some momentum before taking on South Dakota.

Although this Friday/Saturday was supposed to be the home opening series for the Herd, they would end up playing closer to the Coyotes’ home as the series was moved to Sioux Falls due to weather which the Coyotes took advantage of in game one. However, the Bison bounced back and took the series by sweeping the doubleheader on Saturday.

Coyotes wallop Bison in game one 8-0

With aces Paige Vargas and Clara Edwards toeing the rubber for the Bison and Coyotes, respectively, it seemed as if we could have a good-old pitcher’s duel on our hands. However, game one was quite the opposite of that as South Dakota jumped out to an earlier lead and never looked back.

Vargas got each of the first two batters of the game to ground out but both Aleesia Sainz and Bela Goerke worked deep counts before drawing walks. That brought up senior Jordyn Pender, who despite being down in the count clubbed a 3-run home run to center field. The 1st-team All-Summit League performer from a year ago put the Herd down 3-0 before they even stepped to the plate.

Unfortunately for the Bison, they did not respond in the bottom half of the inning or for the entire game. While Vargas held USD in check in the second inning despite a leadoff double, the Bison failed to record a baserunner in the first two innings.

In the top of the third inning, South Dakota added to their total when Sainz hit a solo home run off Vargas to extend the lead to 4-0. The Bison would record their first baserunner in the bottom half of the inning when Skylar Padgett walked, but a double play immediately ended the threat.

The following frame, the floodgates opened on NDSU. The Coyotes started the inning with a single, walk, and sac bunt before a fielder’s choice and error brought in USD’s first run of the inning. The lead was then increased to 6-0 after an RBI groundout by Tatum Villotta. That wasn’t all as centerfielder Courtney Wilson hit her team’s third home run of the day, a 2-run shot, to right field to boost the lead to 8-0.

Darren Mueller had seen enough and following Wilson’s long ball, brought in Savy Williams in relief of Vargas. Williams shortly got out of the inning but despite just recording two hits, the Coyotes scored four runs in the fourth. Vargas finished the day allowing five hits, and eight earned runs which tied a career-high, walked three and struck out just two as she fell to 11-6 on the season.

Williams posted a perfect top of the fifth, but the Bison had no answer for Edwards in their half. A groundout followed by a pair of strikeouts ended the game with the 8-run rule in effect. Over the course of the five innings of play, the Bison recorded just two hits and drew one walk-off Edwards while striking out three times.

While the Herd surrendered just five hits, the Coyotes took advantage of four walks, two errors, and of course, the long ball. The three home runs allowed by Vargas are the most in a game during her Bison career. As the Bison fell to 21-13 overall and 5-2 in the league, they would have a chance at redemption on Saturday with a doubleheader.

Bats remain quiet but Lyle’s complete game shutout wills Bison to 2-0 victory

After being 8-run ruled for the first time by a non-ranked or receiving votes team and for the fifth time this season, the Bison evened the series by shutting out the Coyotes. With Lainey Lyle’s third consecutive complete game win, the Bison got back on track despite only recording five hits.

Both Lyle and her counterpart Kori Wedeking were untouchable in the first two innings as neither team recorded a hit during that span. Other than a two-out walk in the top of the first by USD, no other batters reached.

The Coyotes stirred up some trouble in each of the third and fourth innings with leadoff singles, but Lyle escaped the jam with a groundout and a pair of strikeouts in the third and a couple of groundouts and a pop-out in the fourth.

Through the first three innings, the Bison had just one baserunner as Skylar Padgett reached on a USD error. After three innings of play, six of NDSU’s first eleven hitters had struck out. Then Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage drew a four-pitch walk to start things up. Bella Dean then singled which was followed up by an RBI double to left center by Reanna Rudd that gave the Herd their first lead of the series at 1-0. The inning would end when the Coyotes threw Dean out at the plate attempting to score on a ground ball, then struck out the following batter, but the Herd had their lead which they would not relinquish.

USD created some commotion to counter what NDSU accomplished the inning before as two of their first three batters singled to start the inning. Lyle, once again, pitched herself out of the muddle by forcing a couple of groundballs to retire the side.

In the bottom half of the fifth, the Herd’s bottom two hitters in the order led off the inning with a single to set up the top of the order nicely. Emilee Buringa then moved each runner up a base with a sac bunt that set up NDSU’s leading hitter Carley Goetschius with two runners in scoring position. The third baseman would drive in Padgett with a groundball fielder’s choice to first and then advance to second on a throwing error. With another run tacked on, Lainey Lyle now had a little more wiggle room with a 2-0 lead.

NDSU outfielder Emily Buringa in action last season at Tharaldson Park. Buringa and the Bison took two of three games from the South Dakota Coyotes last weekend. Photo Courtesy | NDSU Athletics

In the sixth inning, the Coyotes got the leadoff batter on for the fourth straight inning, but the Herd held firm as Lyle forced a pop-out and a pair of balls on the ground to end the threat quickly. In the bottom half of the inning, Chloe Woldruff tallied only the fifth hit of the day for the Bison but was then thrown out trying to steal to end the inning.

Once again, the Coyotes’ leadoff batter got on base, this time with a single. Lyle again stayed poised by inducing a lineout and two groundouts, the last of which was a comebacker that Lyle handled to end the game.

In seven shutout innings, Lyle allowed just five hits and two walks while striking out three batters, none of which came after the third inning. The three strikeouts tie a season-high for Lyle as she has only struck out 24 batters in 68.2 innings this season. However, it’s been a recipe for success as she has not allowed an earned run in her last 23 innings and since February 26 (51.2 IP) has lowered her season ERA from 7.82 to 2.96.

With one more game to play against the Coyotes in Sioux Falls, the Bison would look to claim the series just as they did last week by completing a doubleheader sweep.

North Dakota State edges South Dakota 5-4 in series finale

During the Bison’s three-game slate against Western Illinois the week prior to taking on South Dakota, NDSU was defeated in the initial game of the series before bouncing back in the final two games. In this round, the Herd could do the same with a win in the rubber match and complete the doubleheader sweep.

Piper Reed took the ball for the Bison this time around while Clara Edwards toed the rubber for the Coyotes once again. After each pitcher recorded a scoreless first inning, USD got the scoring started in the top of the second.

A single, followed by an error on the Bison, put runners on the corners for the Coyotes with no outs. Right fielder Gabby Moser, who was hitting seventh in the lineup, then stepped up by bringing in the first run of the game with a sac fly to right field.

A scoreless bottom half of the second allowed the Coyotes to keep their momentum going into the top of the third. The first two batters of the frame for USD got aboard with a single and a walk to set up the Coyotes’ cleanup hitter Bela Goerke. After Paige Vargas came in relief of Reed, the junior hit a pitch on the ground to shortstop, but another Bison error allowed the Coyotes to increase their lead to 2-0.

The Bison then took the lead in the bottom half of the third after a big rally. A hit by pitch and fielder’s choice started the inning which led to Emilee Buringa’s RBI triple down the right field line to get the Herd on the board. After an error on the Coyotes gave the Bison extra life, Bella Dean responded by giving the Bison the lead with a 2-run single to right field that scored Buringa and Carley Goetschius giving the Bison their first lead of the game at 3-2.

A relatively quiet fourth inning was then followed up by a fifth inning that included three runs on six total hits. In the top half, Goerke doubled to left field and was eventually driven in by Delaney White, who also doubled to left to tie the game at three. White advanced to third on the Bison’s third error of the game, but Vargas ended the inning with a strikeout.

The Herd responded with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the fifth inning as four of the seven batters that stepped up to the plate recorded hits. Ava Chavarria singled to lead off the inning which was shortly followed by a single from Goetschius . The next batter, Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage, drove in Chavarria with an RBI double to left center that gave the Bison a 4-3 lead. Two batters later, Reanna Rudd tacked on another run with an RBI single to right field.

After a quiet sixth inning, Vargas and the Herd were just three outs away from clinching the series. The seventh inning didn’t come without some added tension, however, as Aleesia Sainz trimmed the Bison lead to 5-4 with a leadoff home run to left center field. However, Vargas hunkered down and retired the side in order culminating in a flyout to centerfield.

Vargas improves to 12-6 this season as she picked up the win in five innings of relief. The senior allowed four hits, two runs, one walk, and four strikeouts as she also inched closer to 600 career innings.

Despite three defensive errors, NDSU was able to overcome their miscues to improve to 7-2 in the Summit League and 23-13 overall. The Bison are set to be back in action next weekend on the road against the preseason Summit League favorite South Dakota State Jackrabbits. NDSU and SDSU will play a doubleheader on Saturday, April 15, at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. before wrapping up the series on Sunday at 11 a.m.

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