Facing their rival, the UND Fighting Hawks, the NDSU softball team finally was able to play on their home field, Tharaldson Park, in 2023. Despite strong persistence from the Hawks, the Bison were able to pull away in each game on Saturday afternoon before dropping the finale on Sunday.
Herd rolls early to coast to 8-5 win in home-opener
After surrendering an early 2-0 lead to North Dakota in the top of the first, the Bison responded emphatically in the bottom half of the inning. Two batters after a single and an error, Bella Dean, in her first-ever plate appearance at Tharaldson Park, cracked a three-run home run into center field. Dean’s ninth home run of the season gave the Bison a 3-2 lead they would never relinquish.
The NDSU softball team waits at home plate to greet teammate Bella Dean who just connected on a three-run home run against North Dakota on Saturday at Tharaldson Park. The Bison swept the doubleheader from the Fighting Hawks by scores of 8-5 and 4-2. Photo Courtesy | Zach Lucy
“It was amazing,” Dean said. “The nerves were definitely up there. It was just exciting to definitely come out on top that first inning.”
In the second inning, NDSU put up another crooked number. Following a leadoff single from Ella Claus, Skylar Padgett attempted to bunt for a hit. The throw ended up down the rightfield line allowing Claus to come around and score increasing the lead to 4-2.
The Bison added two more runs as Emilee Buringa drove in a runner with a double off the left centerfield wall and Carley Goetschius drove followed with a single to left to give the Bison a 6-2 lead
The Hawks added a run in the third with an RBI groundout from Pederson, but the Bison responded once again. Chloe Woldruff drove in Reanna Rudd with a sac fly to left field. Buringa then brought in the Herd’s final run of the game with a double into left field and led 8-3.
“We go through situations like that, that you just kind of have trust in yourselves,” Mueller said in responding to the deficit. “Sometimes I think our team thinks we’re going to shut everybody out. We didn’t do it so now we’ve got to battle. I liked how we came back and fought all those innings to get those runs.”
Two innings later, UND inched closer. Castaneda smashed a pitch from Vargas into centerfield for a solo home run to trim their deficit to 8-4. Later on, Baylee Howley brought home another run with an RBI triple into right center. Thanks to an incredible diving catch by Chloe Woldruff, the inning ended with UND trailing by just 8-5.
After the Bison went down 1-2-3 for the third straight inning, UND threatened in the seventh. A single and a walk stirred up trouble, but Vargas struck out Madison Pederson to end the game.
The win improved the Bison’s record to 27-16 and 11-5 in the Summit League with one more game to play on Saturday.
Buringa; 3-4, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI; Vargas; W (14-8) 7 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 6 K
NDSU survives late scare to take game two over UND
In game two, Lainey Lyle took the mound for North Dakota State. Despite allowing her first earned run in league play after 39.2 innings, Lyle was excellent. Despite the trouble, the senior recorded her 12th win of the season to lead the Bison to victory.
In the bottom of the first, the Bison got on the board with an RBI by Bella Dean. With two out, Dean lined a single into center field to bring Emilee Buringa around to score, giving NDSU a 1-0 lead.
In the third, after a two-out hit by pitch, Cassie Castaneda lifted a pitch deep down the left-field line. Ella Claus went back to the wall and leaped but couldn’t make the catch as the ball appeared to hit the foul pole resulting in a two-run home run.
However, after discussion, the umpires decided to rule the hit a double much to the dismay of UND Head Coach Jordan Stevens. This was fortunate for the Bison as they exited the inning two pitches later to keep the game tied 1-1.
The Bison offense languished for the next two innings as they recorded just one hit during that stretch. The only hit was a single from Dean.
Including game one, from a span of seven innings, the Bison recorded just one run on three hits while striking out four times.
“I think we were overthinking and trying too hard,” Mueller explained. “Maybe looking for certain pitches in situations. I think we were overthinking a little bit up there.”
However, the Bison offense was revived in the waning stages of the game by the bottom of the order. After a walk from Claus followed by a sac bunt, Woldruff came through in the clutch as she split the gap in left centerfield for an RBI double to give NDSU a 2-1 lead.
“It’s good to have,” Mueller said of success from the bottom of the order. “If you’re going to win championships, you have to have the bottom of the lineup succeed. I think that’s something that they’re starting to do. That’s big for us I think to go in the future here.”
The Bison went back to work in the bottom of the sixth. A triple by Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage set up Bella Dean who drove in her fifth run of the day with a fielder’s choice to shortstop. After a double and single, the Bison tallied another run after a wild pitch from UND’s Jackie Albrecht. Woldruff then lined into a double play, but the Bison led 4-1 going into the final frame.
The Hawks, however, fought until the end. After a leadoff single, pitch-hitter Lauren Brown drove in a run with a double down the left field line to cut the Bison lead to 4-2. After a single and a hit-by-pitch to load the bases, Lyle was certainly in a pickle as she faced the heart of the UND order with no outs.
Darren Mueller came out to talk to Lyle and it worked as she forced three straight ground balls. The first two each resulted in force-outs at home. Then, as the rain started to trickle down, Lyle got Mariah Peters to bounce out to second base, ending the game and releasing a sigh of relief.
“I had complete trust in Lainey,” Dean said. “I knew that everybody on the infield and even the outfield would get it done if we had to do a relay or whatever would happen. I just knew that we’d get the job done no matter what.”
Lyle and the Bison completed the Saturday sweep with the victory. The Bison would go for the series sweep on Sunday.
“Honestly, I think you forget about today in some respects,” Mueller shared of carrying the wins into Sunday. “You build off this last part defensively, but I don’t think we played our best all-around today.”
Dean; 2-3, 2 RBI; Lyle; W, 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 K
Bison falter late and drop the series finale to UND 4-3
With one more game to play in the series, the Bison and Fighting Hawks returned to Tharaldson Park on a windy Sunday morning.
For the second straight game, the Bison scored first. After two straight strikeouts to start the inning, Chloe Woldruff drew a walk to keep the inning alive. Then, on a heads-up play, she stole her first career base on a delayed steal. On the very next pitch, centerfielder Emilee Buringa singled up the middle to plate Woldruff for the game’s first run.
However, in the top of the third, the Hawks responded and tied the game up at 1-1 on first baseman Madison Peterson’s RBI single into left field.
After a few scoreless frames, the Hawks put up a crooked number and built a sizeable lead in the sixth. Hawks’ right fielder Mariah Peters got the inning started with a base hit into right field. A two-base error on NDSU’s Woldruff allowed Peters to advance all the way to third. Vargas appeared as if she’d get out of the inning without a scratch by recording consecutive outs. However, third baseman Taya Hopfauf came through by rolling a single through the right side to give UND a 2-1 lead.
North Dakota then followed that up with an infield single and an error on Dean to keep the inning alive. After Lainey Lyle relieved Vargas, the Hawks made the Bison pay and came through in the clutch. Shortstop Katie Joten drove a 2-2 pitch down the left field line that just stayed fair for a 2-run double that boosted the lead to 4-1 after 5 ½ innings.
In the bottom of the sixth, NDSU recorded as many hits (3) as they had in all other innings combined, all with two outs. On a 3-2 pitch, Woldruff drilled a pitch past Joten for a base hit which brought Emilee Buringa up to hit.
The junior connected on a pitch for a double to right that put two runners in scoring position. That brought Carley Goetschius to the plate representing the tying run. The third baseman came through with her second hit of the series as her single to right field scored two runs to cut the deficit to 4-3. That would be all, however, as relief pitcher Camryn Lasota struck out Dean to end the inning.
In the seventh, Zoe King drew a leadoff walk, but the Bison couldn’t bring her in. With just one out to go, Skylar Padgett hit a fly ball to deep right field in which Mariah Peters made a nice catch just shy of the warning track to end the game.
“It also comes down to the want to win,” Woldruff said of UND’s resiliency. “They wanted to beat us more than we wanted to beat them. That’s what it comes down to a lot of the time.”
Next for the Bison is the Omaha Mavericks to close out the regular season. The Mavs will make the trip to Fargo next for a doubleheader on Friday, May 5, starting at noon. They will then conclude the series on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Omaha currently sits in 2nd place in the Summit League with a record of 13-4. The Bison, with a league record of 12-6, can slide into 2nd place if they sweep Omaha. However, NDSU could still drop as low as fourth place behind South Dakota.
“We definitely need to go into a huge self-reflection after this weekend,” Woldruff admitted. “The way that we come back from this weekend is keeping our attitudes in check and keeping what we can control in control.”