North Dakota State softball set for weekend clash with South Dakota State 

NDSU and SDSU renew their bitter rivalry on the diamond this weekend

Rivalries in high school and college athletics often don’t stop at one sport but tend to run much deeper. For example, the North Dakota State vs. South Dakota State rivalry ranges beyond the Dakota Marker or the intense matchups on the hardwood. The intense competition between the Bison and Jacks also extends to the softball diamond, as the two schools have been vying for the top spot in the Summit League for quite some time.  

While the Bison dominated the league in the 2010s, it has been the Jackrabbits who have won back-to-back league titles and seven straight matchups against their fiercest competitor. 

During a four-game series in the 2021 season, the Jackrabbits completed their dominant regular season with a sweep over the Bison. The first three of those games all ended with a zero in the scoring column for North Dakota State and finished with a 7-5 SDSU win on their way to their first Summit League Tournament championship in school history. 

Last season didn’t fare much better for NDSU as they again were swept by their adversary. In the two regular-season games, the Jacks pulled away late in each contest winning 8-1.  

The scores, however, are quite misleading as the teams were tied after 8 innings in game one before SDSU scored seven unanswered runs in the tenth inning to blow the game open. In game two, the Jackrabbits then put up a massive seventh inning to pull away and take the series. North Dakota State would then fall to South Dakota State for the third time that season in the Summit League Tournament 2-0. 

The pitcher who shut out the Bison in the final game of last year’s trilogy was Tori Kniesche as she struck out 10 NDSU batters and allowed just one hit. The junior is also the reigning TicketSmarter Summit League Peak Pitcher of the Week. In game one of their series against Omaha, Kniesche shut out the Mavericks through 8 innings in a 1-0 win.  

After receiving the win in relief in game two, Kniesche threw two complete games in one during the series finale. The Summit League’s leader in innings pitched threw a 14-inning shutout in the Jacks’ 1-0 victory to cap the series. Through six league games, the SDSU pitching staff (Kniesche and Shannon Lasey) has allowed just five runs and an opposing batting average of .090. 

The Herd meanwhile has their own pair of aces to match the Jacks in Paige Vargas and Lainey Lyle. Vargas, who is two outs away from 600 career innings, ranks in the top five in many Summit League categories. She is first in WHIP (0.94), second in wins (12) and shutouts (4), third in complete games (10), strikeouts (100), and batting average against (.188), and fourth in innings (106.2) and ERA (2.36). 

Heading into this weekend’s Summit League matchup against South Dakota State, NDSU pitcher Paige Vargas is 2/3 of an inning away from 600 total innings pitched in her career.

Photo Courtesy | NDSU Athletics

While Vargas has had a couple of uncharacteristic performances in the last couple of weeks, Lyle has nearly turned into the Bison’s ace during that stretch. The senior has not allowed a run in her last 16.1 innings and, in addition, has not allowed an earned run in her last 23 innings. Lyle has truly gone 0 to 100 to start the season with an ERA near 8.00 upon returning from Mexico to lowering it under 3.00 during the heart of league play. 

Offensively, North Dakota State has had as much success as any by slugging its way to a 7-2 record. NDSU is hitting .300 with a league-leading 51 runs, 70 hits, 13 doubles, 8 home runs, and 48 RBIs and has six players hitting over .285 during those nine games. 

The two most electrifying hitters for the Bison are Carley Goetschius and Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage. Goetschius poses a huge threat to opposing pitchers with her elite combination of power and contact. The third baseman, who also has committed just one error on the season, is batting .400 and is second in the Summit League with a .767 slugging percentage and 1.186 OPS while striking out just once. 

NDSU’s Carley Goetschius has committed 1 error in 81 chances this season while playing third base for the Herd. She is batting .400 and is second in the Summit League with a .767 slugging percentage.

Photo Courtesy | NDSU Athletics

As for Aguilar-Beaucage, the junior transfer is batting .379 with a .902 OPS in league competition. Along with the ability to split the gap as proven with 10 extra-base hits, Aguilar-Beaucage is also a threat on base paths as she is tied for the league lead in stolen bases with five. Correspondingly, Aguilar-Beaucage currently holds a 12-game on-base streak dating back to March 15. 

Joined by Bella Dean, Skylar Padgett, Reanna Rudd, Emilee Buringa and others the Bison bats present a highly anticipated matchup against the top pitching staff in the Summit League. The Bison pitching staff should simultaneously match up well with an SDSU team that is scoring far fewer runs per game than NDSU and has hit just one home run in league play. 

The Jacks’ bats are still a threat, of course, with the likes of Mia Jarecki, Jocelyn Carrillo, and others leading the way. SDSU has four players who have hit at least four home runs this season. Carrillo is also the reigning TicketSmarter Summit League Peak Player of the Week as she hit .500 with three doubles last weekend. 

The top-two clash between these bitter rivals is slated to begin in Brookings, S.D. Saturday at 3 p.m. and close with a twin bill on Sunday afternoon at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. The Bison will look to end the drought against the Jackrabbits, hit the road to St. Thomas next weekend, then finally play their home opener on April 29 against UND.  

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