North Dakota State softball wins two out of three at Western Illinois 

Bison sweep doubleheader after dropping Saturday’s lone contest

Western Illinois walks off North Dakota State 6-5 in 8 innings 6-5 

Back in action following a dominant league-opening, three-game sweep over Kansas City last weekend, the Bison hit the road once again to Western Illinois for three rounds against the Leathernecks. North Dakota State has been on a tear winning nine of their ten previous games prior to Saturday. After some shuffling of the weekend schedule due to weather in the Macomb, Ill. area, the Bison were off to sustain their dominance in an instant. 

Leading off the game, centerfielder Emilee Buringa dropped a double into centerfield to quickly raise a ruckus for the Leathernecks. Just two batters later, shortstop Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage slapped a single into right field to bring Buringa across the plate for the game’s first run. The very next batter, Bella Dean, launched a two-run home run to center field. The freshman’s 5th home run of the season gave the Bison a 3-0 just four batters into the game. 

In the bottom half of the inning, after Paige Vargas retired the first two batters of the game, the Leathernecks put together a trio of hits to narrow their deficit. Following a single and double from Maria Luna and Savannah Rodriguez, respectively, catcher Georgia Rea drove in each runner with a single down the left-field line that cut the Bison lead to 3-2. 

 After Emily Price sent the Bison down in order the following inning, Vargas found herself in more hot water. Vargas, yet again, sent down the first two batters of the inning but as the lineup flipped over ran into trouble. Gabriela Drager reached on an infield single which was followed up by a two-run home run to left center by Bella Alvarez. The junior third baseman, who also homered against the Bison in the last meeting between the teams in 2022, gave her team a 4-3 lead after two innings. The home run also ended the Bison streak of 11 consecutive games allowing two runs or less. 

Aguilar-Beaucage started things back up for the Herd offensively in the top of the third as she singled to left field with one out and stole second shortly after. After a pop-out, catcher Kaylee Moore recorded her second of three singles on the day and drove in her shortstop to tie the game at four. 

In the bottom half of the third, the Leathernecks continued to have no issues against Vargas as Rea picked up another big hit with a one-out solo homerun to centerfield. Once again, Western Illinois had retaken the lead at 5-4 after three innings. Following the inning, Vargas would be relieved by Piper Reed. For the game, Vargas pitched just three innings, allowing six hits, five runs, one walk, and striking out four. The five earned runs are the most Vargas has allowed all season. 

Following two straight quiet innings, the Bison were able to tie the game in the top of the sixth inning. Moore’s third hit of the game, a walk by Zoe King, and a fielder’s choice set up an RBI opportunity for Skylar Padgett. She delivered, not with a hit, but with a fielder’s choice of her own. As pinch runner Faith Daehlin came across to score, the Bison tied the game at five apiece. 

Piper Reed recorded her third consecutive scoreless inning in the sixth but her offense was of no assistance. Emilee Buringa got in scoring position but the Bison’s number three and four hitters went down on strikes. Reed continued to shut down the Leathernecks in the bottom of the seventh to send the game into extra innings but the offense was still without any zeal in the 8th inning. 

The true freshman pitcher could only carry the Bison for so long, however. Georgia Rea led off the inning with a single, her third hit of the day to start things off. After Aguilar-Beaucage’s second error of the game, pinch hitter Cynthia Hull drove in Rea with a walk-off single to left center field, clinching the 6-5 win for the Leathernecks. 

Despite pitching four innings and allowing just one run on three hits and one walk, Reed picked up the loss to fall to 1-2 on the season. 

Although they were picked to finish last (8th) in the Summit League, the struggling Leathernecks knocked off the rolling Herd for their first loss against Summit League opponents this season. The Bison fell to 19-12 on the season and 3-1 in the Summit League but would have a chance for redemption on Sunday with a doubleheader at 10 a.m. and noon.  

Bison narrowly escape Leathernecks with 1-0 victory to even series

Following a trying extra-inning loss on Saturday afternoon, the Bison looked to rebound on Sunday morning. While the offense was not up to their standard performance producing just five hits, Lainey Lyle hunkered down and held the Leathernecks in check for the entirety of the game. 

NDSU pitcher Lainey Lyle delivers a pitch for the Bison last season. Lyle spread seven hits out over seven innings on Sunday to shut out Western Illinois in game one of a Summit League doubleheader. The Bison won two out of three on the road trip. Photo Courtesy | NDSU Athletics

Through the first two innings, both Lyle and WIU’s Savannah Rodriguez allowed just one hit each but no runs while striking out four total batters. However, in the top of the third inning, the Herd made a clatter and scored the game’s only run. With one out, Ava Chavarria walked and subsequently stole second. Following that, leadoff batter Emilee Buringa drove the freshman left fielder in with an RBI double into the left centerfield gap giving the Herd a 1-0 lead. 

The Herd would again threaten with two outs in the fourth on back-to-back singles by Kaylee Moore and Chloe Woldruff, but a tapper to third ended the threat. 

In the bottom half of the fourth, the Leathernecks gave Lyle and the Herd their first scare of the game. After Maria Luna and Savannah Rodriguez singled to lead off the inning, Lyle found herself in a straitjacket as Georgia Rea, who torched the Bison on Saturday, stepped up to the plate. 

Lyle was able to get Rea to bounce into a fielder’s choice but was in trouble again as a walk loaded the bases. Fortunately for her, the Bison defense had her back as they threw out a runner at the plate on a fielder’s choice and another grounder to shortstop ended the frame with no runners coming across to score. 

Until the bottom of the seventh, only two runners were able to reach base as both teams’ pitchers were locked in. But the Leathernecks wouldn’t go down without a fight as they caused a commotion yet again in the final inning. To lead off the frame, WIU’s number six and seven hitters Kaylee Ketcherside and Cynthia Hull singled to the left side to set up the rest of their offense. However, Lyle’s tranquility got her through the inning to finish what she started. After striking out the next two batters, leadoff hitter Gabriela Drager popped out to second to end the game. 

Following the tough loss on Saturday, the Bison got back in the win column to reach the 20-win mark behind Lyle’s third complete game of the season. For the game, Lyle allowed seven hits and two walks but no runs while striking out three. Now 4-1 in the league, the Bison would have a chance to take the series just moments later.  

Furious comeback key to North Dakota State’s 13-4 victory over Western Illinois

After defeating the Leathernecks by the skin of their teeth, the Bison had one more game to play in Macomb before returning home. In the rubber match of the series, things looked bleak at best for the Herd as they trailed entering the middle innings. However, an offensive onslaught propelled them to victory to close the series. 

After a scoreless top of the first, the Leathernecks got right to business in their own half. A pair of singles and a hit by pitch set up Georgia Rea who delivered with an RBI single up the middle. The sophomore’s fourth hit of the series put Western Illinois ahead early 1-0. 

Two innings later, Rea and the Leathernecks continued their offensive success. A double and single from the top three hitters set up Rea once again with ducks on the pond. The catcher from Lawrence, Kan. continued to have the Bison’s number as she blasted a three-run home run to left field. Williams then was pulled for Paige Vargas who closed the inning, but the Leathernecks still led 4-0. 

However, it seemed as if the Bison had no desire to lose and went absolutely nuclear in the next two innings. Singles from Bella Dean and Reanna Rudd along with a walk by Kaylee Moore sent Chloe Woldruff to the plate who delivered with a 2-RBI single to center field. The next batter, Skylar Padgett recorded a 2-RBI hit of her own with a double to left field that tied the game at four. 

Following a pitching change, hit by pitch, stolen base, and walk, the reigning Summit League Peak Performer of the Week, Carley Goetschius stepped up to the dish with the bases juiced and no outs. The senior third baseman delivered in the biggest way possible by blasting a grand slam to left field. After appearing to be dead in the water, the Bison now led 8-4 after her fifth home run of the season and third grand slam of her career. 

While Vargas quickly retired the Leathernecks, highlighted by two strikeouts, the Herd went back to crushing the ball. Despite just two of the first four batters reaching base, the next three caused a bunch of trouble. With two outs, Goetschius recorded her third hit of the day, knocking in a run to push the lead to 9-4. The next batter, Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage drove in both Ava Chavarria and Goetschius with a single to left. 

Aguilar-Beaucage, who advanced to second following a throw home in an attempt to throw out Goetschius, then stole third in the next at-bat. The junior then scored on a passed ball to stretch the lead to 12-4. On the next pitch, shortstop Bella Dean stayed on her recent tear by blasting a solo home run to center field to further the lead to 13-4. The freshman’s home run is already her fourth in league play and sixth on the season, both of which lead the team. 

The Leathernecks got a runner aboard in the bottom of the fifth but none scored as Vargas ended the game with a strikeout. With the eight-run rule in effect, the Bison clinched the 13-4 victory. Despite a difficult game on Saturday, Vargas responded by picking up her 11th victory of the season. In 2.2 innings, the senior allowed no hits or walks while striking out four. 

As the Bison improve to 21-12 on the season and 5-1 in the Summit League, they’ll now return to Fargo. The Bison are scheduled to host South Dakota on Friday at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. and then Saturday at 11 a.m. 

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