Softball drops home-opening series to Southern Utah

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

The SDSU softball team played well enough this weekend to win the series against Southern Utah, but instead, the Jacks took one out of three in the opening home series of the season.

SDSU (7-24, 4-2) dropped the first game on March 27 by being shut out for the 12th time this season, 1-0. Southern Utah (13-17, 5-4) pitcher Kristina Brooks took a no-hitter into the sixth inning when it was broken up by a Brooke Postma infield hit that went over the head of Brooks.

Ashley Durazo was up next and reached base by being hit by a pitch to give the Jacks their first rally of the game. The Jacks could not capitalize, as the runners would remain stranded and Brooks shut down SDSU in the seventh inning, only allowing Stacey Evans to reach base via a walk.

The lone Thunderbird run was scored on a home run from shortstop Aly Daniels in the third inning that was aided by the temporary snow fence that was put up to block off the muddy warning track that was deemed unplayable.

“I think that [center fielder] Brittany [Postma] was on the ball, and if she had had more experience playing with a portable fence, she maybe could have made the catch,” said head coach Joanna Lane. “I think that the ball would have been caught on our normal fence, and you’re still in a 0-0 game. It’s unfortunate, but we ended up with two home runs [during the third game] on the small fence, and they ended up with one. Our two came when we really didn’t need them, and their one came when they really did. The fence allowed us to play three home games at home, and I will take that any day of the week.”

The first game on the March 28 double-header produced the same result for the Jacks: a 5-4, one-run loss but in a different variety.

SDSU started off the bottom of the first with three runs, three hits and three Thunderbird errors to take an early 3-0 lead. Southern Utah would add four runs in the top of the third, while being aided by two Jackrabbit errors.

SDSU tied the game in the bottom half of the innings before SUU added the final run of the game in the fourth. The game-winning run was scored by Jenavieve Purcell, who led off the inning with a single to right field but advanced to third on the play due to an error by Greta Stroh.

“My personal opinion on errors is that they are from a lack of focus,” said Lane. “We weren’t getting bad bounces that were ruled errors; they were balls that should have been played. There’s no excuses or no explanation for them, but we just need to have an understanding that it’s something that has to be fixed in order for us to compete with anyone.”

SDSU won the final game of the series 8-0 behind a pair of back-to-back home runs and a solid pitching performance from senior Jenna Marston.

The Jacks put up four runs in the fourth and fifth innings after being held hitless the first time through the order.

Durazo got the Jacks on the board with a three-run home run, her second of the season. She was followed by catcher Dani Broshar, who also hit her second homer of the season to center field to give SDSU a 4-0 advantage.

Durazo and Broshar would each add another RBI to their total in the fifth inning with hits to right-center. The final blow came when Stroh doubled and scored Evans and Broshar to put the Jacks ahead 8-0. The game was called after 4 2/3 innings.

After struggling in the first game against Southern Utah pitcher Brooks, the Jacks were able to get to her in the second game of the series and roughed her up for three runs in 2/3 of an inning in relief during the third game.

Lane said that Brooks just wore down the later that she pitched in the series.

“Every pitcher starts the weekend with a full tank of gas, and as you throw more and more, you become more hittable. The players remarked that Brooks was throwing slower, and that’s going to happen when you throw as many innings as she is. Her pitching style is to put a lot of spin on the ball. I don’t think she is as much of a heat-throwing pitcher as she is a spinner, so when she gets tired, it takes the extra effort to put that spin on it. That’s when she becomes a little more hittable.

“Southern Utah will go as far as she can take them,” said Lane. “Something that we can look forward to down that stretch is that we have seen her a lot, and if we meet her again in the conference tournament, we should be more prepared.”

Brooks leads all Summit League pitchers with 157 strikeouts and 42 hit batters.

For the Jacks, Jenna Marston allowed only one run and five hits in the first game despite getting the loss and won her third game on the season with five innings of one-hit balls in the series finale.

In three Summit League starts this season, Marston is 2-1 with three complete games and two shutouts, while allowing 10 hits over 19 innings with a 0.47 ERA.

Next up for the third-place Jackrabbits is a three-game series at Centenary (21-12, 4-3), with a double-header on April 2 starting at 4 p.m. and the final game scheduled for noon on April 3.

SDSU won two out of the three games last season in Omaha, with the Jacks splitting the final two games, each of which were one-run, eight-inning games. The fifth-place Ladies are one of only two teams in the Summit League, North Dakota State being the other at 16-11, that have an overall record above .500.

“It’s a fun match-up, and we like to play those [close] games,” Lane said. “Centenary is a team that’s going to compete for a conference tournament title, as are we. Their number one pitcher is hurt and can’t throw as much as she wants to, and their shortstop is playing with a torn ACL. It might be a good time for us to take a couple of games, or it might be a great time for them to step up at home.”

It will be extra special for Lane, as she played for Centenary’s head coach Mark Montgomery at Georgetown College in Kentucky.

Under Montgomery, the Tigers went 72-31 and advanced to the NAIA regional tournament both seasons. He was named the Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year in 2002 after Georgetown won the conference’s regular season and tournament championships. The team also achieved regional runner-up finishes.

The Jacks are back in action at home, weather permitting, with a double-header against North Dakota at 3 p.m. on April 7.