New-look SDSU softball set to open 2020 season

Landon Dierks, Sports Editor

After establishing itself as a Summit League title contender the past two seasons, the 2020 campaign marks a new chapter for South Dakota State softball.

Head coach Krista Wood, now in her sixth year at SDSU, has helped the program turn a corner. The Jackrabbits recorded back-to-back winning seasons in 2018 and 2019 — the program’s first time doing so since 1996 and 1997 — but after graduating nine players from last year’s roster, there’s plenty of room for growth with a young team featuring only five upperclassmen.

“We’re excited about the direction our program is heading, and have been pleased with the efforts we’ve seen from this group,” Wood said in a Jan. 30 release from “… We’re looking forward to the challenges ahead of us.”

The Jackrabbits were tabbed third in the Summit League Preseason Coaches Poll with 27 points, just behind the University of South Dakota (28) and two-time defending regular season champion North Dakota State (34).

On paper, SDSU’s biggest strength is its pitching. All six pitchers from a season ago return, and freshman Grace Glanzer, a Sioux Falls native and FloSoftball’s 23rd-ranked recruit from 2019, adds even more depth to the experienced staff.

“That’s been really good for our offense because we’ve been going live for the last three weeks seeing different pitchers, different looks,” Wood said in a Feb. 3 update with

Headlining the veteran pitching staff is junior Kendra Conard. The 2019 All-Summit League first-teamer compiled an 18-7 record with a 2.87 ERA across 29 appearances in the circle a season ago and was named a Summit League Player to Watch.

While the pitching was not impacted by graduations, the same cannot be said of the rest of the roster.

With nearly 40% of the roster from a season ago gone, several holes in the defense needed to be filled. Since only two returning players have more than seven career starts in the field, Wood anticipates shuffling the lineup to better match up with each opponent.

“You’ll see a whole new defense out there,” Wood said. “Last year we graduated almost every single defender we had in our lineup, so we have a lot of kids learning two different positions and, depending what we’re needing offensively, our lineup could change game-to-game.”

Outfielders Allison Beaudry and Caelyn Christiancy are the only two returning players with more than seven career starts in the field. Sophomore Peyton Daugherty, who joined Conard on the Summit League Player to Watch list, started 55 games at designated hitter a season ago and is the most experienced returning bat, having recorded a .264 average across 163 at-bats.

While the team may need some time to adjust to the many new faces, Wood is optimistic about the balance a near fresh start could bring to the lineup.

“In the past, maybe we’ve had too much power, not enough speed, and now we have a good mixture of both,” Wood said.

The Jackrabbits open the season Feb. 7-8 at the Doc Halverson UNI-Dome Tournament and will attend three more neutral site tournament-style events before Summit League play begins March 21.

SDSU’s home slate is scheduled to begin March 28 with a doubleheader against NDSU. An April 4-5 trip to the Cyclone Classic in Ames, Iowa, breaks up the conference regular season, which concludes May 2 against USD in Vermillion.