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Five things to know about Jacks softball

FILE+PHOTO%0AJunior+Ali+Herdliska+up+to+bat+during+the+game+against+Omaha+April+21%2C+2017.+Herdliska+leads+the+team+with+three+home+runs+this+season+and+has+25+in+her+career.+SDSU+14-9+on+the+season%2C+which+is+their+best+start+since+becoming+Division+I+in+2005.+The+Jacks+play+North+Dakota+in+their+home+opener+2+p.m.+and+4+p.m.+April+3+at+the+Jackrabbit+Softball+Complex.
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Five things to know about Jacks softball

FILE PHOTO
Junior Ali Herdliska up to bat during the game against Omaha April 21, 2017. Herdliska leads the team with three home runs this season and has 25 in her career. SDSU 14-9 on the season, which is their best start since becoming Division I in 2005. The Jacks play North Dakota in their home opener 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. April 3 at the Jackrabbit Softball Complex.

FILE PHOTO Junior Ali Herdliska up to bat during the game against Omaha April 21, 2017. Herdliska leads the team with three home runs this season and has 25 in her career. SDSU 14-9 on the season, which is their best start since becoming Division I in 2005. The Jacks play North Dakota in their home opener 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. April 3 at the Jackrabbit Softball Complex.

FILE PHOTO Junior Ali Herdliska up to bat during the game against Omaha April 21, 2017. Herdliska leads the team with three home runs this season and has 25 in her career. SDSU 14-9 on the season, which is their best start since becoming Division I in 2005. The Jacks play North Dakota in their home opener 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. April 3 at the Jackrabbit Softball Complex.

FILE PHOTO Junior Ali Herdliska up to bat during the game against Omaha April 21, 2017. Herdliska leads the team with three home runs this season and has 25 in her career. SDSU 14-9 on the season, which is their best start since becoming Division I in 2005. The Jacks play North Dakota in their home opener 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. April 3 at the Jackrabbit Softball Complex.

Andrew Holtan

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With the winter sports season wrapping up this past weekend, it is now time to shift attention to spring sports.

The South Dakota State softball team is a couple weeks away from beginning conference play. Here are five things you should know about the team before it heads into the most important part of its schedule.

1. Hot start
The Jackrabbits went 14-7 in 21 games before falling to Nebraska twice last week. This was their best start to a season since going to Division I in 2005. They are in second place in the Summit League behind North Dakota State who is 17-7.
SDSU is winning games with hot bats, leading the Summit League in runs scored and runs batted in and are second in hits. The Jacks have three of the top four players with the highest Summit League batting averages.
“I think confidence and having a better game plan going into each game has helped,” head coach Krista Wood said.

2. Key Players
Senior infielder Abby Murphy has led the Jacks in hitting so far this season. She has a .450 batting average, which is first in the Summit League and she has 20 RBI’s.
“She’s [Murphy] got a lot of confidence,” Wood said. “She’s swinging at good pitches and is just a tough out. She fouls a lot of balls off until she finds a pitch to hit. So she’s up there competing and battling at the plate.”
Junior outfielder Julia Andersen and junior infielder Ali Herdliska are great hitters for the Jacks as well. Andersen’s batting average is .376, which is third in the Summit League.
Herdliska has 19 RBI’s, which is second in the Summit League and three home runs. She has 25 career home runs, which is tied for second in SDSU history and is 10 away from the most in program history.
Senior pitcher Madison Hope is the Jacks’ number one pitcher. She has an 8-3 record with 37 strike outs and one save. The eight wins are second most in the Summit League.

3. Best season with Wood as head coach
This is Wood’s fourth season as the Jacks head coach. In her previous three, the team had a combined record of 65-108. Wood said having more upperclassmen is the reason SDSU has been successful.
“Everyone is starting to buy into the process more,” she said. “They’re buying into what we’re doing and our philosophies. We’re being more consistent with what we’re telling the kids with how we’re going to do things. The last two years we’ve been young, so now we’re getting a lot more experience and consistency.”

4. Conference championship hopes

The Jacks have not had a winning record since 2005 and have never won the Summit League regular season championship or tournament.
This is arguably their most talented team since joining the Summit League and Wood thinks they can win the conference.
“I think we have to put it all together,” Wood said. “Offense, defense, pitching and everyone’s goal is to win the league. So it’s not going to come easy by any means. North Dakota State’s got a good program and Omaha has been doing well. When it comes to Summit League play anything can happen. It’s going to be a battle, but offensively throughout these last 20-some games that there have been moments where if we can put it all together we can win it.”
The Jacks will travel to Iowa City to face Iowa and then to Kansas City to take on Missouri-Kansas City before going to Omaha to open up Summit League play March 30.

5. Key Games
The Jacks don’t play many games at the Jackrabbit Softball Stadium due to weather, so they like to take advantage of the ones they do have.
SDSU will have its home opener April 7 against North Dakota. That will begin a nine game home stand for them where they will play South Dakota, Drake and North Dakota State.
The Jacks only play NDSU at home this season, which will help SDSU because the Bison are the top team in the Summit League as of right now. SDSU and NDSU are the only teams with records above .500.

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Five things to know about Jacks softball