Softball team closes regular season against USD

Brayden Byers, Sports Reporter

The South Dakota State softball team has clinched their third consecutive Summit League regular season title. This doesn’t mean their job is finished.“Yes, we’re the number one seed. Yes, we won the championship, but we’re going to finish and we’re going to finish strong and we’re going to make a statement.” Head Coach Kristina McSweeney said.

They look to make that statement this weekend as they welcome in-state rival USD to Jackrabbit Softball Stadium in Brookings on Friday and Saturday for a three-game series.

The Jackrabbits (32-15, 14-0) are fresh off a series sweep of the Kansas City Roos last weekend to remain unbeaten in conference play. The Coyotes (22-23, 11-6) come into this final series of the regular season trying to lock up their fourth seed.

“It is a big couple days and we’ve talked about this the whole way through, you know, this weekend with USD is a character weekend.” McSweeney said, “What are we about? How do we finish, and we make a statement for South Dakota State softball?”

SDSU is 53-3 since the pandemic with two of the three losses in that span coming at the hands of the Yotes. USD played a spoiler in 2021 ruining the Jacks’ perfect conference schedule in the final week of regular season play.

The Jackrabbits come into this series boasting a 24-game winning streak in Brookings, which is the second-longest home win streak in the country. That mark trails only top-ranked Oklahoma’s 56-game streak.

The Coyotes have some weapons on offense with the top two hitters in the league on their roster. Aleesia Sainz (.463) and Courtney Wilson (.393) lead a lineup that has a Summit-best .298 batting average in conference play.

The Jacks look to combat that with their ace, Tori Kniesche, who hasn’t allowed an earned run in a league game. The former Summit League Pitcher of the Year, earning that distinction as a freshman in 2021, has a 20-4 record allowing only 1.48 earned runs per game striking out 203 batters along the way, which ranks 11th in the nation.

“Immediately we figured out that Kansas City was ready for that,” McSweeney said of Kniesche who became SDSU’s all-time wins leader with her 59th victory on Saturday. “So, we went back to the approach we’ve had all year you know, just trying to diversify her pitches and diversify how we attack hitters.”

The Jackrabbits also have some firepower in their lineup with Jocelyn Carrillo (.390) and Mia Jarecki (.380) who rank third and fourth respectively in the conference in terms of batting average. Alexa Williams found her place this past weekend going 4/8 with five RBIs and two home runs in Kansas City.

“[Williams] just has found her groove, has found a pretty good place in our lineup to help contribute.” McSweeney said.

The series begins on Friday at 1 p.m. with a senior day doubleheader. The series will culminate Saturday with a single game at noon. The games will be streamed on Jackrabbits All-Access at with local radio coverage on The Ranch AM 910.