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Softball sets sights on postseason after strong start under Wood

MIRANDA+SAMPSON
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Softball sets sights on postseason after strong start under Wood

MIRANDA SAMPSON

MIRANDA SAMPSON

MIRANDA SAMPSON

MIRANDA SAMPSON


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South Dakota State’s softball team is having one of its best seasons in program history. The Jacks are 23-11 overall, which ties the record for most wins in a season under head coach Krista Wood.

SDSU has not had a winning season since 2005 when they were 30-29. When Wood took over the program in 2014, the Jacks were coming off a 16-30 season, and she knew coaching them would take patience.

“It was all about changing the atmosphere, building a championship culture on and off the field,” Wood said. “We’ve been young and so now we are taking a lot of kids with experience and they are taking that to the field.”

In the first four seasons under Wood, SDSU had a combined record of 76-134.

With five seniors and nine juniors, the Jacks have a veteran lineup. The balance between pitching, hitting and fielding is a big key, and senior pitcher Madison Hope is helping the cause.

Hope shutout rival South Dakota April 7, and is second in the Summit League with 14 wins.

“The more I pitch, the more confident I get,” Hope said.

That confidence is due in part to her teammates, she said, who are putting up record batting averages so far this season.

“Our bats are working well for us, and it’s easy to pitch when your team is scoring runs,” Hope said. “I’m winning those games this year that we would’ve lost last year because our bats are helping me out.”

Senior infielders Abbey Murphy and Brittney Morse are anchoring the team with strong hitting. Murphy has a Summit League best with 42 runs batted in, while Morse is leading the league with a .440 batting average. Other powerhouses include senior outfielder Julia Anderson and junior infielder Ali Herdliska, who are batting well above .300.

Herdliska has hit six home runs this season and 28 in her career. She is seven home runs away from tying Devan Larsen’s record, who played from 2013-16.

As a team, the Jacks are also batting above .300 and currently have the top three hitters in the Summit league.

SDSU’s doing all of this without having played a home game yet this season.

As for the rest of the season, Wood and the Jacks, who are in second place in the Summit League, have high hopes. To make a post-season appearance, the Jacks will have to go through their two biggest opponents: North Dakota State and the Summit League leader, Western Illinois.

A first-place finish in the conference tournament would send the Jacks to the NCAA Tournament. The second-place team is invited to another tournament that features many competitive mid-majors called the National Invitational Softball Championship.

A spot in either will be a huge feat for the Jacks, as they’ve never gone to either tournament, and are working toward becoming a force in the Summit League.

Kathy Heylens, sports supervisor for softball and senior associate athletic director, was optimistic about the softball team’s future.

“Success just breeds success,” Heylens said.

Heylens said Wood’s patience and the way she helped build up to this season over four years has been crucial. She said Wood’s ability to implement captains, give leadership opportunities to her student athletes and believing in them is a big part of their success.

“It comes down to continuing to recruit and getting athletes that can help her [Wood] be successful, continuing to buy into the program and build on their schedule to face some good non-conference teams,” Heylens said.

As for now, Wood is not worried about the outcomes, but rather the way her team plays.

“They are fun to coach and they play hard,” she said.

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Softball sets sights on postseason after strong start under Wood