South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian


SDSU pitcher runs through Summit League by way of strikeout
Marshall Minihan
This season, Kniesche has pitched a total of 99 innings where she has amounted to 142 strikeouts, a batting average against of .161 and an ERA of 1.98. This season, Kniesche has completed six shutout games.

Every time Tori Kniesche steps onto a softball field this season, she is adding to an already impressive legacy.

Kniesche, the star pitcher on the Jackrabbit softball team is the record holder for wins, strikeouts and shutouts at South Dakota State, records she took control of last season.

This year, her dominant performances from the mound has propelled the Jackrabbits to a 24-18 record and undefeated in conference play.

“Tori is an anomaly,” said SDSU softball coach Kristina McSweeney. “You get a kid like her and she’s just incredible every single day. It forces you to be the best version of yourself. She brings to the table this championship mindset that you don’t see very often.”

For the senior from Wayne, Nebraska, breaking records is just a part of the game.

“I think breaking records comes along with success,” Kniesche said. “It’s super important to me and my teammates to take one game at a time and whatever the outcome is, we are always trying to win the game that we are playing and not look forward or not look at any stats or records.”

This season, the South Dakota State softball team has played six different nationally ranked teams. Kniesche led the Jacks to a victory on March 2 against No. 15 Arkansas, where she recorded nine strikeouts in seven innings.

The victory over Arkansas was the highest-ranked team that South Dakota State softball has ever beaten.

But it wasn’t their first-ranked victory.

In the 2023 season, Kniesche and her teammates beat No. 20 ranked Baylor 5-2 when Kniesche held the Bears hitless until the fifth inning. The win marked the first time in Jackrabbit history that the softball team took down a ranked opponent.

To Kniesche, that game has been her favorite memory of softball at South Dakota State.

“We were just overlooked and no one really talked about South Dakota State and I feel like those games against ranked teams] really put us on the map and that’s when bigger schools started looking at us like they need to prepare for us and not just overlook us,” Kniesche said.

It was McSweeney’s plan to play the best teams in softball.

“When we [McSweeny and Josh Bertke] took over the program, we immediately put them in front of those teams [ranked opponents],” McSweeney said, the second-year softball coach for the Jacks.

 “They had not done that in the past and I thought they were capable enough and competitive enough to play against those teams but for me, playing against the Dukes and Oklahoma States is what’s going to help us be that much better in the Summit [League].

Kniesche, or TK as she is known on the team, started playing softball at the age of eight. She credits her sister as the motivation to join the sport she has now excelled at.

“She is a year older, so she was nineplaying fast pitch,” said Kniesche. “I was always wanting to be her and I looked up to her, so that’s when I started getting into it.”

In April 2023, Kniesche earned the Division 1 Softball National Pitcher of the Week award. Though an impressive feat, it wasn’t the first time she was nationally recognized.

In her 2019-20 softball season, Kniesche had the most strikeouts in the nation with 499, as well as the most wins on the mound with 28. Kniesche also had the fourth-best earned run average, or ERA in the nation at .32 per game.

Though the owner of arguably the best records for a pitcher at South Dakota State, Kniesche doesn’t hold any high school records. The records at Wayne High School in Wayne, Nebraska, belong to Molly Hill, Kniesche’s idol in the sport.

“She’s [Molly Hill] has always been my role model,” Kniesche said. “She was the first pitcher to play softball at Wayne and to start that sport and grow it for the community.”

Hill played five years for the Nebraska Cornhuskers as a pitcher on the softball team where she was a member of the All-Big 12 first team in 2009. Similar to the athlete she inspired, Hill spent multiple weeks as her conference’s pitcher of the week.

Now 20 years removed from high school, Hill’s name sits in 11 different spots on the record board to this day.

Now 12-5 on the mound this season, Kniesche and her teammates will take the field next against NDSU for a three-game stretch in Fargo, North Dakota. First pitch on Friday is slated for noon.

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About the Contributor
Marshall Minihan, Sports Editor
Sports Editor Marshall Minihan is a junior at South Dakota State University and is from Canton, South Dakota. He majors in journalism and minors in communication studies and recreation administration.

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