Summit League regular season title up for grabs

ABBY+FULLENKAMP%0AJunior+Ali+Herdliska+readies+to+bunt+the+ball+during+practice+April+9+in+the+SJAC.+The+Jacks+face+Western+Illinois+April+28+and+29+in+Macomb%2C+Illinois.+SDSU+is+27-12+overall+and+8-3+in+the+conference.
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Summit League regular season title up for grabs

ABBY FULLENKAMP
Junior Ali Herdliska readies to bunt the ball during practice April 9 in the SJAC. The Jacks face Western Illinois April 28 and 29 in Macomb, Illinois. SDSU is 27-12 overall and 8-3 in the conference.

ABBY FULLENKAMP Junior Ali Herdliska readies to bunt the ball during practice April 9 in the SJAC. The Jacks face Western Illinois April 28 and 29 in Macomb, Illinois. SDSU is 27-12 overall and 8-3 in the conference.

ABBY FULLENKAMP Junior Ali Herdliska readies to bunt the ball during practice April 9 in the SJAC. The Jacks face Western Illinois April 28 and 29 in Macomb, Illinois. SDSU is 27-12 overall and 8-3 in the conference.

ABBY FULLENKAMP Junior Ali Herdliska readies to bunt the ball during practice April 9 in the SJAC. The Jacks face Western Illinois April 28 and 29 in Macomb, Illinois. SDSU is 27-12 overall and 8-3 in the conference.

Andrew Holtan

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A three-game series sweep of the Fort Wayne Mastodons moved the South Dakota State softball team into second place in the Summit League.

The Jacks’ (27-12, 8-3) offense was red hot, outscoring the Mastodons 26-9 in the three games.

“We were hot from top to bottom. I think we almost hit .400 as a team,” head coach Krista Wood said.

Wood said it was nice that the bottom of the order was able to get on base, so the top of the order could drive them in.

Junior infielders Megan Rushing, Baily Janssen and Yanney Ponce, who all hit at the bottom of the order, went a combined 12-23 with two runs batted in.

“I think our defense played out of their shoes in the third game,” Wood said. “Madison [Hope] came in and pitched and made better adjustments at the plate.”

SDSU will play its biggest series of the season in the final games against a Summit League opponent, the Western Illinois Leathernecks, April 28 and 29 in Macomb, Illinois.

WIU entered conference play 8-22, but have a league-best 8-1 record in the Summit League. If the Jacks can win at least two of the three games against the Leathernecks, they will be the Summit League regular season champions.

Wood said the Jacks will not put more pressure on these games.

“We tell our kids one game at a time, one inning at a time, three outs at a time,’” Wood said. “We kind of break it down into small increments, instead of trying to look at the big picture. I think our kids have done a really good job of saying ‘let’s get this seven innings, let’s get this game and then we’ll start back at 0-0 and get the next game.’”

Junior Emily Ira is Western Illinois’ star pitcher. She won the 2017 Summit League Pitcher of the Year. Ira has 3.12 earned run average and has 137 strike outs, both are second place standings in the Summit League.

“We’ll try to look back to last year, as far as some tendencies, and continue to make adjustments every inning, every game, as we continue to see their staff,” Wood said about WIU’s pitching.

These are not the final games of the season for the Jacks. They will play their first and last home game in a doubleheader May 1 against North Dakota.

Wood said the Jacks are excited to be in a position to take the regular season conference title, something they’ve never done.

“We’ve been talking about it since the Fort Wayne games were over. It’ll be a great opportunity for us to see what we can do,” she said.