Softball slugger steps up for the sake of the team

With no outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, South Dakota State softball was beating Omaha 6-1 April 24 and sophomore Ali Herdliska was at the plate.

That’s when Herdliska drove the ball deep and over the right field wall for a two-run home run.

SDSU went on to win the game 8-4, and Herdliska went 1-1 with a home run and two walks. 

This is nothing new for Herdliska, a sophomore third baseman for SDSU. Herdliska was named Summit League Freshman of the year and named to the All-Summit League First Team.

Herdliska hit 16 home runs in her freshman year, which tied the SDSU single season record. She also led the team with a .322 batting average, .725 slugging percentage and .461 on-base percentage.

SDSU went 23-34 last season and is 17-30 so far this season. Although Herdliska has put up monster numbers, she always wants to put the team first. That includes moving to a position she had never played before. Herdliska said the team’s goal and her personal goal are the same.

“We just want to make a name for ourselves and to do that we have to win more games,” Herdliska said.

Head coach Krista Wood said every time they recruit somebody they want them to have success. She added that she knew that Herdliska would be able to be a good player for them.

“She’s just a gamer and she’s got a good presence at the plate and a good presence on the field,” Wood said.

Herdliska said it wasn’t like that in fall 2015 when she arrived on campus.

“I had a pretty rough fall,” Herdliska said. “So when I came back from Winter Break I just told myself it’s my freshman year and I’m going to work for this team and it was important for someone to step up and even a freshman can do it. Then I started to get hits and it was easy.”

Herdliska played catcher at the Solon High School in Solon, Iowa, but when she got to South Dakota State they needed her to play first base.

“A lot of times catchers can play first base because they’re used to receiving the ball,” Wood said. “We needed someone with a stick at first base and we needed to get her in the line up, so that was the most logical place to put her, at the time.”

For Herdliska, this was a tough transition, but she was excited to try something new.

“It was fun at first, because it was something new, but I knew that’s what the team needed. We needed another infielder, so I stepped up,” Herdliska said.

This season Herdliska has been playing third base. Wood said they made this decision when freshman Paige Gerdes started hitting the ball well, so they moved her into the starting lineup at first base.

“I want to do everything I can to make this team better. So, I stepped up and did my part,” Herdliska said.

Herdliska has continued to hit the ball, even with the position change. This season she has five home runs and is hitting .345 in the 47 games she has played.

Wood thinks Herdliska’s role on the team is to be a solid bat in the lineup and lead by example.