Softball snags a win at IUPUI in first conference series

By Austin Hamm Sports Editor

The South Dakota State softball team opened conference play in Indianapolis this past weekend, going 1-2 against Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis.

“I thought the girls played tough. We were in every single inning and had them worried the whole time,” SDSU’s first year Head Coach Krista Wood said. “Last year, when IUPUI played SDSU, they swept them and had 40 plus runs on them. I think they thought it would be a cakewalk. All three games really could have gone either way.”

In the first game of the series, the Jacks went into the seventh down 5-2, but a three-run homer by Devan Larsen, her fourth home run of the year, evened the score and sent it to extra innings. Jessica Markanich and Dana Chavez scored in the eighth to seal up the Jack’s win.

The second game was 1-1 in the fourth, but IUPUI scored five runs in the fifth to put it out of reach, as the Jackrabbits fell 7-1.

“We actually hit their number one pitcher really well and they ended up pitching their number two pitcher the other two games, and we just didn’t make adjustments to her,” Wood said.

In the final game of the series, runs were scarce as Ashlyn Bender took the mound for the second time for the weekend and carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning. Ultimately, the Jacks fell 2-1 in eight innings. For the weekend, Bender pitched 15.2 innings with 10 strikeouts.

“I thought we played really well. Ashlyn Bender had a really good weekend for us on the mound,” Wood said.  “I thought she pitched really well. Brianna Clark came in and pitched well for us in the second game. She had one bad inning, which wound up costing us the game, but overall our pitching got a lot better.”

The Jaguars of IUPUI have the second best overall record in the Summit league and sit in third behind North Dakota State and University of Nebraska Omaha in the conference standings after one weekend of conference series. Being able to hang tough with a team expected to contend for the conference crown has Wood feeling good about the teams improvement and chances going forward.

“Losing one extra inning game, winning one extra inning game, and then losing one. Last year they got swept in this series, so I think this was a big step for us,” Wood said. “Defensively we played really strong. For the weekend we had four errors, and I think last year when they played this series they had 11.”

After having several early season tournaments canceled, the Jackrabbit softball schedule is in flux again, with the scheduled upcoming games against Southwest Minnesota State and Dakota Wesleyan getting postponed. The SMSU games have been moved to April 1 in Marshall, Minn. No alternative date for the DWU games has been set. With the change, the next game up for the Jacks is a rematch with the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The previous game was a 7-4 UMKC win in Clermont, Fla.

“We played them down in Florida, and that was our first game on dirt. If you take away it being our first game on dirt we possibly win that game,” Wood said. “We had a few too many errors, our pitchers were getting adjusted to the dirt and they came out on top. We didn’t play very well, but we’re hoping to give them a run for their money on[March] 31.”