GREELEY, Colo. (gojacks.com) – The Jackrabbit softball program saw its historic season come to an end Friday in the National Invitational Softball Championship regional final, dropping a 7-1 winner-take-all contest to Loyola Marymount after forcing an if-necessary game with a 6-5 victory in the first game of the day against the Lions.
South Dakota State finishes the season at 37-18, posting its best finish at the Division I record while earning the program's second-ever postseason appearance. The Jackrabbits had four NFCA All-Region selections, six All-Summit League awardees (including the player and coach of the year) and four All-NISC Greeley Regional team members: Abbey Murphy, Julia Andersen, Ali Herdliska and Megan Rushing.
Game One: South Dakota State 6, Loyola Marymount 5
Taylor Compton started and pitched 2.2 frames, exiting in the third after allowing five runs on six hits with a walk. Madison Hope (23-9) entered in relief and threw the final 6.1 frames with one allowed on five hits, resetting the school's single-season wins record with the victory.
Brittney Morse, Lyndsey Crist and Dana Chavez (RBI) all had two hits on the day while Andersen (RBI) and Rushing (three RBIs) blasted home runs. Paige Gerdes drove in the other Jackrabbit run with a walk.
SDSU jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first, using a pair of home runs as part of a five-hit inning.
Andersen started the offense with a solo shot from the two-hole in the lineup, followed by a Herdliska single up the middle. With two gone in the inning, Crist lined a sharp single off LMU's third baseman's glove down the line, and Chavez drove Herdliska home from second as she poked a single to left. In the next at-bat, Rushing blasted a 3-2 pitch over the center-field wall for a three-run home run.
LMU got two back in the second with back-to-back doubles and a one-out squeeze bunt to make it a 5-2 game before State responded with a run in the third as Gerdes drew a full-count, bases-loaded walk for an RBI as a pinch-hitter.
Ahead 6-2 at that point, the Jacks saw their advantage cut to one (6-5) with a pair of LMU home runs in the bottom of third despite a highlight play at the plate after an LMU double saw Andersen, Yanney Ponce and Morse connect on a throw from the left-center fence.
That score held until the rest of the way, as SDSU finished the win with a wild finish in the bottom of the seventh. A leadoff runner for LMU took second a sacrifice bunt, and as Murphy tracked down a deep fly in right for the second out the Lions' baserunner was deemed to have left early on a tag-up for the final out.
Game Two: Loyola Marymount 7, South Dakota State 1
Compton (10-8) started and pitched the opening two frames, allowing one run on one hit. Kendra Conard entered to begin the third and threw into the sixth, exiting after the leadoff batter reached when Hope came into pitch.
Conard was tagged for two runs on a pair of hits and a walk before leaving, and Hope allowed four runs on six hits in 1.2 innings. Compton re-entered in the seventh and pitched the final out of the inning.
Andersen and Herdliska went 2-for-4 at the plate while Murphy, Morse, Crist, Rushing and Ponce added a hit each.
LMU scored first with a solo home run and pushed its lead to 2-0 in the fourth with a one-out RBI single up the middle.
The Jackrabbits got one back in the bottom of the fourth, capitalizing on a two-out LMU error. After Crist walked, Chavez reached on a fielder's choice and moved to second as Rushing singled through the left side. Both runners advanced 60 feet on a ground out in the next at-bat, and with two gone in the inning Gerdes' pinch-hit ground ball was mishandled at first and Chavez raced home.
That score held until the final two innings, when the Lions pulled away with a pair of runs in the sixth and another three in the seventh.
Down to its last chance, State saw Murphy and Andersen open the seventh consecutive singles but could not mount a comeback in the season-ending defeat.
- The Jackrabbits went 3-2 in elimination games this season between the Summit League Championship and the NISC.
- SDSU has scored five or more runs in an inning 21 times this season.
- Madison Hope broke the school record for single-season wins, surpassing Melissa Peter's total from the 1996 season.
- South Dakota State earned its first postseason berth at the Division I level and won a Division I-era record 37 games.
ABOUT THE SUMMIT LEAGUE
Through 35 years of Division I athletics, The Summit League offers 19 championship sports and has a combined enrollment of nearly 100,000 at eight institutions, including three located in top 60 U.S. metro populations and two land-grant universities. Member institutions include: Denver (University of Denver), Fort Wayne (Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne), North Dakota State University, Omaha (University of Nebraska Omaha), Oral Roberts University, the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Western Illinois University with the University of North Dakota becoming an official member on July 1, 2018. Previously known as the Mid-Continent Conference, The Summit League rebranded in 2007 and has since produced nine NCAA Champions along with over 90 Academic All-Americans, nearly 100 All-America selections and numerous former student-athletes competing at the highest professional level. For more information about the league, visit www.thesummitleague.orgwebsite, follow The Summit League on Twitter @thesummitleague.