Big test lies ahead

Tierney+Bottino+%2818+RBIs%29+and+the+Leathernecks+will+have+their+hands+full+against+NDSU%E2%80%99s+Jacquelyn+Sertic+this+weekend.
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Big test lies ahead

Tierney Bottino (18 RBIs) and the Leathernecks will have their hands full against NDSU’s Jacquelyn Sertic this weekend.

Tierney Bottino (18 RBIs) and the Leathernecks will have their hands full against NDSU’s Jacquelyn Sertic this weekend.

Mike Frederiksen

Tierney Bottino (18 RBIs) and the Leathernecks will have their hands full against NDSU’s Jacquelyn Sertic this weekend.

Mike Frederiksen

Mike Frederiksen

Tierney Bottino (18 RBIs) and the Leathernecks will have their hands full against NDSU’s Jacquelyn Sertic this weekend.

Zach Martin

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The Western Illinois softball team is about to face its toughest test all season.

No, it’s not the North Dakota Bison, the top-team in the Summit League. It’s one of the best players in not only the conference, but in the country.

Her name: Jacquelyn Sertic.

Her resume: 19 wins, 2.05 ERA, 154 strikeouts, opponents hitting .212 against her and .138 in conference.

When the Leathernecks travel north to Fargo, North Dakota for a three-game series against NDSU, success against Sertic will be key.

“We have seen lots of great pitchers this year,” said head coach Holly Van Vlymen. “We’re not going to put her on a pedestal. Look for our pitch and working our counts.”

Last season, Western faced Sertic twice and had very little success.

In the first start, she lasted just 3.1 innings, but most of that were control issues with three walks. She also allowed two runs, but only one of them was earned.

Start number two saw Sertic toss a complete game and allowed just one run and struck out three batters.

She’s improved, and Van Vlymen knows that.

“She’s a totally different pitcher,” Van Vlymen said. “We’re not going to make her a big deal, we’re just going to play our game.”

Another battle that will determine this Summit League matchup is a cat-and-mouse game between the Leatherneck defense and the Bison base runners.

What NDSU has on the base paths can’t be ignored: 79 stolen bases, and three of the top four best base stealers in the conference. Speed kills, and it may hurt the Leathernecks’ chances in winning this series.

“We’ve been working with our catchers and our middles to throw them out,” Van Vlymen said. “We have to be ready to throw.”

For Western, it does have some momentum heading into the first game tonight.

The offense exploded for 14 runs in its series finale against Omaha, and Van Vlymen believes that game will have a lasting impact on how the Leathernecks approach North Dakota State.

“They feel really good going into this weekend,” she said. “I think that they’re confident.”

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