Softball swept by North Dakota State in three-game home series


Josh Purnell/ Photo Staff

Meghan Henson jogs back to behind home plate.

David Koier, Courier Staff

The weather wasn’t on anyone’s side this weekend as the Western Illinois Leathernecks softball team not only battled the North Dakota State Bison, but also had to battle the rain. Due to the rain over the weekend, the doubleheader on Saturday faced a few rain delays that pushed game one back two hours and had game two moved to Sunday.

While game one was being delayed two hours, the two teams found different ways to stay warm and stay loose while still having fun. The two teams met behind home plate during the delay and mixed together to form one giant team circle. With music blasting over the stadium speakers, the two teams played a game that saw NDSU and Western players alike dancing, laughing and singing. This circle showed that even though they are rivals on the field, collegiate athletes can still be friendly and show sportsmanship off the field.

Game one of the series pitted two of the best pitchers in The Summit League in Emily Ira and KK Leddy. Leddy and Ira appear constantly on top of The Summit League pitching leaderboards with both appearing in the top five in ERA and strikeouts. Leddy topped the Summit in wins (13) and strikeouts (124).

The first two innings of game one saw only a few base runners from both teams but each ace was able to prevent them from scoring. It wasn’t until the top of the third that NDSU was able to find home plate. A few infield singled followed by a few Bison bunts gave NDSU a 4-0 lead after the top of the third.

A homerun by Bison shortstop Montana DeCamp widened the lead to five. The Leathernecks weren’t able to hit the Bison ace and after four full innings the score was still 5-0.

The Bison led the fifth inning with back-to-back singles, causing Western head coach Beth Golitko to pull her ace and place senior Payton Abbott on the rubber. The Bison were able to keep their bats hot and found home plate seven more times in the fifth inning. Golitko made one more substitution on the mound as she replaced Abbott with freshman pitcher Danielle Rodriguez who was able to get the final out of the half-inning.

The Leathernecks couldn’t best Leddy and a three up, three down bottom of the fifth gave NDSU the 12-0 game one win.

Both teams had to get up bright and early the next morning as game one of the now Sunday doubleheader began at 10 a.m. Just as in game one, Western couldn’t keep up with the red hot bats of NDSU.

After three innings of play, Western trailed 6-2 but were able to get on the board due to solo home runs by both Sydney Hollings and Rodriguez. The homer by Rodriguez marked her first hit as a Leatherneck.

Heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Purple and Gold trailed the Bison 10-3 and were not about to go down without a fight. After NDSU starting pitcher Paige Vargas let up six hits to lead off the bottom of the seventh, NDSU skipper Darren Mueller brought in Leddy to close out the game.

Western was able to score four but weren’t able to complete the comeback as NDSU took game two with a score of 10-7.

The Leathernecks took an early lead in game three after Hollings hit a two run double in the bottom of the first. A single by Abby Carlin and a double by Meghan Henson in the bottom of second gave Western a comfortable 3-0 lead.

A three run homerun in the top of the fifth by Bison catcher Maddie Hanson tied the game for NDSU. Two more Bison players would cross the plate in the top of the seventh inning, giving the team their first lead of the game.

Hollings tried to get something started for the Leathernecks in the bottom seventh as she hit a single down the right field line that scored Jasmine Lara, bringing the Necks within one. The comeback, however, wouldn’t take shape and the Bison completed the three game sweep with a 5-4 win.

Western moved to 1-5 in conference play while the Bison sit atop The Summit League undefeated against Summit opponents.

Western travels to South Dakota State this weekend for a three game series against the Jackrabbits. Game one of Saturday’s doubleheader is scheduled for noon.