Summit League champion North Dakota State University (35-16) will take on Auburn University (39-17-1) on May 16 in the opening round of the NCAA Division I Softball Minneapolis Regional at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. The other half of the bracket has host and No. 16-seed Minnesota (41-9) playing Green Bay (25-12). The double-elimination tournament runs May 16-18.
North Dakota State makes its fifth NCAA Division I tournament appearance and have posted a 4-8 record including the 2009 NCAA Norman Regional championship. The Bison are 28-23 overall in NCAA tournament play including the 2000 Division II National Championship.
NDSU stormed through the loser's bracket this weekend and posted five straight wins to claim its fifth Summit League tournament championship over the past six seasons. The Bison defeated Fort Wayne 3-1 on Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday to earn the title.
North Dakota State faces No. 21/22-ranked Auburn for the second time this season. The Bison lost to the Tigers 11-3 on Feb. 7 in the AU Plainsman Invitational. NDSU is 4-0 against Green Bay and 1-17 against No. 15/16-ranked Minnesota. The Bison and the Gophers had a doubleheader canceled in late April due to bad weather.
North Dakota State University hit four home runs to power past Fort Wayne 12-5 to claim the program's fifth Summit League Softball Championship over the past six seasons before 254 fans on Sunday, May 11, at the Ellig Sports Complex. The Bison receive the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which will be announced at 9 p.m. Central Sunday on ESPNU.
NDSU (35-16) stormed through the loser's bracket and won five straight games, including three on Saturday, to take home the championship trophy. Bison pitcher Krista Menke was named the tournament's MVP, while teammates, catcher Jenina Ortega, third baseman Amanda Grable, center fielder Alex Sobrero and shortstopLogan Morelandjoined her on the all-tournament team.
Menke, a junior right-hander from Friend, Neb., improved to 28-7 overall and went 5-1 in tournament play. She pitched 27 innings and threw 515 pitches including 318 strikes over the last 28-hours. Menke struck out 37, scattered 22 hits, walked 10 and allowed seven runs over the 27 innings for a 1.81 earned run average.
North Dakota State hit .345 with 11 home runs, 10 doubles and 49 runs scored over the six-game Summit League Championship journey. The Bison also made only four errors in 154 chances for a .974 fielding percentage.
The NDSU offense cranked up and scored 11 unanswered runs in the first four innings. The Bison hit four home runs on Sunday, becoming the fourth team to tie the league tournament single-game record this weekend. Overall, 41 home runs were hit over the five-day, 11-game tournament.
Sophomore Jackie Stifterstarted things in the second inning, belting a 3-2 pitch for a two-run home run to right center to put NDSU ahead 2-0. It was Stifter's second home run and 11th extra-base hit of the season.
The Bison struck for four runs in the bottom of the third to extend the lead to 6-0 and chased Fort Wayne starter Miranda Kramer from the circle in the process. Jenna Isbelled off with slap infield single, advanced to second on a Sobrero sacrifice bunt and moved to third on Moreland's double to right center. Isbel scored on a wild pitch and Cheyenne Garciawalked.
Ortega, a senior catcher from San Jose, Calif., then greeted Mastodons' reliever Megan Flenniken by smacking the first pitch for a three-run home run over the left center field fence. It was Ortega's ninth home run of the season and 21st of her career.
North Dakota State posted five runs in the bottom of the fourth to push the margin to 11-0. Brandi Enriquez led off with single, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on Sobrero's double down the left field line. Moreland promptly followed with a line drive home run to center that bounced on top and over the fence.
Fort Wayne (40-15) brought in its third pitcher of the game, Kaitlyn Biere. Ortega walked and then Grable powered a two-run home run to left field. It was Grable's ninth home run of the season and 28th of her career.
The Mastodons weren't ready to leave yet and responded with five runs to cut the lead to 11-5 in the top of the fifth highlighted by Dani Pugh's grand slam to right.
NDSU closed out the scoring with a run in the bottom of the fifth. Isbel laced a two-out double to left center and scored on Sobrero's single. The Bison finished with 13 hits as Sobrero, Moreland, Ortega, Grable, Stifter and Isbel each collected two apiece.
Menke struck out 10, allowed seven hits and walked two. She reached double-figures in strikeouts for the fifth time this season and seventh time in her career.
Kramer (20-10), Flenniken and Biere all pitched for Fort Wayne with Kramer taking the loss. The trio combined to strike out six and walk two.