USD softball falls in tournament championship game to NDSU

FARGO, N.D.—With senior Summit Player of the Year KK Leddy roughed up by South Dakota Friday, North Dakota State coach Darren Mueller handed the ball to freshman pitcher Paige Vargas and she delivered. Twice.

Vargas, with solid defense behind her, limited the Coyotes to one run in 14 innings of work in leading North Dakota State to its sixth consecutive Summit League Tournament championship. NDSU won 6-0 to force a winner-take-all second game and won that one 3-1.

Vargas (16-4) tossed a five-hit shutout in game one. She had just one strikeout, but walked no one and every hard hit it seemed found a Bison glove. She threw 102 pitches in the opener, which was delayed more than a half hour by rain, but Mueller sent her back into the circle in game two.

South Dakota (33-26) loaded the bases against Vargas in the top of the first inning of game two, but in sticking with the theme, Lauren Eamiguel ripped a missile but directly at Bison second baseman Madyson Camacho who snagged the line drive to end the threat.

North Dakota State (42-14) scored three runs in the first inning of game one and one in game two. The Bison essentially held a lead all day and never gave it up.

Eamiguel put the Coyotes on the board in the top of the sixth inning with a base hit to right center that scored Dustie Durham. The next batter, Skylar Arellano, drilled a line drive, but Vargas was able to get a glove on it to knock it down and the Bison got the lead runner at second for the second out of the inning. Lauren Wobken fouled out to third to end another threat.

Vargas allowed 11 hits on the day, but all of them were singles. She struck out five and walked two.

Alexis Devers, who tossed a complete game Friday in South Dakota's 10-1 win over NDSU, started the opener and pitched into the sixth inning. Dustie Durham started the second game and gave up the three runs before USD coach Robert Wagner went back to Devers after two runs crossed in the third. Devers held the Bison scoreless the rest of the way. She pitched nine innings Saturday, giving up five runs on 13 hits. She struck out three and walked eight.

Arellano had the best luck against Vargas. She was 3-for-3 in game one, accounting for all but two of USD's five hits. Durham and Camille Fowler each had two hits Saturday.

Devers, Durham, second baseman Alyssa Fernandez and catcher Jessica Rogers represented the Coyotes on the all-tournament team. In addition to being the winning pitcher against Purdue Fort Wayne Thursday, Durham was 5-for-13 (.385) during the tournament with a double and three runs scored. Fernandez was 4-for-12 with a two walks, a home run and two runs scored. Rogers was 4-for-12 with two home runs and four RBIs.

South Dakota, in finishing second in the Summit League standings, has secured the Summit League's automatic bid to the National Invitational Softball Championships. The bracket for that tournament will be unveiled Sunday evening following the NCAA Division I Selection Show. First round games will be played May 16-18 at host sites.