College Softball

South Dakota State hitting its stride in final stretch of season

By Andrew Holtan

The Brookings Register

Posted 4/11/24

South Dakota State softball has won 11-straight games as the Jackrabbits enter the final month of the regular season.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
College Softball

South Dakota State hitting its stride in final stretch of season


BROOKINGS — South Dakota State softball has won 11-straight games as the Jackrabbits enter the final month of the regular season.

SDSU (24-18) won its final three games of the regular season and has won its first eight Summit League games. Head coach Kristina McSweeney said she is very happy with where her team is at as they enter the final 12 games of the season.

“I think we’re probably in the best place that you would want to be in the middle of our conference section of our schedule. I think we’re really playing well right now in all facets of the game. Defense, offense. It just seems to be hitting a point where we’re in a better spot than we were when we started [the season],” McSweeney said.

SDSU played one of the tougher non-conference schedules in the country. In total the Jacks played 12 games against teams that were ranked in the Top 25 and nine teams that are in the power-five conferences. SDSU won only one of those games against ranked teams, but McSweeney said the point of her non-conference schedule was to prepare her team for what is ahead late in the season.

“For me, it was not about the wins and losses. We have a senior heavy team and for me, it was trying to get them to see that they could compete and compete well with the best teams in the country. The strategy behind that was to prepare us for the hardest part of our season and have them see that they could be successful against some of the best pitching in the country,” McSweeney said.

SDSU’s offense has improved over the season and the Jackrabbits rank second in the Summit League in batting average, hitting .284 on the season. They lead the conference in home runs (35), triples (15) and doubles (62).

Junior infielder Mia Jarecki is the leader of the offense as she leads the conference in batting average, hitting .408 on the season. She is second in the Summit League in home runs (7) and in triples (3).

Senior outfielder Lindsey Culver has also put together a stellar season so far as she is third in the conference in batting average (.381) and first in RBIs (39). She also has seven home runs like Jarecki. Fellow senior outfielder Emma Osmundson is hitting .377 and is first in the conference in doubles (16) and second in RBIs (35) and hits (46).

During this 11-game win streak the Jackrabbit offense is averaging 8.6 runs per game. McSweeney said she likes the way her players are being more patient and are focusing on hitting the ball into the gaps.

“I think we’ve been a lot more consistent,” McSweeney said. “Our biggest nemesis last year was our strikeout numbers. We struck out so many times and struggled to put a ball in play when we needed it the most. Also, when you look at our numbers from last year, we had a lot of unproductive outs, so fly balls.

“I think here recently we’re doing a better job of getting extra base hits, which is what I told them we needed to do in order to be successful in conference play. … Our lefties and our righties have done a good job of going the opposite way, and that’s been our major focus. We’ve really been trying to explain to them and teach them how to be successful on each side of the plate and I think it’s been paying off.”

Senior pitcher Tori Kniesche is likely going to win her third Summit League Pitcher of the Year Award as she leads the league in earned run average (1.98) and opponents batting average (.161) and is second in strikeouts (142).

“The thing with [Kniesche] is, her competitive mindset is something that is beyond inspiring,” McSweeney said. “So, as good as she was last year and the two years before, she came into her senior year thinking she had to be better than she was last year and wanted me to help her get there. She’s so consistent and behind her our team is beyond confident. A lot of that is the work that she’s put in.”

Senior Shannon Lasey is the other pitcher for the Jackrabbits. Lasey struggled to start the season and has an ERA of 5.13. However, she’s won her last five starts and has given up seven runs in 29 innings in those starts.

McSweeeney said she and Lasey met towards the end of non-conference play and figured out how they could fix her struggles.

“Shannon had kind of a rocky start and had a hard time getting the ball in the zone and keeping the ball in the zone,” McSweeney said. “It’s kind of been a rollercoaster ride with her. … We added some things there in the middle to get her a better grasp on consistency in the circle and being able to get into the zone.

“It took one really hard conversation where we looked at each other and decided she needed to get better and figure some things out. She’s always been a buy-in kid, so we worked and started to break some things down and she’s seeing that moment right now. She’s been incredible in conference play,” McSweeney said.

SDSU will play three games at North Dakota State this weekend. The Jacks will then play a pair of games at Wisconsin and a singular game at Minnesota. They’ll then close out the regular season with a three-game series at home against St. Thomas and a three-game series at Omaha.

Omaha is 5-1 in conference play and 28-8 overall. It’s looking like it will be a two-team race for the conference title between the Jackrabbits and Mavericks for a third-straight season, but McSweeney said she thinks more of the pressure is on Omaha since the Mavs are the defending conference champions.

“We feel like we’ve kind of flown under the radar this year, which is great,” McSweeney said. “The pressure has been on Omaha all year and that’s fine and great for us. I would like to see that consistency and steady play [down the stretch] and not let the outside [stuff] get in the way of our success.

“… I want to improve every time we get out there and do something better than we did last time we played. … I think falling short at the conference tournament [last season] has given our team a sense of vengeance. They have been focused on getting back there and performing and not letting that happen again, especially not on our home turf.”