College Softball

SDSU hopes for redemption at Summit League Tournament

By Andrew Holtan

The Brookings Register

Posted 5/7/24

South Dakota State will play its first game in the Summit League Softball Tournament on Thursday morning at the Jackrabbit Softball Complex and the Jackrabbits are the No. 1 seed for a fourth straight season.

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College Softball

SDSU hopes for redemption at Summit League Tournament


BROOKINGS – South Dakota State will play its first game in the Summit League Softball Tournament on Thursday morning at the Jackrabbit Softball Complex and the Jackrabbits are the No. 1 seed for a fourth straight season.

SDSU is hoping to go to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the past four seasons as the Jackrabbits came up short last year, falling to Omaha in the championship game. Second year head coach Kristina McSweeney said one of the things her team learned from last year’s tournament is to not overlook their first opponent. The Jacks fell to South Dakota in their opening tournament game last season and they’ll be going up against the Coyotes in their tournament opener again this year.

“I think the most evident thing [coming out of last year’s tournament] is not looking past our first opponent,” McSweeney said. “We stubbed our toe against USD right away and had to fight for our life to get [to the championship game] and I think that was the key for us last year. The tournament last year wasn’t in great weather conditions. … I think we learned a lot about ourselves and adversity.”

SDSU comes into the tournament with an overall record 31-20 and a 14-2 record in the Summit League. Both conference losses came this past weekend against defending champion Omaha (37-12, 14-4), who is the No. 2 seed in this year’s tournament. McSweeney said her team realized after the series with Omaha that they are going to have to bring their A-game if they want to win this weekend’s tournament.

“The past two years when Omaha and SDSU have played, it’s been a 1-0 ballgame and whoever wins it, wins it. Last year, the games were very close and we took all three and this year they took two. Mainly we learned that we need to be a little tougher at the plate and our approach needs to be a little bit better. … Just understanding that it’s going to take our best game to beat them, I think that was pretty evident this weekend,” McSweeney said.

Omaha is led by Summit League Pitcher of the Year Kamryn Meyer. She led the conference in earned run average (1.71) and strikeouts (196). Her strikeout total is tied for 12th in the country.

“I think Kamryn Meyer is able to locate [her pitches] at an elite level,” McSweeney said. “Her inside pitch and her outside pitch are just that. They’re in and then they’re out. She doesn’t miss over the white very much and she controls the upper half of the zone, so she’s able to elevate a pitch when it needs to be elevated. But I think what makes her [so great] is how consistent she is. She just throws a lot of strikes and attacks the zone and attacks hitters and is confident. She’s a force to be reckoned with for sure.”

SDSU junior infielder Mia Jarecki was named the Summit League Player of the Year. She led the conference in batting average (.399) and hits (63). She was second in home runs (8) and tied for third in triples (4).

“[Jarecki] has just been very consistent for us all year,” McSweeney said. “Being our lead-off hitter, she’s not in situations where she can produce [big] RBI numbers, but she sets the tone. When Mia sets a really good tone for our team, we win a lot, and that’s been evident throughout the entire year. Her ability to get on base in the beginning of the game quickly is what has propelled us to have a 30-win season.

“It’s been her consistency and ability in the box to never be frazzled that has allowed her to be that much better. I think this year too she has limited her swings and misses. She’s put a lot more balls in play and it has helped that she’s also our fastest player. She’s a triple threat.”

Jackrabbit senior Tori Kniesche just missed out on her third Pitcher of the Year award. She finished the regular season with a 1.81 ERA and had 180 strikeouts, both of which were second in the conference. Her opponents batting average was .153, which led the Summit League, and 64 of her strikeouts were looking, which was the most in the conference.

USD beat North Dakota 6-5 in 10 innings in the first game of the tournament on Wednesday. SDSU played just two games against USD in the regular season as the final game of the three-game series was canceled due to weather. The Jacks outscored the ‘Yotes 15-0 in the two games and McSweeney said she thinks SDSU will see a different team when it meets up with USD on Thursday.

“USD is coming [into the tournament] on a high. They swept NDSU [in the final series of the regular season]. We played USD early and it was one of those South Dakota days where it was miserable outside and cold and it took whoever wanted it more to win. But USD has played pretty well here at the end [of the regular season] and they have a dynamic offense and I think they’re better offensively than when we played them earlier,” she said.

The winner of SDSU and USD, who play at 11 a.m. on Thursday, will play the winner of Omaha and No. 3 Kansas City on Friday at 1 p.m. The losers of those two games will meet in an elimination game on Thursday at 4 p.m. The championship game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday and there will be a game at 3:30 if necessary.

McSweeney said her team is hungry after how the season ended last year and they need to control the three facets of the game if they want to head to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in program history.

“We need to limit walks in the circle,” McSweeney said. “Recently that has been the big difference. We haven’t been great in the zone and our walk numbers have been up. So we have to limit the amount of kids we put on bases and keep them off second base. … Defensively, we obviously have to play clean and not let those runners get ahead. We need to control the gaps in the field. … Offensively, we have to stay in the zone. The big thing for us is we have to be able to capitalize when the pitcher makes a mistake and work in our comfort zone.

“... That’s going to be our focus heading into this. Control what we can control. … There’s still a very sour taste in our mouth [after last year’s tournament] and I think that sour taste this weekend is what will propel us to be successful.”