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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 16 2010

Bison softball clinches second straight Summit softball title

The Summit League softball championship trophy cradled in one arm and medal in the other hand, North Dakota State senior Laurel Pipken was just minutes removed from a familiar mob scene. The Bison are getting used to these jumping, yelling, screaming victory dances around home plate.

“We enjoy them every time,” she said.

Pipken’s single scored Elisa Victa from second base in the bottom of the seventh inning to give NDSU a 3-2 win Saturday afternoon over Western Illinois.

It capped a sweep through The Summit tourney for the Bison, who punched their NCAA tournament ticket for the second straight year

The field will be announced tonight on ESPNU. It also capped a Summit-winning day for the school, which also took men’s and women’s outdoor track titles in Toledo, Ohio.

The softball title, although not unexpected considering their run to the Super Regional last year, had its moments of doubt this season. The Bison withstood their share of down moments.

“A lot of ups and downs,” Victa said, “but we got through it.”

Victa led off the seventh with a walk. That led to head coach Darren Mueller’s decision to have two-time conference player of the year Melissa Chmielewski lay down a sacrifice bunt, instead of hit away.

“We needed a run,” he said. “She’s the best player in the conference, but I have a lot of confidence in Laurel and Brea (Konz) behind her.”

Chmielewski did her job to perfection, bringing Pipken to the plate, who admitted she was shocked to see Chmielewski bunt. On her way back to the dugout, Chmielewski had a few words for her.

“She said, ‘Laurel, be a leader,’” Pipken said. “I took it and went with it.”

Victa scored easily. She also scored the game-winning run in a regional win over Tulsa last year.

“To score the run and prove to everyone we could do it again was a big deal,” she said.

Said Pipken: “It’s been a really learning year and not everybody thought we had it in us to do it two years in a row.”

It made a winner of pitcher Whitney Johnson, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. It was an emotional seventh inning for the freshman, who saw WIU tie it up on a home run by Erin Schlotfeldt.

“I knew this team would come back,” Johnson said. “I believed in them and they believed in me.”

Championship

North Dakota State 3, Western Illinois 2

WIU 001 000 1– 2 6 2

NDSU 101 000 1– 3 9 2

Ferguson and Marinec. Johnson and McKenzie. W–Johnson (26-15). L–Ferguson (22-12). HR–WIU, Schlotfeldt (3), Pankratz (3).

Semifinal

North Dakota State 4, Western Illinois 0

WIU 000 000 0– 0 3 1

NDSU 010 003 x– 4 6 0

Ferguson and Marinec. Johnson and McKenzie. W–Johnson (25-15). L–Ferguson (21-11). HR–NDSU, Borek (2).


Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546