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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 23 2013

Bison sweep Jackrabbits in Summit softball behind Johnson no-hitter

FARGO – Home plate was at the intersection of the 45-yard line and the Gate City Bank Field football sideline. That particular part of the turf will not need to be painted anytime soon.

Whitney Johnson brushed the corners all afternoon.

The North Dakota State senior pitcher threw a no-hitter with pinpoint accuracy in the return of softball to the Fargodome. The 4-0 win over South Dakota State in the first game of a doubleheader came before 164 fans, which would have been close to a full house at the Ellig Sports Complex on campus.

But her third career no-hitter was done in the spacious confines of the dome, the first time NDSU used the facility since 2008.

“It’s weird,” Johnson said. “It seems everything is quiet. We have to produce so much more energy ourselves.”

The Bison defeated the Jackrabbits 10-1 in the second game, improving their dome record to 15-2. It’s not the preferential home field, but anything works with the extended winter weather these days.

“We’re just excited to be here,” Johnson said. “We really didn’t care where we played.”

She struck out 13 Jackrabbits to go over 900 in her career. The NDSU leader is Lindsey Graham, who had 1,019 from 2001-04.

Johnson had six straight strikeouts at one point and about the only real threat of a hit came in the first inning when shortstop Brandi Enriquez made a diving stop of a hard ground ball in the hole and made an accurate throw to first base from her knees.

“You get consistent hops in here,” said Bison third baseman Amanda Grable.

Whereas Johnson’s arm was the force in Game 1, the bats of Grable and Alyssa Reina set the tone in the second game.

Grable’s two-run home run to left-center field, the farthest part of the field setup, staked the Bison to a 2-0 lead. Not to be outdone, Reina’s blast easily cleared the padded makeshift outfield fence in the same area and it was 4-0.

The shots also dispelled any theory that a softball didn’t carry very well in the dead air of the dome.

“That one felt like it (carried),” Grable said, “because I didn’t think I got all of it.”

It was her eighth home of the season and Reina’s fifth.

“It’s nice to play at home at least,” Grable said.

The Bison stayed perfect in the Summit League at 11-0 with their 11th straight win and 14th of their last 15. The only loss in that span was 11-0 to 20th-ranked Nebraska, although that came on the tail of a doubleheader that the Bison won 13-0 in the opener.

The Bison and Jacks will finish the three-game series with a noon game today at the dome.

“I like the climate,” said Bison head coach Darren Mueller.

SDSU 000 000 0– 0 0 2

NDSU 200 002 x– 4 7 2

SDSU: Seidlitz and Bingham. NDSU: Johnson and Ortego. W–Johnson (17-6). L–Seidlitz (7-15).

SDSU 000 10 – 1 3 3

NDSU 431 2x – 10 12 0

SDSU: Siedlitz, Landon (2) and Bingham. NDSU: Menke and Ortego. W–Menke (6-7). L–Siedlitz (7-16). HR–NDSU, Grable (8), Reina (5).

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia