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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 09 2013

Key hits propel Bison to win in opening game of Summit League tournament

FARGO – The Summit League softball tournament started at 1 p.m. on Thursday, although for North Dakota State it began a little later than that. It took a two-run triple by a slap hitter to ring the bell.

That would be No. 8 batter Brandi Enriquez, whose two-out, two-run triple on a 3-2 count in the second inning got the Bison on task. It ended with a 4-3 NDSU victory over Missouri-Kansas City and a berth in today’s winner’s bracket game at noon.

“We all have a lot of fight,” said Enriquez. “A lot of energy.”

She was energized on her at-bat thanks to teammate Jenina Ortega, who before the delivery by pitcher Deanna Friese, told Enriquez what to expect.

“She saw some pitches in sequence,” Enriquez said. “She said watch it come (inside). I could hear her say it.”

The left-handed hitting Enriquez drilled it down the right-field line and her enthusiastic reaction provided the spark. A slap hitter at times, she went conventional on that hit.

“They were playing her defensively to slap,” said head coach Darren Mueller. “She’s a little kid with not a lot of power but she did a good job with that.”

The Bison took the lead for good in the fourth inning on Maritza Lopez-Portillo’s sixth home run of the year. Another run came home on a throwing error by the Kangaroos.

“We just started trusting each other and we knew we could get it done,” Lopez-Portillo said.

It was a shaky start.

UMKC scored twice in the top of the first on two Bison throwing errors. It looked obvious in Mueller’s visit to the mound that he put his team on a regroup mission.

“They caught us off guard a little bit,” he said.

That’s when starting pitcher Whitney Johnson settled down. She retired 14 straight hitters at one point. After throwing 30 pitches in the first inning alone, it took her almost four innings to equal that.

She finished with 12 strikeouts, including the last two outs of the game with the bases loaded.

“We just believed in her,” Lopez-Portillo said. “We knew she could get the job done.”

UMKC 200 000 1– 3 3 1

NDSU 020 200 x– 4 5 2

UMKC: Friese and Friloux. NDSU: Johnson and Reina. W–Johnson (22-7). L–Friese (12-12). HR–NDSU, Lopez-Portillo (6).

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia