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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 11 2013

Bison miss out on NCAA tournament with loss to IPFW

FARGO – The second-youngest softball team in NCAA Division I got a lesson in championship play on Saturday. As a result, a mini-dynasty of sorts came to an end Saturday afternoon at Ellig Sports Complex.

For the first time since being NCAA tournament-eligible, North Dakota State will watch somebody else represent the Summit League when the NCAA tourney pairings are announced.

Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne owned the final two innings in a long afternoon of Summit League title games to take a 7-4 victory, ending four straight Bison titles. NDSU forced a second-and-deciding game in the double-elimination tournament with a 7-4 win in the first game.

“To beat a team that has won this the last four years is quite an accomplishment,” said IFPW head coach Amy Tudor.

They accomplished it with a three-run sixth inning that erased a 4-3 deficit. A pair of run-scoring singles and a bases-loaded walk did the damage.

It was the first conference tournament title loss in Darren Mueller’s 19 years as a NDSU coach, head or assistant. That includes the Division II North Central Conference.

“It’s different,” he said. “I don’t ever remember being on this side of it, but we’ll have to learn from it.”

It was an ominous start for IPFW. NDSU’s Alyssa Reina hit Miranda Kramer’s first pitch of the game well over the left-field fence. It would be the only pitch of the game for Kramer, who shut out NDSU in the semifinals on Friday.

The Mastodons immediately went to reliever Megan Flenniken, who came on in the fourth inning in the first game.

“Megan is a dropball pitcher and we needed to keep the ball in the park on a windy day,” Tudor said.

Two pitches later, Cheyenne Garcia homered for a 2-0 lead.

It was back and forth from there with Flenniken making good on her coach’s pitching move.

NDSU, which has nine freshmen on the roster –several who start – could only watch and learn.

“We have such a young team and to get where they did … I’m proud of them,” Mueller said. “We just didn’t execute at the end.”

IPFW 003 003 1 – 7 10 3

NDSU 200 110 0 – 4 4 0

Kramer, Flenniken (1) and Pugh. Menke and Ortega. W–Flenniken (10-6). L–Johnson (23-9). HR, NDSU, Reina (8), Garcia (6); IPFW Bosquet 2 (9).

NDSU 7, IPFW 4

NDSU forced the second-and-deciding game putting it away with a five-run fourth inning. That came on top of home runs by Alyssa Reina and Amanda Grable in the third inning.

The seven-run outburst over two innings was a contrast to the Friday semifinal game between these teams when the wind was blowing in and offense was hard to come by.

In the fourth, Brandi Enriquez’s run-scoring single made it 3-0. The dam broke on two-run singles by Cheyenne Garcia and Grable for a 7-0 advantage. The Garcia hit was the end for starting pitcher Miranda Kramer.

The Mastodons did make it interesting in the seventh scoring three runs and getting the tying run to the plate. But relief pitcher Krista Menke got the last two outs.

NDSU 002 500 0 – 7 7 1

IPFW 000 100 3 – 4 8 0

Johnson, Menke (7) and Ortega. Kramer, Flenniken (4) and Pugh. W–Johnson (23-8). L–Kramer (23-8). HR, NDSU, Reina (7), Grable (10), IPFW, Pugh (7).


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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia