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Chris Murphy, Published May 09 2014

NDSU survives elimination game against USD in Summit League softball tournament

FARGO – North Dakota State shortstop Logan Moreland has “T.T.S.P” tattooed on her left forearm to stand for, “This Too Shall Pass.” That which passed Friday for Moreland was softballs over the Ellig Sports Complex fence.

Moreland blasted two homers in a Summit League softball tournament game to keep NDSU’s season alive in an 11-8 win over the University of South Dakota. It was the 18th time in program history a player hit two homers in a game. No Bison softball player has ever hit three home runs in a game.

“I felt like we had to make up for a little bit of hitting, because we weren’t so predominant in the defensive part. But it felt great hitting those home runs,” Moreland said. “It’s good to hop on the other team.”

NDSU hopped on USD and didn’t let up early Friday, scoring nine runs in the first three innings to open a 9-1 lead, with six of those runs being driven in by Moreland and Amanda Grable.

“It’s always great to have our bats come out strong,” NDSU starting pitcher Krista Menke said. “You still always know the game is never over even with a 9-1 lead. You never know what’s going to happen.”

The top-seeded Bison were four outs away from a mercy-rule victory when USD’s Katie Cochran ripped a grand slam to cut the NDSU lead to 9-5. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Morgan Hancock added a two-run homer to pull USD within 9-7. Moreland answered in the next at-bat for the Bison, ripping a two-run homer off the scoreboard.

“Logan played outstanding,” NDSU coach Darren Mueller said. “I think she’s one of the top players in the conference. She has the capability to do a lot of different things. Those were big hits for us.”

Menke came into the tournament with a 1.96 ERA in 176 innings pitched on the season. On Thursday, she gave up seven earned runs in a 15-8 loss to IUPUI, and Friday she gave up seven more earned runs in four innings until redemption came in the bottom of the seventh inning.

A double and single put the tying run at the plate in the final frame for USD when Mueller called for Menke to come back in to pitch. A lineout and a groundout left runners on the corners with two outs and Cochran, who had slugged a grand slam the last time she faced Menke, at the plate.

“Just got to finish. Plain and simple,” Menke said. “You have that in the back of your mind, but every at-bat is a new one.”

Menke struck out Cochran looking to end the game.

“I was happy for Krista because it’s a confidence builder,” Mueller said. “We need her to come out here and be confident and pitch the way she’s been pitching all year.”

NDSU’s season is alive, but it’s going to need a lot to keep breathing. The Bison will have to win two games today just to get back to the title game for the sixth straight season. NDSU hopes to win the tournament for the fifth time in the past six seasons.

It will all begin for NDSU at 9 a.m. against Western Illinois. After Friday, it’s one down, four to go.

“When you think about five in a row, it sounds a bit overwhelming,” Moreland said. “As long as we take it one pitch at a time, one play at a time, one game at a time and just reset our minds, anything is possible.”

NDSU 243 002 0– 11 12 1

USD 010 421 0– 8 10 1

Cue, Frain (3) and Daly. Menke, Thun (5), Menke (7) and Ortega. W-Menke (24-7). L-Cue (18-11). HR-NDSU, Moreland 2 (7), Sobrero (5). USD, Cochran (4), Hancock (7), Boyd (7).

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548