“We set a lot of goals and expectations for our program over the years. We’re starting to achieve a lot of them and you just see the growth in the student-athletes that we have. They just buy into what we’re talking about and they think they can beat anybody at any time. I think for a Northern school, for us to have the success that we have, just really, our athletes are just tremendous people and really work hard to try to achieve those things.”
After a 43-9 regular season record and a second straight Summit League championship that saw the Bison defeat South Dakota by 10 runs in the title game, NDSU earned its first Top 25 regular season ranking in the ESPN.com/USA Softball and USA Today/NFCA polls. They were ranked 24 and 25 in each poll, respectively. It was the first time the Bison were ranked since the end of the year in 2009 when they finished ranked 18th in ESPN.com/USA Softball and 21st in USA Today/NFCA polls.
Krista Menke capped her storied NDSU pitching career with a season of a lifetime. The senior finished her career with her second Summit League Pitcher of the Year and her second Summit League Tournament MVP award. She finished the season with the second-most strikeouts in the country with 391 in 266 innings (in the regular season). Menke threw four no-hitters this season and put an exclamation point on a season where batters only hit .168 against the Bison ace.
The Future Is Now
The Bison will lose seniors Krista Menke, Amanda Grable and Alex Sobrero going into next season, but what they return to the lineup is no small footnote. Cheyenne Garcia was the 2015 Summit League Player of the Year and will return to second base for the Bison next season. She will be joined by shortstop Logan Moreland, who hit a career-best .421 this season. The two-star middle infielders aren’t alone. First-baseman Jackie Stifter, outfielder Maritza Lopez-Portillo, and outfielder Jenna Isbel complete the class of five juniors that will be returning for a Bison softball team looking for its seventh Summit League Championship in eight years.
Chew on This
NDSU beat six different Big Ten teams this season and went 7-1 against the conference. The domination of the conference started in February when NDSU eight-runned Iowa during the Ramada UNI-Dome Classic. Iowa, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska and Minnesota all fell to the Bison with Nebraska getting swept in a two-game series against the Bison in Lincoln, Neb., and were outscored 13-6. Minnesota was ranked 10th in the country when NDSU defeated them in the final game of their two-game series in Minneapolis. It was one of the three victories the Bison had against Top 25 teams.