FARGO, N.D. -- No. 4 seed South Dakota State staved off elimination Thursday at the Summit League Softball Championships with a 7-6 victory over No. 6 seed Purdue Fort Wayne.
The Jackrabbits (36-16) took control early and held off a hard-charging Mastodon program to stay alive in their postseason run.
Kendra Conard (17-3) earned the win in her third start of the weekend. Conard threw 4.2 total innings, starting and finishing the contest. She allowed a run and struck out four before exiting after four complete with four strikeouts. Taylor Compton (five runs, one earned), and Morgan DeMarais appeared in relief before Conard re-entered in the seventh to get the final two outs.
Mallory McQuistan led the Jackrabbit attack with her first-career grand slam and Julia Andersen went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Megan Rushing had a single, a walk and drove in two while Ali Herdliska had a pair of walks. Lyndsey Crist added an RBI with a walk of her own as the Jackrabbits drew six total free passes.
SDSU used a patient approach to build a six-run lead in the first, starting the game with a pair of singles before Herdliska, Rushing and Crist drew walks to score a pair of Jackrabbit runs. With bases loaded, McQuistan put the Jacks ahead 6-0 when she launched a 3-1 pitch over the center-field wall for her first-career grand slam.
Purdue Fort Wayne got one run back with an RBI single in the bottom of the third, and tacked on two more in the fifth to pull within three (6-3).
That score held until the top of the seventh, when Rushing followed walks by Andersen and Herdliska with an RBI chopper into left that put the Jacks up four.
Ahead 7-3, State saw the Mastodons stage a late rally to pull within one, but with bases loaded and two outs Conard induced a pair of ground balls to hold off the charge.
• South Dakota State is now 5-8 all-time at the Summit League Championships.
• Mallory McQuistan hit her second home run of the tournament, and 16th of her career.
• Kendra Conard is now alone in sixth in the Jackrabbit single-season record books with 17 wins.
South Dakota State advances in the consolation bracket to Friday's 3:30 p.m. semifinal. The Jackrabbits will take on the loser of No. 1 seed North Dakota State and No. 2 seed South Dakota after the two teams face off earlier in the day in the other semifinal.