FARGO, N.D. -- Fourth-seeded South Dakota State opened its 2019 Summit League Softball Championship run with a 4-2 victory over North Dakota Wednesday at Tharaldson Park.
The Jackrabbits (35-15) built a four-lead through the middle innings and held off a late charge for the Fighting Hawks, extending their season in a win-or-go-home contest.
SDSU had six hits in the game, led by Megan Rushing's two singles and Paige Gerdes' two-RBI double. Julia Andersen was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, while Ali Herdliska and Baily Janssen added singles.
Kendra Conard was strong in her 11th complete game of the season, improving to 16-3. She struck out four, allowed two runs and took a no-hitter in the fifth.
Conard opened the game with a 1-2-3 top of the first, and the Jackrabbits manufactured a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the frame to strike early. Andersen walked and Herdliska singled with one out, and after a wild pitch both runners moved into scoring position. Rushing brought the first run home as her floated a sacrifice fly into foul territory in right, and in the next at-bat a pitch got away from UND's starter, allowing Herdliska to dash home.
UND got its first base runner in the top of the fourth, but Conard induced a pair of ground balls and got out of the threat with a strikeout before SDSU tacked on another two runs in the bottom of the inning. Similar to the first scoring opportunity for State, the Jacks began the rally with a one-out walk (Ponce) and single (Janssen). Later in the inning, Gerdes roped a two-out, two-RBI double to left to put State ahead, 4-0.
The Fighting Hawks got two back in the fifth after a trio of walks and a single to left, breaking up the no-hitter and pulling within two (4-2). That was as close as North Dakota came, though, as the Jackrabbits closed out the win and advanced to the double-elimination portion of the tournament.
• South Dakota State scored first for the 32nd time this season and improved to 25-7 in those games.
• Kendra Conard is now tied for sixth in the Jackrabbbits' single-season record book with 16 wins.
• The Jackrabbits are 4-7 at the Summit League Championships and won their opener at the event the last two seasons.
South Dakota State will take on top-seeded North Dakota State Thursday at noon in the next round of the 2019 Summit League Softball Championships. The winner of that game advances to Friday's semifinal at 1 p.m., with the winner playing an elimination game Thursday at 5 p.m.