Mustangs split NSIC softball opening series with USF

The Southwest Minnesota State softball team, riding a six-game winning streak, was looking to stay hot as it entered Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play with a doubleheader against the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) on Wednesday.

Playing in Sioux Falls after field conditions forced the relocation of the Mustangs’ home-opener, a 9-0 loss in the first of two games spoiled the streak and handed the Mustangs their first loss since March 10 at the Rebel Spring Games in Kissimmee, Fla.

“I thought we lacked a little bit of preparation in getting the bats going right away,” SMSU head coach Missy Bruggeman said. “We only had four hits throughout the game. You have to give some respect to Bailey Bouman, she threw a great game but, overall, our hitters lacked the ability to find good pitches.

“Defensively we struggled with pitching,” she added. “We gave up nine hits, six earned runs in the first inning and the rest was kind of history from there.”

Pipestone native Bailey Bouman, pitching for USF, silenced the Mustang bats, picking up the win with six-scoreless innings of work. SMSU starter Rachel Groff picked up the loss as she was tagged for six runs in just 1 1/3 innings pitched.

Though their early season winning streak had been halted, the Mustangs showed great fortitude in their second game against the Cougars.

Pitcher Rachel Hoeppner hung tough through nine innings, picking up a 4-3 win after Jennifer Johnson singled in Amy Dreessen in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Johnson finished the game 1-for-4 from the plate, while Dreessen was 2-for-3 with a home run and three runs scored.

The Cougars had five extra-base hits in the second game, but were unable to convert. Hoeppner had four strikeouts and induced timely ground outs from the sixth inning on.

“It really shows that there is a little bit of luck,” Bruggeman said. “Timely hitting, timely outs really dictate the game. I thought in the first game, when we hit the ball, we really hit it hard, but at people. But then in the second game, we got breaks when we needed them. I thought defensively, they made some mistakes on the bases and it cost them.”

SMSU improves to 8-6 on the season following the split (1-1 NSIC) and is scheduled to face the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. on Friday for a pair of games.

“That’s a good feeling to be able to open the conference season and to be able to get games in,” Bruggeman said. “Hopefully they’re worthwhile games with the weather and field conditions the way they are. But it’s exciting to get to this part of our schedule. We say this is what we work for, this is where we showcase what we have been working on.”