The South Dakota softball team will be aiming for its first-ever conference title when it hosts the Great West Conference Softball Championships starting Sunday at Nygaard Field in Vermillion. The No. 4-seeded Coyotes will open tournament play at 10 a.m. on Sunday against top-seeded Houston Baptist.
No. 2-seeded Utah Valley will battle No. 3 North Dakota in the second semifinal, slated to begin at 12:30 p.m. An elimination game between the losers of the first two games is set for 3 p.m. while a winner�s bracket game concludes play Sunday at 5:30 p.m. An elimination game is set for 10 a.m. on Monday morning with the championship slated for 12:30 p.m.
North Dakota is the defending league champion, having defeated the Coyotes, 1-0 in the championship game in Farmers Branch, TX, a year ago.
Live stats, tournament bracket and team information can be accessed at the tournament page by going to http://www.usdcoyotes.com/sports/softball/release.asp?RELEASE_ID=6419.
About South Dakota
The Coyotes are 21-28 and are 9-3 in their last 12 games. South Dakota is the No. 4 seed after going 0-6 at the cluster tournament in March.
South Dakota swept its final two doubleheaders against Sioux Falls and the College of St. Mary on April 27 and 29, respectively. Senior Mel Johnson powered the Coyote offense on the week, hitting .700 with three homers, eight RBI and two doubles. She also was 2-0 on the mound with a 0.70 ERA.
For the season, junior Alexa Rudeen leads the Coyotes with a .320 average and nine doubles. She is also third on the team with 23 RBI. Johnson leads the Coyotes with 11 homers and 40 RBI and has a .630 slugging percentage. Freshman Lindsey Boyd has eight homers and 28 RBI and leads the team with 27 stolen bases. As a team the Coyotes are hitting .241 with 35 homers and 166 RBI.
On the mound, Johnson leads the way with an 8-11 mark and 3.91 ERA. She also leads with 91 strikeouts and three shutouts. Freshman Paige Policky is 7-3 with a team-best 3.86 ERA and 63 strikeouts. As a team the Coyotes have an ERA of 4.15 in 295.1 innings.
Amy Klyse is in her fourth season as South Dakota�s head coach with a record of 94-101-1. Klyse is now second all-time in coaching wins at South Dakota.
About Houston Baptist
The Huskies enter the tournament at 33-22 and have won five in a row and eight of their last 10 overall. They are the top seed in the tournament after going 5-1 at the cluster tournament in Texas in March.
Molly Mlcak leads the Houston Baptist offense, hitting .368 with six homers and 33 RBI. Callie Herrington is hitting .337 with six homers and 25 RBI. Rebecca Rademacher is hitting .370, best on the team. The Huskies are hitting .272 with 34 homers and 202 RBI.
On the mound, Jammie Weidert leads Houston Baptist with a 13-9 mark and 2.22 ERA along with a team-high 143 strikeouts. Keely Shuler is 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA. As a team the Huskies have an ERA of 2.47 in 365.2 innings.
Mary-Ellen Hall is in her 20th season at Houston Baptist with a record of 672-319.
About North Dakota
North Dakota is 17-33 on the season and enters the tournament having won five of six games. North Dakota is the No. 3 seed in the tournament after going 3-3 at the cluster tournament in March.
Kenna Olsen leads North Dakota with a .352 average, while Caralyn Chewning is hitting .301 with nine homers and 27 RBI. Brittany Baker has 11 homers to lead the Sioux, who are hitting .263 with 42 homers and 161 RBI as a team.
Michelle Frank leads the North Dakota pitching staff with an 8-12 mark and 3.98 ERA. Emma Gronseth leads with 113 strikeouts. The Sioux has a 4.77 ERA in 318.2 innings.
Sami Strinz is in her fourth season as North Dakota�s head coach with a record of 61-135 at the school.
About Utah Valley
The Wolverines are 19-28 on the season and come into tournament play having lost four of five. Prior to that stretch, Utah Valley had won six of seven games. The Wolverines are the No. 2 seed after going 4-2 at the cluster tournament in March.
Meghan Yocom leads Utah Valley with a .391 average, while Amanda Perez has team-highs of nine homers and 43 RBI. As a team Utah Valley is hitting .272 with 38 homers and 171 RBI.
Josi Summers leads Utah Valley on the mound with a 13-14 mark and 4.07 ERA in 156.2 innings. Utah Valley has a team ERA of 4.91 in 303.2 innings.
Todd Fairbourne is in his 13th season at Utah Valley with a record of 373-315-1.
The Coyotes have also worked their way into the NCAA rankings:
Stephanie Hall ranks in a tie for 10th in the nation with five triples. She ranks in a tie for 39th in the nation in triples per game at 0.09 and is in a tie for 59th in hit by pitches per game (0.23).
Boyd ranks in a tie for 33rd in steals per game at 0.53.
Johnson is tied for 93rd with 11 home runs.
Climbing the Charts
A group of Coyote players are climbing the career record charts:
Senior pitcher Mel Johnson ranks fifth in career wins (34), fourth in strikeouts (313), and fourth in career complete games (44). She also is second all-time in home runs (22) and sixth with 96 career RBI. Johnson�s 11 home runs this season are tied for fifth-most in a single-season in school history.
Junior Alexa Rudeen is also at 34 career doubles, good for 10th all time. Rudeen is also at 11 career home runs, which is 10th all-time.
Junior Stephanie Hall is tied for 10th all-time with five career triples, a mark that is also tied for the most in a single season in school history. With one more triple Hall will hold the single-season record. Hall has been hit by a pitch 10 times, which is 10th in a single season in school history.
Freshman Lindsey Boyd has 27 stolen bases, second-most in a single season in school history. She is tied for fifth all-time with 27 steals and is just three out of fifth. Boyd is also at eight home runs, seventh most in a season in school history.
Freshman Katelyn Wudel is at two triples, and is just one away from 10th in a single season in school history.
The South Dakota softball team has had impressive success on its home field under Coach Amy Klyse, going 26-3 since she took over in 2008. The Coyotes have won 20-straight home games, which is tied for third most in all of NCAA Division I with Alabama and BYU. The Coyotes� last home loss was on March 21, 2009, an 11-10 setback to Winona State.
GWC Players of the Week
Four Coyote players have been honored by the Great West Conference this season as players of the week. Senior Mel Johnson leads the way with three honors, earning the award on March 18, April 4 and May 3. Erica Denney was named Pitcher of the Week on March 11, while junior Alexa Rudeen and freshman Paige Policky also received the awards on April 18 when they were named the GWC Player and Pitcher of the Week, respectively.