The University of South Dakota softball squad used a pair of victories over Summit League rival Oakland University on a windy Friday afternoon at Nygaard Field in Vermillion to continue their recent run of success on the diamond.
The Coyotes, winners of four of their last five games after a 7-27 start to the year, had to rally from behind in each victory, including a walk-off home run to cap off the day.
In the first game, the Grizzlies took a quick lead as Oakland's leadoff hitter, Erika Polidori, smashed a 1-0 pitch over the left field fence for the early lead.
The Coyotes struck back in the second as freshman Morgan Hancock led off the inning with a single and later scored on an error to tie the game 1-1.
Yankton-native Christine Broders drove in two more Coyote runs in the third with a bloop single to shallow left field to give South Dakota the 3-1 advantage.
That is where the score would stay as Coyote's starter Erica Denney settled down to put up zeros on the scoreboard after the leadoff homer. Denney finished with a complete game seven-inning victory (6-13), allowing seven hits and just the one run while walking none and striking out six.
"I came into the game with a plan of keeping the ball low, keep it moving and make sure I got some pop-ups and ground balls," Denney said.
The junior from Sioux City also relied on the solid Coyote defense that did not commit a single error on the day.
"I feel so confident with my defense behind me," Denney added. "Them playing well helps me do my job."
Game two saw the Grizzlies once again jump out to an early first-inning lead.
South Dakota's Missy Blackburn walked the leadoff batter and then gave up a single and a double to prompt an early pitching change by Coyote head coach Amy Klyse.
Sophomore Paige Policky gave up a single but managed to get South Dakota out of the inning with a 3-0 deficit that could have been much worse.
The Coyotes answered back in the bottom half of the first as Hancock drove in a pair of runs with a single to cut the Oakland lead to 3-2.
A single from Lennox-native Kassie Loe drove in Katie Dinning to knot the game up at three runs apiece.
Neither team could get the clutch hit through the next three innings until Hancock dug into the batter's box in the bottom of the seventh with a runner on first and two outs.
Hancock found a pitch to her liking and used the strong breeze to blast a no-doubter beyond the left field fence for the walk-off game-winner.
"I felt it right away off the bat," Hancock said. "There wasn't any doubt."
As if the moment was not already special enough, Hancock said it was her first ever walk-off hit.
"I have never hit a walk-off in my life so this was my first one," Hancock added. "It felt sweet."
Policky allowed only four hits and no earned runs in seven innings of relief to earn her first win (1-5) of the season.
Coyote coach Amy Klyse seemed pleased with her team's effort in the twinbill.
"We came out and improved from the first game to the second game." Klyse said. "We had some clutch hits and our pitchers threw well enough for us to win."
With the victory, South Dakota improves to 8-6 within the Summit League, solidifying their top-five placing in the conference with less than a month of the regular season remaining.
"It's really important to win these conference games," Denney said. "Our only focus is tomorrow to get the win and get the best conference seed possible."