Young Coyote softball team enjoys solid first season in Summit League

The South Dakota softball team finished its first season in the Summit League with a 12-12 mark in conference play, which was just one game out of a tie for fourth place in the conference. The Coyotes rebounded from a slow start to the season with solid play during the conference campaign, which included series sweeps of Oakland and Western Illinois along with series wins over IUPUI and UMKC.

The young Coyotes – who several times started three freshmen and three sophomores in their lineup – started out 0-7 before picking up their first win on Feb. 25, a 7-4 decision over UC Riverside. The Coyotes then endured tough stretch to start their annual Florida trip before getting their second win, a 7-5 decision over Holy Cross on March 5.

The Coyotes lost their first Summit League game, 7-1 to UMKC, but rebounded with two straight wins over the Kangaroos, 3-2 and 6-5, to earn the series victory. UMKC was the defending regular-season Summit League Champion and the 2012 preseason league favorite.

Another highlight was the Coyotes' 9-8 win at Southern Utah on March 17, South Dakota was one of only two Summit League teams to win on Southern Utah's home field this season. The win in the series finale at SUU sparked a three-game winning streak for the Coyotes, which included back-to-back wins over IUPUI (2-0 and 5-4) in their home-opening series. 

The Coyotes enjoyed their best stretch of the year from March 31-April 7, winning five of six games, including a sweep of Oakland at home. That pushed the Coyotes to 9-6 in the conference, and while they were not eligible for the postseason tournament, they did harbor hopes of a solid finish in the final regular-season standings.

"We had so much talent on this team so it was a struggle early in the season to not be winning," South Dakota head coach Amy Klyse said. "It would have been easy to give up but our players chose not to and we ended up one game away from finishing in fourth, which would have qualified us for the conference tournament . We made a statement in the Summit League and that was a goal for our team this year. Softball is such a mental game that once you can conquer the mental part, you are a much better player…and we had a lot of kids learn how to step up in pressure situations this year as the year progressed. It was great to see them mature as athletes in that sense."

Late in the year, the Coyotes recorded a sweep of Western Illinois – which was in second place in the Summit League at the time – to improve to 12-9 in the league, assuring them of a .500 season in the Summit League.  South Dakota finished 12-12 in the conference and alone in sixth place – just one game behind a fourth-place tie with UMKC and Western Illinois. The Coyotes were picked to finish ninth in the preseason coaches poll.

The Coyotes are slated with six position starters.  In addition, the Coyotes return two outfielders (Kate Snow and Katelyn Wudel) who combined for 42 starts a year ago, while also returning all three pitchers – Erica Denney, Missy Blackburn and Paige Policky – from their 2012 staff.

South Dakota is also bringing in a talented recruiting class, which includes Katie Cochran of Las Vegas, NV, Madison Frain of Creston, IA, Sydney Hancock of Wahoo, NE, and Yvon Minogue of Corona, CA.

"This was the hardest working team I have ever been associated with," Klyse said. "I believe that hard work pays off and our team is starting to truly understand the concept of hard work. Our young kids have a contagious determination, focus and passion for the game that will continue to set the tone for the team in the future.  Our incoming freshmen class is full of competitors and our returners are determined to have a winning season and to qualify for postseason."

Triple the Fun

With her big three-run triple in the 11-3 win over Western Illinois on April 29, Dinning has put her name in the record books. She finished with six triples on the season, setting a new school single-season record, breaking the previous mark of five held by Stephanie Hall and Tiffany Davis. Dinning is now tied for fifth all-time with six triples.

Quite a Steal

Sophomore Lindsey Boyd set a new single-season record for stolen bases with 31, breaking a mark that had stood for 19 seasons. Boyd stole her 31st base of the season in the Coyotes' finale at IPFW.  She ranks second in that category in school history with 59 steals, just 10 behind the career record of 69 held by Stef Picquet.

Loe Named to All-Summit League First Team

South Dakota junior Kassie Loe was named to the All-Summit League Softball First Team, the league announced on May 9. Loe is the first Coyote player to earn all-league honors in softball.

Loe (Lennox, S.D.) earned first-team honors after a solid junior season as the Coyotes' starting second baseman. For the season she hit .259 with six doubles, two triples, a homer and six RBI. She also had a .347 slugging percentage and a .310 on-base percentage. In the field, she had a .971 fielding percentage and 77 assists, along with 154 putouts. Loe started all 55 games for the Coyotes.

In 24 conference games, Loe hit .297 with two doubles, a triple a homer and five RBI. She had a .406 slugging percentage and a .357 on-base percentage. She had just four errors in 24 conference games.

National/Summit League Rankings

Two Coyotes are ranked in the national statistics, which are through May 7 games.

— Dinning is tied for ninth nationally with five triples, and is tied for 11th in all of Division I in triples per game at 0.11. Dinning's six triples lead the Summit League.

–Boyd is tied for 21st in steals per game at 0.52, and is second in the Summit League at 31 stolen bases.

Climbing the Charts

A group of Coyote players are climbing the career record charts:

Junior Alexa Rudeen finished with 14 career home runs, tied for sixth all-time. She also finished at 41 career doubles, which is sixth all-time, and is at 85 RBI, which is tied for 10th all-time. Rudeen's .991 fielding percentage is second all-time in school history.

Dinning is tied now tied for fifth with six triples.

Freshman Lindsey Boyd has 59 career steals, which is second-best all-time and just 10 behind career record holder Stefany Picquet. She is also now tied for ninth with 13 career home runs.

 Denney is tied for fourth with three career saves.

Klyse Hits 100

Klyse, in her fifth season as South Dakota head coach, set a coaching milestone with the Coyotes' 2-0 win over IUPUI on March 23, recording her 100th career coaching win. She is only the second Coyote softball coach to reach that milestone, joining Kim Zarling, the school's all-time leader in wins at 325.

Home cookin'

The South Dakota softball team has had impressive success on its home field under Coach Amy Klyse, going 35-15 (.700) since she took over in 2007-08. 

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