By James D. Cimburek
VERMILLION — When weather forced the University of South Dakota softball team indoors the last two weeks, the Coyotes spent the time breaking down the fundamentals of the game.
They came back and put it all together for a three-game sweep of Kansas City.
USD completed the sweep with a 3-1 victory over the Kangaroos on Sunday at Nygaard Field, improving to 28-16 overall and 11-5 in the Summit League. The victory kept the Coyotes in fourth place in the league and assured that they would be no lower than a third seed in the league tournament as they enter the final week of the regular season.
USD finishes at North Dakota State, which is 15-0 in league play.
“(The sweep of Kansas City) was very important,” said sophomore catcher Allie Daly. “North Dakota State is a very good hitting team and a very good pitching team. For us to be successful, we need to be consisten in our hitting, put some runs on the board. I think we’re capable of doing that.”
The Coyotes had come in to the weekend with an 11-day layoff from games, with six games canceled in between, including one game with second place Omaha and the entire series with last place Oakland. Also called off was a non-league doubleheader at North Dakota.
Daly said that the team spent that time — mostly spent indoors — working on the basics.
“When we were in the (Dakota)Dome this week, we put in lots of reps, breaking our swing down,” she said. “They we came back out here and were able to put it all together. It helped us build on where we were already at.”
Daly provided the big blows for USD on Sunday, a two-out double to score the game’s first run in the first inning, then a sixth inning blast to break a 1-1 tie.
The power is nothing new for Daly, who homered in all three games of the Kansas City series and has 13 home runs on the season.
“When we throw batting practice to her, she hits 25 out,” said USD head coach Amy Klyse. “For her, it’s all about seeing the ball and not swinging for the fences. She’s strong enough to hit it out without over-swinging.”
Daly had struck out to lead off the fourth, but responded to drive in the go-ahead run.
“(Kansas City pitcher Deanna Friese) had been throwing me a lot of rise-balls and change-ups. After I hit a double off her change-up in the first, I didn’t think I’d see another one,” she said. “I was looking for a pitch to drive. I was just trying to get on base.”
Morgan Hancock followed with another home run to notch the final score. Katie Dinning, whose first-inning triple set up the Coyotes’ first run, had the only other USD hit.
Bri Wyatt had two hits for Kansas City. Katie Kelley added a double.
Erica Denney, who battled through all 11 innings to get the win in the series opener, allowed just a second-inning run to pick up her 16th win of the season. Friese (10-11) took the loss despite striking out nine.
“Erica pitched much better today. We made the defensive plays behind her, and eliminated their infield base hits,” Klyse said.