UND Softball Opens Season Strong

Hawks go 3-2 in season opening tournament lead by pitching staff

James DeArman, Sports Writer

The University of North Dakota softball team opened their season this weekend with a trip to San Antonio for the H-E-B Classic hosted by the University of Incarnate Word. The H-E-B Classic was a tournament consisting of five games over a three-day span. This would be a great opportunity for Head Coach Jordan Stevens to finally see his team in action. 

UND will not play a game in the Dakotas until late March as the majority of their season will be spent flying and driving across the country for tournaments in California, Louisiana, North Carolina and more. The UND world tour opened this weekend in Texas where they came away with a record of 3-2. 

The Hawks weekend opened against Creighton of the Big East falling 7-5 in a hard fought game filled with missed opportunities as UND left runners stranded in scoring position in three of the first four innings. A five run rally in the bottom of the sixth sparked by senior Angel Love two run bomb came up just short as UND was unable to get the tying run across. 

In the circle Jannay Jones had a tough start to the season and was rung up with the loss after giving up six earned runs over 3.1 innings. Sophomore Lexi Flom was excellent in relief, sitting down nine of the 10 batters she faced. 

Game two of Friday against the hosts Incarnate Word had to be settled in extras but was led by the pitching and power of Nikki Pica who not only got the win for her 2.2 innings in the circle but also hit two homeruns in two at bats. 

Pica played hero twice in this ball game as her sixth inning solo shot tied the game up at three and sent it to extras. In her very next and only other at bat of the day she smacked a two run shot in the eighth that would later win them the game. The senior from Laguna Niguel, Calif. is sure to see more plate appearances after this performance. 

Freshman Lauren Feld was outstanding in her first career college start after allowing three runs, only one of which was earned, in her 4.2 innings of work. Cassie Castaneda was also pivotal in this win with an RBI double late in the eighth inning to secure the first win of the season for UND.

Saturday’s tilt opened with an ugly game against Incarnate Word as the host looked for revenge from the previous days loss. UIW’s freshman pitcher Madison Floyd was lights out pitching the complete game shutout while only allowing two hits on the day. Floyd was a rubix cube in the circle that day and UND batters were unable to solve it. 

Hawks pitcher Madi Moore was roughed up in her first outing of the season, only lasting one inning while giving up five runs in the process. This performance will hopefully fuel her for a better season to come.

After a tough loss in the morning where the bats seemed to be sleeping, the Hawks got just what they needed in a one woman show put on by Jannay Jones. Against Texas Southern Jones shined throwing a complete game and only allowed two runs on five hits. Jones seemed a different pitcher than the one that was called on for the season opener and was also effective with the bat as she was able to draw two walks and score a run. 

Junior outfielder, McKenzie Ryan led the way offensively in this contest going two for four with an RBI leading to the 5-2 win.

UND ended the tournament with a bang lead by a gem of a game from Lauren Feld. In just her third collegiate appearance, Feld went the distance going seven innings while only giving up one run. She showed experience and tenacity on the mound by bending but not breaking in the contest, escaping from multiple jams through the contest. Feld was also a force with the bat as she kept up the weekends trend of pitchers hitting home runs. The Freshman from Moreno Valley, Calif. connected with one in the third leading to the eventual 6-2 win. This made it back-to-back complete games for UND.

In the long, travel-filled opening two months of the college softball season momentum and the confidence it brings is so important to a team’s success. Finishing 3-2 in the opening tournament of the season will hopefully do that for the Hawks. UND’s world tour continues next week as they head to cajun country for the Louisiana Classic where they will face two nationally ranked opponents in No. 10 Louisiana and No. 11 LSU.