Ogden, Utah – It was a back-and-forth contest, but unfortunately for the UND softball team, Southern Utah put up three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 7-6 walk-off win in the first game of the 2017 Big Sky Conference Softball Championship on Thursday morning.
North Dakota took an early lead after loading the bases on just the first four pitches of the game. Victoria Minor led off with a hit by pitch on the first pitch and Rachael Waynick hit a first-pitch single to put Minor in scoring position. Kaylin VanDomelen then swung on her second offer to load the bases.
Taylor Nadler drove in the first run of the day, as she hit a sac-fly to left center allowing Minor to score. An error on a fielder's choice then allowed Waynick and VanDomelen to score, giving the Fighting Hawks the early 3-0 lead.
North Dakota kept Southern Utah's batters at bay for three innings, but in the bottom of the fourth the Thunderbirds capitalized on a myriad of defensive miscues. Southern Utah took the lead with four runs on three hits and three errors before the Fighting Hawks were able to end the inning.
However, UND did not give up and battled to tie and eventually take back the lead.
In the sixth inning, Dani Romero hit her sixth home run of the season to tie the game at 4-4. In the bottom of the frame, Southern Utah was poised to do damage with the bases loaded, but a harmless pop fly ended the inning.
The Fighting Hawks then took back the lead in the top of the seventh, scoring two runs on four hits and one error. An error by the Thunderbirds allowed Mary Martin to reach first, but the throw went into the outfield and gave both VanDomelen and Waynick a free path home for a 6-4 lead.
However, Southern Utah rallied in the bottom of the seventh with two outs to score three runs on a triple hit to center field for the walk-off win.
North Dakota will now need to win out to win the Big Sky championship. The Fighting Hawks will now play the loser of Sacramento State-Idaho State on Friday at 1 p.m. (CT).