#44 North Dakota State Softball 2016 Preview

North Dakota State Bison

Overall Rank: #44
Conference Rank: #1 Summit League

North Dakota State Team Page

North Dakota State won its sixth Summit League Softball Tournament Championship over the past seven seasons in 2015 to advance to the NCAA Eugene Regional, where it fell to No. 2 overall seed Oregon in the championship game. The Bison also won their fourth straight league regular season crown. The teams' 45 wins in 2015 were the most since North Dakota State moved up to the Division I ranks in 2004.

2015: 45-11, 16-2
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Darren Mueller, Jamie Trachsel

Field Players:
The Bison were an offensive power last season, averaging just under six runs a game, knocking 53 balls out of the yard, roping 97 doubles, driving in 316 runs and hitting .329 as a team.  Luckily for North Dakota State, the team's top two power hitters, Cheyenne Garcia and Alyssa Reina, return after hitting 14 home runs apiece. The senior Garcia also led the squad with a .423 average, 70 runs scored, 80 hits, 20 doubles and 20 steals and also had 55 RBI, second on the team. Reina led the squad with 57 RBI. The team had six players in double digit steals and five of them, Garcia (20), Reina (17), Logan Moreland (19), Katie Shoultz (18) and Joei Samper (10), return. Garcia, Moreland and Reina were three of the team's top four hitters as well.  

This is where the Bison may struggle. For four years, North Dakota State had a dominant ace in Krista Menke. Menke has now graduated, taking with her 97 wins, 34 shutouts and 938 strikeouts. Last season she compiled a 34-6 record with a 2.11 ERA, 13 shutouts and 391 strikeouts. She ranks in the top four of every pitching category including wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, saves, batting average against and complete games. The Bison's pitchers will be highlighted in the section below since all eyes will be on the circle early in the year.

Who to Watch:
North Dakota State has three pitchers on its team, Katie Thun, Kaitlyn Leddy and Jacquelyn Sertic. Sertic and Thun have a combined 32 appearances, 123.1 innings pitched and 14 wins combined in three years. Leddy is an incoming freshman who might be looked upon to step up quickly.

Final Projection:
The Bison will continue to have an explosive offense and might need it this year to make up for the loss of Menke. If Garcia, Moreland and Reina can continue to lead the offense, the transition from spot starter/reliever to No.1 or 2 starter might be a little smoother for any of Thun, Leddy and Sertic. Unfortunately, the team's opening weekend includes matchups with Texas and North Carolina. Stanford, Alabama, Cal, Baylor and Louisville are also on the schedule during the tournament portion of the schedule, which also includes a nonconference doubleheader with Minnesota later in the season. The Bison also host this year's Summit League Championships.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Cheyenne Garcia, 2B, 189
Hits: Cheyenne Garcia, 2B, 80
Home Runs: Cheyenne Garcia, 2B, 20
RBIs: Alyssa Reina, C, 57
Runs: Cheyenne Garcia, 2B, 70
Stolen Bases: Cheyenne Garcia, 2B, 20

Wins: Jacquelyn Sertic, P, 11
Innings Pitched: Jacquelyn Sertic, P, 94
Strikeouts: Jacquelyn Sertic, P, 77
Complete Games: Jacquelyn Sertic, P, 9

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