Timely hitting secures Cyclones a spot in NSIC Region Championship

Iowa State freshman Kasey Simpson high fives her coach as she rounds third following her first home run of the Iowa State vs South Dakota softball game held at the Cyclone Sports Complex April 2. The Cyclones had three home run hits and defeated the Coyotes 9-1.

John Miller

The Iowa State Cyclones (34-23, 7-11 Big 12) secured a spot in their region final of the NSIC Championship as they defeated the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (37-18, 11-7 Summit) in the third round by a score of 7-2 in Ames on Friday evening.

Iowa State took the field as the away team in a game that was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. before being moved back twice to a 5 p.m. start time to get out of the rain.

“Anytime a routine is modified or changed, we as humans have trouble adjusting but these girls made huge game adjustments today,” said coach Jamie Pinkerton.

South Dakota State came into the game after a 8-6 win over the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (35-21, 16-6 Ohio Valley) on Thursday.

The Jackrabbits were one win short of matching the most victories in their Division I history from last year. They competed in the NISC last year as well, reaching the Greeley Regional title game.

In a game plagued with errors, two by Iowa State and four by South Dakota State — the Cyclones prevailed thanks to their 12 hits — many of which were timely — at the plate.

Three of those hits came off the bat of second baseman Kasey Simpson, who added a RBI and a walk as well to her efforts.

“We just needed to make small adjustments to the pitcher as the game went on, which we did,” Simpson said.

The Cyclones had to battle back from behind for most of the game as the Jackrabbits struck first in the game as in the bottom of the second inning with back-to-back hits from the five and six hitters, Yanney Ponce and Megan Rushing, which brought Ponce in to score.

In the third, first baseman Ali Herdliska sent her Summit League-leading 16th home run of the season far over the center field wall to extend their lead to 2-0.

“We started a little slow,” Pinkerton said. “I thought that we weren’t necessarily flat, but just being delayed four hours and to have to come to the park and play is hard.”

It looked as if the Jackrabbits were set to score again in the fourth as Lyndsey Crist hit a lead-off double. That was soon negated as the Cyclones were able to catch her a little too far off second base and caught her in a rundown.

Following the out, South Dakota State’s Baily Janssen attempted to sneakily advance to second while the rundown was going on, but she was eventually called out in a rundown as well.

The Cyclones used that momentum to build into the top of the fifth as Simpson, pinch hitter Mikayla Ramos and shortstop Sami Williams all hit singles to load the bases with no outs.

After a flyout by center fielder Taylor Nearad which was not deep enough to score — Simpson, catcher Kaylee Bosworth grounded out to third base, but Simpson scored on a throwing error from South Dakota State catcher Mallory McQuistan to cut the lead in half to 2-1.

However, the Cyclones left Ramos and Williams stranded to end the inning.

“If you would’ve asked me at the beginning of the season, I would’ve been on edge about us coming back, but I knew our team was capable of making the adjustments,” said pitcher Emma Hylen.

In the sixth, Iowa State broke through as they had five straight hits with one out, including doubles Simpson and Williams to score runners.

They put up a total of five runs in the inning to make the score 6-2.

The Cyclones added another run to pad the lead in the seventh off of another South Dakota State error.

“I always believe we’re gonna win,” Pinkerton said. “If we have outs left on the scoreboard, we have a shot.”

Hylen tossed all seven innings for the Cyclones on the mound, allowing nine hits on a walk and two strikeouts.

One of those two strikeouts came in the fifth inning after giving up a double to Herdliska to keep the score 2-1.

“From the fourth inning on, she was able to make adjustments and she kept us in the game and allowed us to come back,” Pinkerton said.

No matter what happens the rest of the tournament, the Cyclones have secured a winning record for the first time since 1995.

Iowa State will take on the winner of the losing side of the bracket tomorrow at 2 p.m.. Purdue and Eastern Kentucky play tomorrow at 9 a.m. and that game’s winner will play South Dakota State. The winner of that game will play Iowa State and have to win twice to win the region.

“We’re excited — postseason is postseason no matter what and we’re gonna come balls-to-the-wall ready to play,” Hylen said.