By Tom Callahan
It’s inevitable. In the course of any season a team will encounter close games. Pitchers will face jams. And in those situations is when Senior North Dakota State Bison pitcher Jacquelyn Sertic is having the most fun.
“Every game is different. I really enjoy playing tight games.” Sertic’s smile grew bigger on her face. “Those are the games that make you better, the games that really challenge everything you’ve been working for all year. Those are the most fun games.”
All the impressive stats are there for Sertic. Ranking third in the Summit League in strikeouts (303), fourth in shutouts (12) and ninth in strikeouts per seven innings pitched (9.66), she was named Summit League player of the week six times this season and the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I Pitcher of the Week on March 20, the first NDSU player to receive the honor. She was also named Summit League tournament MVP by going 3-0 with two shutouts and a minuscule 0.37 earned run average. To say she picks up her game in big situations might be an understatement.
“It’s pretty much attack mode,” Sertic said. “I have a great offense (and) a great defense. I know if I make a mistake they have my back and if they make a mistake I have their back. We’re… going at them and see if the other team can beat us. If they can’t then we’re going to take the ‘W’.”
Facing Bulldogs runners in scoring position that threatened NDSU’s lead four times in seven innings, Sertic managed to weather the storm each time with key pitches and some timely defense from her teammates.
“We’re a mid-major, but we like to compete with everybody. I think it says a lot about what mid-majors can do. Just because a team is from the SEC doesn’t mean that team isn’t beatable.”
The attitude seems to be contagious on this Bison team. Not only is there a sense of going after each opponent regardless of size, but an overwhelming sense of enjoyment. They’re having fun playing softball and each game is something to be savored.
Throughout the game, the Bison dugout was active. No player sat down, and the chanting, singing and dancing was almost continuous from first pitch to last. Bison Head Coach Darren Mueller joked that sometimes when people ask him how he can hear with all that racket his response is ‘what?’ as if his hearing were gone.
“It’s just fun having softball, every single game that we get to play is one more game than we had last weekend before the conference tournament,” said Junior Vanessa Anderson.
Anderson herself was a big contributor both at bat with a solo home run and an RBI triple plus a key stab of a line drive at first, doubling off the runner to prevent MSU from generating any momentum in the fifth inning.
“We’re just trying to enjoy every single moment, every single play. Playing a huge team on an amazing field, we’re just trying to have a blast,” said Anderson.
“The energy was great. The kids do an amazing job in the dugout.” said Mueller. “That’s what kinda kept us in the game (when MSU would threaten to break through). We didn’t waver whether they’d score two runs, one run or whatever it was.”
As for Sertic, Mueller says she’s really grown since her time as a freshman, and now as a senior can handle the pressure.
“Don’t take me back!” Sertic laughs.
This is a team that doesn’t look back, only ahead to the next game.
“You know what?” Sertic declared when asked about facing Arizona on Saturday. “When a mid-major plays a Power Five school we’re not supposed to win. We’re not supposed to do anything. So we’re going go out there and play focused and play fearless and see what we can do.”