VERMILLION — Fans of the long ball certainly weren’t disappointed.
The only problem for the South Dakota softball team on Friday was that its six home runs came in a losing effort.
Western Illinois twice rallied from an early deficit to record a Summit League doubleheader sweep of the hometown Coyotes by scores of 5-3 and 7-4 at Nygaard Field.
On the one hand, yes, the conference’s leader in home runs blasted six over the fence, but that being the only source of offense cost the Coyotes (13-23, 3-2).
“I just think we got a little home run happy,” head coach Robert Wagner said. “We hit some home runs, and that’s what we thought we were going to do, but you have to be able to have an approach and mix in some base hits.”
And that didn’t happen all that often.
On the day, the Coyotes were 13-for-55 (a .236 average) with seven runs on 13 hits — six home runs, one double and five singles. They also struck out 15 times and stranded 13 runners on base.
Put another way, if not for the ball going over the fence, USD didn’t manufacture anything else.
“Of course it’s good to hit home runs, but we also need to mix in singles and doubles, so we can get people on and score them too,” said junior catcher Jessica Rogers, who hit three homers on the day.
Western Illinois (9-22, 2-0), on the other hand, did exactly that.
The Leathernecks were 25-of-62 at the plate (a .403 average) and only hit one home run on the day, meaning they were able to consistently manufacture some offense.
They rallied from an 0-2 hole in the first game with a 5-run top of the fifth inning and held on for the victory. And then in the second game, they rallied from a 1-4 hole with six unanswered runs to win.
Of course, when you have the ability to hit the ball over the fence at any point, you’re never really out of the game, but that offensive strength for the Coyotes didn’t result in a rally.
“It can be a strength, if we’re swinging how we should be,” Rogers said. “But (Friday), we should’ve hit better, all around.”
South Dakota now leads the Summit League with 40 home runs this season, including 13 in five league games. By contrast, the Coyotes hit 26 home runs all of last season and only 14 in 18 league games.
Still, it’s more than the long ball is necessary, according to Wagner.
“We’re hitting more home runs than we did last year, but overall, our runs scored are down,” he said. “We just have to do more in between.”
Highlighting USD’s home run surge this season has been Rogers, the Lincoln, Nebraska native.
A year ago, she hit six homers and drove in 40 runs, but this year leads the Summit League in homers (11) and runs batted in (32). In her last nine games, Rogers is 12-for-27 with nine long balls and 22 RBI.
“She’s just playing with a lot of confidence,” Wagner said. “She has a lot of ability, but confidence goes a long way. She’s making better decisions at the plate.”
South Dakota and Western Illinois close their weekend series today (Saturday) at 1 p.m. in Vermillion.
“We’ve got to find a way to come out and compete,” Wagner said. “We didn’t do a good job of competing (Friday).
“They wanted it more than we did.”
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