The Wildcat Softball program is fresh off one of the best seasons in school history. Take a look at some of the highlights on their run to the National Tournament.
North Dakota State College of Science was fortunate enough to return 3 starting sophomores from the previous season (4-29), in Katie Bjorndahl (Hawley, MN), Erin Nissen (Poulsbo, Washington) and Halie Johnson (Moorhead, MN). Incoming freshman starters included Bekah Ludden (Bloomington, MN), Brooke Harder (North Sioux City, SD), Salavao Veu (Waipahu, HI), Morgan Smith (Fargo, ND) and Haley Thompson (Kindred, ND) which rounded out a solid starting lineup. As a team, they saw an increase of batting average from the previous season jumping up to .358, on base percentage of .415, and hit a record high of 17 home runs throughout the season.
Early in the season, starting first baseman Veu was named NJCAA Division III Player of the Week. The Wildcats tied for 2nd place with Williston State College in the Mon-Dak conference; beating Dawson Community College for the first time ever, ultimately splitting the 4-game series. Eight players were named to the Mon-Dak All-Academic Team, for displaying their academic talents in the classroom receiving over a 3.0 GPA. Players Ludden, Veu, and Harder were named to the Mon-Dak All-Conference team, and Veu was named Mon-Dak All-Conference MVP. Harder led the conference in wins and strikeouts; Veu in homeruns and RBI's; and Ludden in batting average and stolen bases.
In the first round of the sub-regional tournament held at the Gayle Miller Softball Complex, the Wildcats swept the Bottineau Jacks (9-1, 4-2) and advanced to the Region 13 Tournament held in St. Cloud, MN. This was the first NDSCS team to win a sub-regional tournament since 2012.
In St. Cloud, the Wildcats took down Anoka Ramsey Community College in a close game, battling it out 3-1. NDSCS scored all 3 of their runs in the bottom of the 5th inning and shut the Golden Rams out for the remainder of the game. In the following game, the Cats were no match for the St. Cloud Technical & Community College Cyclones, especially for Veu who hit 2 home runs in the 8-0 win. Harder threw a 2 hitter, while Ludden led the team with 2 stolen bases. NDSCS out hit the Cyclones 16-6 in the Regional 13 Championship, and it came down to the wire in the 6th inning when St. Cloud Tech put some runs on the board, but it was no match for the Cats who took the game 5-4. Harder was the Region 13 MVP, with Veu, Johnson, Ludden and Harder being named to the All-Region Tournament team. It was the first time in school history that the Cats won the regional tournament and advanced to the National Tournament.
With school out for the summer, NDSCS advanced to Rochester, MN home of the NJCAA Division III National Championship. The tournament opener was against #3 Brookdale Community College. The Cats outhit Brookdale 6-5, but unfortunately couldn't put enough runs on the board, dropping the game 2-4; Bjorndahl and Emily Bakken each had single RBI's. NDSCS may have fallen into the elimination bracket, but they were about to stave off early elimination to Suffolk Community College. The Cats fell behind early 0-3 in the first inning but erupted with the bats in the 5th and 6th innings, eventually taking the game from the Sharks 11-3. Bjorndahl and Veu had 3 and 2 hits, respectively. Advancing forward hopeful to work their way from the bottom, NDSCS took on Lehigh Carbon Community College in a close game, with the Cats winning 2-0. Harder threw a 1 hitter in the win. With another win in the column, NDSCS advanced to play Monroe Community College where the Cats held them scoreless and swept them 5-0. NDSCS advanced their way through the loser's bracket and made it to the 3rd place game, with the winner advancing to the National Championship title game. NDSCS took on the Herkimer Generals. Unfortunately, the bats couldn't come alive for Science, and the Generals ended the Cat's road for a National Championship.
NDSCS was awarded the NJCAA Division III Third Place National Championship trophy while in Rochester; this finish was the highest placing for a Regional 13 team ever. Veu, Ludden and Harder were named to the National Championship All-Tournament Team. Harder and Veu were named National Fastpitch Coaches Association First Team All-Americans. Ludden was named the 2018 New Balance/Golden Shoe Award winner. Harder was also named to the NJCCA Division III First Team All American, while Ludden and Veu were NJCAA Division III Second Team All American. Maribel Nunez was named NJCAA Division III Third Team All-Academic. Harder was also named the Division III National Pitcher of the Year. As a team, Science lead Division III softball in stolen bases, and Harder was atop the leaderboard in wins and strikeouts. Science was 18-2 against Division III junior colleges and finished their season 29-15 for the 2017-18 season.