SOFTBALL: Beavers split with UMD as Kyla Damerow twirls complete-game shutout
After 28 consecutive road games, Bemidji State returned home on Tuesday. And Kyla Damerow took full advantage, spinning a complete-game shutout to power BSU to a 1-0 win over Minnesota Duluth.
BEMIDJI – Kyla Damerow was quite pleased to be pitching at home for once.
After 28 consecutive games to start the season on the road, the Bemidji State softball team played a home contest on Tuesday for the first time all season. A cleared-off Chet Anderson Stadium field and 60-degree temperatures welcomed the Beavers to their adopted spring home.
Damerow took full advantage, spinning a complete-game shutout in the circle to power BSU to a 1-0 win in the first game of its doubleheader against Minnesota Duluth. It's the Beavers' first win over the Bulldogs in six years. The last one came in a road game on May 5, 2017.
In the second game of the double feature, Damerow relieved starting pitcher Stella Dolan and pitched 2.1 innings without allowing an earned run. The Beavers lost 4-2 in extra innings, but that didn’t dim how Bemidji State viewed Damerow’s stellar performance.
“It was huge,” BSU head coach Jordan Petersen said. “Kyla has really stepped up this year. Last year, she was more of a reliever. This year, she's stepped up into the starting role, and she's been doing extremely well for us. Having her be able to come back in (in the second game) is huge, because not a lot of pitchers can do that. And it didn't look like she really lost much from game one. She just continued to go.”
Damerow enjoyed having a sunny backdrop to pitch with on Tuesday. The bright glare may or may not have made it harder for UMD’s hitters to pick up the ball out of her hand, but it certainly rejuvenated her in the circle.
“It's super nice to be able to be outside,” Damerow said. “Makes it easier to pitch, play ball, hit, everything. It's so much nicer when the sun's out. And to not be inside at a dome where you have the ceilings and just everything else. (The weather) helps because it keeps the energy up too. It makes it so much nicer to be out here, keeps people's higher.”
The Beavers also appreciated the support of a number of observers in the Chet stands, a rare sight for a team that’s grown used to competing in the insular environment of indoor buildings.
“Having the fans here brings a whole different atmosphere,” third baseman Mariah Stevenson said. “And when you're playing a good team, it's a lot of fun.”
Bemidji State (14-16, 3-5 NSIC) matched up well against the Bulldogs (25-8, 11-3 NSIC), who currently occupy fourth place in the 16-team NSIC. The Beavers swiped game one thanks to Damerow’s shutout and a first-inning RBI double by Stevenson, which marked the contest’s only run scored.
“You always want more runs,” Stevenson said. “One run, especially against a team like that, they can score runs. So you always want to get more. You always want to win the inning. … Kyla pitched amazing today. Duluth, they’re a great hitting team, and we played defense behind her. It was just a great team win today.”
Damerow didn’t require much run support on Tuesday, and her ability to reenter in the second game of the day gave BSU another chance to win. Toeing the rubber in the top of the sixth with Bemidji State down 2-0, Damerow stranded two runners to give the Beavers a chance to come back in the late innings. They took advantage, plating one run in the sixth and another in the seventh to send the matchup to extra innings tied at 2-2.
Stevenson ignited the rally in the seventh, singling to lead off the bottom of the frame. She advanced to second on Ashley Herold’s sacrifice bunt, then scored on Elaina Christensen’s RBI double.
UMD scored twice in the top of the eighth to take the second game, but Petersen was most proud of the way BSU went toe-to-toe with a top team in the conference. Bemidji State has already exceeded its win total from 2022, Petersen’s first season at the helm, and the Beavers have their sights set on chasing down more milestones in 2023.
“Compared to how we played them earlier this year, we are a night and day different team,” Petersen said. “We came out battling right away. Great performance on the mound, all around. It's great seeing them buy into the process of what myself and my assistant coach have kind of preached to them about. They're buying in and it's finally showing, and they're playing extremely well.”
BSU is next scheduled to lace up its cleats for a doubleheader against Minnesota State at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 15, back at the Chet.
Bemidji State 1, Minnesota Duluth 0
UMD 000 000 0 – 0-3-0
BSU 100 000 X – 1-5-0
WP: Damerow (CG, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K)
LP: Dixon (CG, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K)
Minnesota Duluth 4, Bemidji State 2 (F/8)
UMD 000 011 02 – 4-7-0
BSU 000 001 10 – 2-5-1
WP: Williams (2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K)
LP: Damerow (2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K)