BEMIDJI -- Kaidron McClafferty found paradise inside the circle on Saturday.
“It’s like heaven,” the freshman pitcher said of the groove she was in. “When you’ve got (your offense producing), and you’re making the pitches you want to make, it’s just heaven.”
Behind McClafferty’s easy-going complete game, the Bemidji State softball team upended Minnesota State Moorhead 3-1 to avenge an 8-7 loss in the first game of a doubleheader at Chet Anderson Stadium.
“We’ve been putting her in here and there. She’s a freshman, so we’re just trying to put her in to get used to the innings,” BSU assistant coach Brittany Gomez said of McClafferty’s growing confidence. “She’s been doing pretty well. As long as she hits her spots, her defense can take care of the rest.”
McClafferty struck out six on Saturday, scattering five hits and tossing the third complete game of her young career.
“Knowing that I’ve got a team behind me is the main thing,” McClafferty said. “Especially being out there as a pitcher, knowing that I’ve got amazing seniors behind me who will make the plays whenever I need them, that just makes it so much easier.”
Her run support came from Elaina Christiansen, who belted a two-run home run in the third and blasted the Beavers (22-14, 5-7 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) ahead 2-0.
MSUM (11-18, 5-7 NSIC) got a run back in the fifth when Emma Dummer cracked a sharp single up the middle to score Shay Weber, but McClafferty wasn’t concerned.
“All my pitches were feeling pretty good. The one run, it happens,” she said. “(I knew) not to worry about it. I knew the bats would come back, and they did. They scored a run for us. … Everything was working today.”
A half inning later, Bemidji State added an unearned insurance run when an errant throw bounced into deep right field, and Olivia Tucker scored from first.
McClafferty did the rest, retiring the side in order in the sixth and seventh innings to finish off her complete-game effort. And even though she found herself locked in a pitchers’ duel, she didn’t feel the pressure that often accompanies it.
“There’s been plenty of times when pitchers get in that duel because you’ve got great pitchers, especially in this conference. It’s the toughest one in Division II,” McClafferty said. “I just know I’ve got the batters behind me, so it makes it fun.”
The bats were even more active in the game-one loss.
BSU put up 10 hits, which helped them quickly overcome a 3-0, first-inning deficit. Makayla Pagel, Brooke Phillips and Stephi Dullum all picked up RBI singles in the bottom of the third, giving the Beavers a 4-3 edge.
The Dragons answered with matching RBI doubles to go ahead 5-4 in the sixth. In the bottom of the frame, Lexi Derrick and Jess Burlingame’s run-scoring doubles pioneered a rally that put Bemidji State back in front at 7-5.
Minnesota State Moorhead wouldn’t be denied, however. Ashley McCance cracked a two-run homer in the seventh to send the game to extras, and in the eighth, Jordie McNeilly scored on a fielding error for the game-winning run.
“We had a pretty good game the first game. I think we should have won that,” Gomez said. “I think we did a lot better at the second game at still sticking through it.”
BSU’s second straight split comes on the heels of a modest four-game skid, which is all now under the shadow of a 10-game winning streak. Gomez said she still likes where the Beavers are at.
“We’re still good,” she said. “We’re all still believing in each other. I think that’s hard sometimes… but at the same time, you look at the bright side of it and we’re still hitting the ball, still doing pretty well and I think they’re all still together.”
Bemidji State is back on the road for a doubleheader against Minot State, which kicks off at noon on Wednesday, April 10 in Minot, N.D.
MSUM 8, Bemidji State 7 (eight innings)
MSM 300 002 21 -- 8-13-0
BSU 013 003 00 -- 7-10-1
WP: Berth (CG, 8 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 2 K)
LP: St. Dullum (6 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K)
Bemidji State 3, MSUM 1
MSM 000 010 0 -- 1-5-1
BSU 002 010 X -- 3-6-1
WP: McClafferty (CG, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K)
LP: Lang (3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K)