South Dakota State, USD Coyotes dominate Summit League softball postseason awards

Conference tournament begins Wednesday in Brookings; top seeded Jackrabbits to host

Tori Kniesche leads South Dakota State into the Summit League softball tournament as the No. 1 seed and regular season league champion.
SDSU athletics

BROOKINGS — South Dakota State's Tori Kniesche and South Dakota's Aleesia Sainz took home the Summit League pitcher and player of the year awards, respectively, as the conference announced the 2023 year-end awards on the eve of the conference tournament, which will be hosted by the top-seeded Jackrabbits through the weekend at SDSU.

Kniesche had an incredible season in the circle for the Jackrabbits, as she was essentially perfect in conference play, going 11-0 with a 0.00 earned-run average, allowing zero earned runs in 76 2/3 innings while striking out 124 batters. Overall, she's 21-4 with a 1.43 ERA with 13 shutouts, and she capped it all off with a perfect game against USD in her final start of the regular season. This marks her second Summit League pitcher of the year award, as she earned the honor in 2021 as well. Kniesche will enter the Summit League tournament with an active streak of 84.1 innings without allowing an earned run.

Aleesia Sainz is this year's Summit League player of the year.
USD athletics

Sainz, a senior third baseman from Casa Grande, Ariz., is the first Coyote to be named Summit League player of the year. Though she batted .305 overall on the season, Sainz took things to another level in conference play, batting .420 with 21 RBI in 20 games and leading the league in fielding assists. She hit six homers, drove in 35 runs and was perfect in eight stolen base attempts in all games, and posted a 1.236 OPS in league play.

North Dakota State catcher Cassie Castaneda was named the league's defensive player of the year and St. Thomas' Avery Wukawitz earned freshman of the year honors.

Jackrabbit coach Kristina McSweeney was chosen as the Summit League coach of the year. In her first season on the job McSweeney replaced Krista Wood (who left to coach Creighton) and, despite losing top slugger Cylie Halverson to Arkansas and playing most of the season without co-ace pitcher Grace Glanzer, guided the Jackrabbits to a perfect 17-0 mark in league play for another Summit League title. The Jacks are 35-15 overall and earned the top seed in this week's Summit League tournament.


Jackrabbit sisters Rozelyn and Jocelyn Carrillo were again named to the Summit League first team, joined by teammate Mia Jarecki (and Kniesche), while Emma Osmundson was named to the second team and Shannon Lasey, Allison Yoder, Lindsey Culver and Alexa Williams all earned honorable mention for SDSU.

SDSU pitcher Shannon Lasey earned All-Summit League honorable mention.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

The Carrillo sisters each earned their third all-Summit League nod. Jocelyn led the league with a .423 average while Rozelyn batted .407.

For the Coyotes, Sainz was joined by pitcher Clara Edwards and outfielder Courtney Wilson on the first team, while Delaney White and Gabby Moser made the second team and Bela Goerke and Jordyn Pender earned honorable mention.

The six-team Summit League tournament begins Wednesday in Brookings. The Jackrabbits (35-15, 17-0) and second-seeded Omaha (29-15, 15-5) each earned a first-round bye.

North Dakota State (29-19, 13-8), USD (22-26, 11-9), UND (12-37, 9-10) and Kansas City (9-42, 4-17) round out the field. St. Thomas, at 6-14, finished in sixth place but the Tommies are still ineligible for postseason play as they continued their Division I transition.

The tournament begins Wednesday with a pair of elimination games at 2 p.m. when USD takes on UND. The winner faces the Jacks on Thursday at 11 a.m. Kansas City and NDSU square off in the other, with the winner of that getting Omaha. From Thursday on, the tournament is double-elimination, with the semifinals set for Friday at 1 p.m. and 3:30 and Saturday's championship scheduled for 1 p.m. with an if-necessary game to follow.

Summit League softball tournament
May 10-13 in Brookings
Wednesday, May 10
USD vs. UND, 2 p.m.
NDSU vs. UMKC, 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 11
Double elimination format begins
SDSU vs USD/UND, 11 a.m.
Omaha vs. NDSU/UMKC, 1:30 p.m.
Losers elimination game, 4 p.m.


Friday, May 12
Semifinal 1, 1 p.m.
Semifinal 2, 3:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 13
Championship, 1 p.m.
(If necessary), 3:30 p.m.

Matt Zimmer is a Sioux Falls native and longtime sports writer. He graduated from Washington High School where he played football, legion baseball and developed his lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, he returned to Sioux Falls, and began a long career in amateur baseball and sports reporting. Email Matt at
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