One year removed from the school’s first national championship, the No. 1 seed NDSCS Wildcats (55-11) returned to the NJCAA DIII title round Saturday, May 25, against No. 2 seed Patrick & Henry Community College (35-24).

NDSCS won the first game, 6-4, setting up a winner-take-all rubber match vs. the Patriots.

The deciding championship game Saturday afternoon was again 6-4, this time in favor of Patrick & Henry, who took home the 2024 NJCAA DIII Softball Championship in a 10-inning victory.

NDSCS brought a 3-1 tournament record into the weekend, its only loss coming to the Patriots in the form of a 4-3 defeat in extras on Thursday. The Wildcats were riding high entering Saturday’s championship after Manny Diarra’s three-run bomb from the No. 9 spot in the order gave them a 4-1 win over Caldwell Tech in the semifinals. Grace Folkema stranded runners on the corners to win that game, ending the threat with her 395th strikeout of the season — a new NJCAA record.

Championship Game 1

The Wildcats found themselves in the same predicament as last season, having to win back-to-back games against an undefeated opponent in the double elimination tourney. Game one saw the ‘Cats score three runs in the sixth inning to put Patrick & Henry away.

Kendyl Moss and Lily Reed plated two RBIs each and Folkema fanned eight for her 27th win of the season. Folkema’s sidekick in circle, Emma Johnson, worked around four hits and two runs to earn a multi-inning save, her eighth of the year.

Championship Game 2

The 2023 championship was one for the ages, as NDSCS staged a two-out, seven-run rally for a 13-12 walk-off win over Corning. This year was another classic, as the Wildcats tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth on a TK Landes single, before a ground rule double from Bailey Daeke shifted the lead to Patrick & Henry in the 10th and final inning. Kyndal Hopkins added a sacrifice fly to seal the 6-4 win.

Lara “Yaya” Dolezal and Landes supplied two RBIs each in their final game as Wildcats. Jayden Breiland posted two hits from her leadoff spot. Caitlyn Dannenfelzer stole her 37th base of the season.

Johnson pitched five innings of two-hit softball, surrendering one earned run. Folkema scattered three earned runs across five innings, striking out four and finishing her freshman season with a whopping 408 strikeouts, the first such season in NJCAA history.

Morgan Strickland (24-10) had a career performance for the Patriots, pitching all 10 innings to earn the win. Strickland faced 42 batters, allowing eight hits and two earned runs. She recorded five strikeouts and walked a pair of batters.

Laila Rodriguez batted 2-for-5 with two stolen bases and two runs scored. Daeke led the scoring front with three RBIs.

NDSCS Has Built a Juggernaut

Since posting an 18-20-1 record in 2018-19, NDSCS has amassed a 168-60 record. Along with Folkema’s national strikeout record, Avery Martin’s 20-HR season set a new NDSCS record and the program’s 55 wins is also a high mark.

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