SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Both of Friday (May 4)’s GPAC tournament contests were tight into the middle innings before things unraveled late for the Concordia University softball team. The seventh-seeded Bulldogs are now headed into the offseason after suffering defeats by scores of 7-0 to No. 23 Morningside and 9-3 to Doane in postseason action at the Jensen Softball Complex in Sioux City, Iowa.
Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad concluded the campaign at 21-21 overall. Concordia had hoped to make a run at the location where it captured the 2015 GPAC tournament title.
“We’re disappointed because once you get into the tournament everyone is 0-0 and I really felt like we were playing better,” LaVelle said. “I felt like we were a different team than when we played Morningside a few weeks back. We came out really excited and held them scoreless. We just did not get that hit to get a run across. I think if that would have happened it would have been a different outcome.
“It was hard to regroup. We were definitely in a bracket that was tough. I think on any given day, any four of us could win.”
The afternoon went sour in the bottom of the fourth of Concordia’s first game. Freshman pitcher Grace Bernhardt had worked three scoreless innings and proceeded to retire the first two hitters in the fourth. The floodgates open when Bernhardt hit the third batter of the inning. Moments later, Jayci Hinker smashed a three-run homer to left. The Mustangs (29-12) tacked on another run in the fourth and then three more over the next two frames off of reliever Baily Clear.
The bottom of the fourth proved troublesome in the second game as well. The Tigers broke a 3-3 tie with a three-run inning that included only one hit. Concordia pitchers generously handed out three walks while starting hurler Brittany Woolridge was chased from the game. Clear also worked in relief in the season finale.
The Bulldogs had more success at the plate versus Doane. Kenna Heath (2-for-3, run, RBI), Tori Homolka (2-for-3, run, RBI) and Hhana Haro (2-for-4) all collected two hits. One of the nation’s top hitters all season, Haro rose to the top of the school’s single-season record books for total number of hits early in the day on Friday. Her base hit to lead off the game against Morningside gave her 74 hits in 2018, surpassing the previous program record of 73 by Stacey Miller in 1998.
The likes of Bernhardt, Haro and Mackinsey Schmidt were part of a talented freshmen class. LaVelle also likes what he sees in the 2019 senior class, which will feature Leah Kalkwarf and Jamie Lefebure in the middle of the infield. Lefebure returned to the diamond on Friday after missing the final 10 GPAC regular-season games due to injury.
This season’s roster was decidedly youthful. Of the 10 players who were in the lineup in the final game of the season, only three were on the 2017 roster. There figures to be more familiarity next spring.
“Obviously we’ll lean on those players who were freshmen this season,” LaVelle said. “I’m also going to lean on a really good group of seniors. We have a good nucleus of seniors. We’ll expect them to lead this team next year.”