Conference play arrives for softball

By Jake Knabel on Mar. 19, 2018 in Softball

SEWARD, Neb. – The start of conference play continues to be pushed back by inclement weather. Originally scheduled to play this past weekend at Northwestern, the Concordia University softball team now appears poised to open up GPAC action Thursday at Doane. The Bulldogs are also slated to host Briar Cliff on Saturday.

This week’s schedule
Thursday, March 22 at Doane, 3 p.m. (DH)
Saturday, March 24 vs. Briar Cliff, 1 p.m. (DH)

For live coverage of Thursday’s twin bill at Doane, check the school’s athletics website HERE. Saturday’s home doubleheader will be streamed live via the Concordia Sports Network.

Even after 20 games, there’s still much to be learned about fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad, which enters the GPAC season at 11-9 overall. It’s still difficult to get a read on how the conference race will play out. The most recent GPAC ratings (March 12) pegged the top three teams as Morningside, Northwestern and Concordia. The Bulldogs were listed among others receiving votes in the preseason.

There have been encouraging signs for a team that has relied heavily upon freshmen such as Hhana Haro, Tori Homolka and Mackinsey Schmidt and transfer Elanna Osthoff. LaVelle hopes to get Osthoff back soon from the injury she suffered near the tail end of the Tucson Invitational. Osthoff went 15-for-21 (.714) in Tucson and leads the team with a .538 batting average. Haro (.514 BA, 2 HR, 23 RBI, .757 SLG) and Homolka (.375 BA, 5 HR, 20 RBI, .750 SLG) have been similarly impressive in their first seasons in Seward. Junior Leah Kalkwarf (.424 BA) has simply picked up where she left off after a first team All-GPAC sophomore campaign.

Ranked 14th nationally in runs per game (7.4), Concordia could be a major threat in the GPAC if it can solidify a pitching staff that also looks much different in 2018. Freshman Grace Bernhardt continues to make strides. She picked up wins in both doubleheaders last week. She leads the staff in innings pitched (50.1). The Bulldogs also have high expectations for Texas A&M University Commerce transfer Brittany Woolridge, who made her Concordia debut in Tucson.

Doane (16-10) looks to be improved after slipping to eighth place in the GPAC last season. The Tigers have twice run-ruled teams receiving votes nationally this season. Nicole Fernandez (.478) and Jordan Van Roy (.453) both sport batting averages above .450. Meanwhile, Briar Cliff has struggled to a 3-12 start. The Chargers have averaged only 3.0 runs per game and are hitting .262 as a team. They have gotten solid work from pitcher Isabella Gonzalez (2.26 ERA in 34 innings).

As part of next week’s action, Concordia is now scheduled to head to Northwestern (13-4) for a 4 p.m. doubleheader on Thursday, March 29. The Bulldogs will be off for Easter weekend.