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Relaxed approach has McCook transfer flourishing

By Jake Knabel on Apr. 6, 2017 in Softball

Deciding on Concordia was one of the first big risks Megan Ruppert has taken in her life. She spent all of her formative years in the comfortable surroundings of her hometown of McCook, Neb. – until venturing to Seward after completing two years at McCook Community College.

In year one at Concordia, Ruppert went through some of the struggles typical of someone leaving home for the first time. On the softball field, things weren’t as fun as they really could have or probably should have been, given Ruppert’s longtime love for the game of softball.

“I’m actually having fun this year instead of making all of it as serious as possible. That really helps,” says Ruppert. “I just told myself that I was going to be social this year because I was not social last year. I think that helps a lot that I communicate with people instead of them being surprised when something comes out of my mouth. It’s my senior season so I’m like, ‘You have to give it your all.’”

Ruppert is out to ensure her senior year goes by without regrets. The measurable results have been glowing. She’s batting a team high .407 with two home runs and 19 RBIs. Her on-base percentage is an eye-popping .491. Entering Thursday’s action, Ruppert owns an eight-game hitting streak during which she has batted .516 (16-for-31).

Four years ago and more than 200 miles away from Concordia, a high school senior version of Ruppert would have had trouble envisioning that type of success coming in Bulldog navy and white. That’s because Concordia hadn’t been in the picture. To be fair, she was off the radar of Concordia, which was making a coaching transition at the time.

In many ways, it was just easier to say at home while a clearer plan came into focus.

“Funny thing is I was looking at Doane when I was coming out of high school,” Ruppert said. “It came down to free education or paying a lot for a private college. I went to McCook reluctantly and I ended up having two great years. We had a great softball program there and the coach was amazing.”

Ruppert hit .357 over two years that went by fast at McCook. During that time, it became obvious that Ruppert would have a chance to move on and continue her passion at a four-year institution. While performing for a Lady Indians team that had numerous student-athletes that would go on to play at various levels of collegiate softball, Ruppert stood out.

Her McCook team played against Concordia at Plum Creek Park in the fall of 2014. LaVelle noticed the way she glided to the outfield alleys to deny opposing hitters.

“I just remember she was running everything down and caught everything that we hit near center field,” LaVelle said. “I just started a conversation with her and her coach after that. I continued to watch her play throughout the spring of that year and we went ahead and offered her a scholarship.”

Though not as comfortable or as social as she is a year later and a year wiser, Ruppert fit in well enough to be voted by teammates as a team captain in her very first season as a Bulldog. That may have surprised Ruppert, who was worried that she came across as “mean” because of her serious demeanor on the diamond.

She’s goofier now (“but not the goofiest on the team,” she says) and that’s a good thing. The whole team has made an effort to play more free and loose. Ruppert is one of the personalities in the dugout with the respect to help make that happen.

“You can see it. Every time she goes to the plate she just has fun and is ready to hit,” LaVelle said. “Megan’s very competitive, too. If the winning run is on second base, she wants to be the girl that’s up to bat. She’s very confident and very competitive.”

That competitive fire spills over into the classroom for Ruppert, who aspires to be a high school English teacher and softball coach. Says Ruppert, “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was like five. I just like being able to teach people new things.” As part of a class project, Ruppert recently earned an award from the Nebraska Educational Technology Association and will be honored at a conference later this month.

It’s just another example of what a stellar Concordia student-athlete looks like. Added LaVelle, “She does a lot of the little things right and has the intangibles that I love. She’s always hustling. She’s always cheering and motivating the girls to be at their best. Those things are invaluable.”

All it took was for Ruppert to open up and realize that she belonged.

Says Ruppert, “It was hard. I had definite separation issues last year. I just wanted to be home because it was all I knew. This year I came with a different attitude and I love it here now.”