Even the umpires didn’t think Michaela Woodward had anything left. Then just a freshman, Woodward had finished pitching her third complete game in two days and was getting ready to try to do it a fourth time.
In other words, Woodward had a chance very early in her career to prove herself as a winner. Says Woodward, “The umpires came up to (head coach Todd) LaVelle and said, ‘She’s not going to make it through another one. She doesn’t have anymore in her.’ I just like proving people wrong. I knew that I could do it.”
What makes the performance most remarkable is that she did it when the stakes were the highest. It was the 2015 GPAC tournament and the Bulldogs were the No. 7 seed, something they weren’t happy about. While riding the right arm of Woodward, Concordia upset its way to a GPAC tournament title. Woodward threw all six games during the postseason run – a total of 39.2 innings in a four-day stretch.
Having not even completed one full year at Concordia, Woodward had already put together a legendary performance when it comes to program annals. She also did it with the bat, blasting a no doubter of a home run in the title-clinching win at Morningside.
“She has that drive to do that,” LaVelle said of Woodward’s big coming out party in the conference tournament. “I overheard the umpires talking and they said, ‘You don’t have it in you.’ She just looked at me with that competitive fire and I just knew that next game was in the bag. She is very competitive and has that drive.”
Fast forward to the present and you find one of the most accomplished two-way players in program history. Now in the twilight of her collegiate career, Woodward is nearing 50 wins and 500 innings pitched. She’s a .365 hitter with 15 home runs in 136 games. She’s a first team all-conference performer enjoying her best season as a pitcher in 2017.
The biology major could have stuck around for one more year. She has a full season of eligibility remaining, but she feels like her body needs the break. She’s gone through plenty of bucket drills, 600-yard shuttles and strength and conditioning coach Todd Berner’s burnouts.
“My advisor put it in my head. He was like, ‘Hey, you know this is an option,” Woodward said. “’If you wanted to, you could graduate in three years.’ At first I was like, ‘No way.’ Then over the summer we found out that I had a heart condition. That was part of the decision, but I think it’s mostly my body. My body is just kind of worn out at this point.”
Instead of playing softball and taking classes at Concordia, Woodward will head out west to nursing school in Phoenix, Ariz., where she can earn a bachelor’s degree in 15 short months.
For the native of Cortland, Neb., simply getting accustomed to the desert surroundings may be the most difficult part. However, Woodward has proven to be something of an adventurer. Last summer she went to Cape Town, South Africa, to play softball and to swim with sharks. She won’t have to worry about being chased down by a white shark amidst the cacti in Arizona.
“It’s definitely scary and nerve racking, but some of our girls are from there,” Woodward said. “I have parents looking out for me trying to find apartments so I think I’m pretty well set.”
LaVelle would be OK if something fell through and she came running back … OK, it’s not going to happen. But LaVelle would be happy to take three years of players like Woodward any day.
The Norris High School product first registered on LaVelle’s radar when she played against his Lincoln North Star teams. Woodward likes to remind LaVelle of the home runs she hit off his teams.
“She’s always had that demeanor about her that she could take control of the circle,” LaVelle said. “We were pretty lucky to get her here. I just reflected on that with the team. I was heading to the state tournament and there was a big article her senior year in the Lincoln Journal Star. It said she was looking at a Florida school, Nebraska Wesleyan and a handful of others. I got call from a high school coach that’s a good friend and he told me, ‘I don’t think she’s really set on any of those schools.’ The ball started rolling from that day forward.”
LaVelle initiated contact with Woodward, who also thought about going to college for track and field. Everything happened fast. Within a couple of weeks, Woodward had signed to become a Bulldog.
Without Woodward, Concordia wouldn’t have won the 2015 GPAC tournament title – and it wouldn’t be 30-11 right now with a second place standing in the conference. As her freshman year proved, Woodward was a ready-made winner.
Says LaVelle, “What I look at is what she’s meant to our program. She’s laid a great foundation for years to come in terms of competitive nature and where we want to take this program.”