2014 Concordia softball season preview

2014 Concordia softball season preview

At a glance
2013 Record:
 14-25 overall; 8-12 GPAC (T-7th)
Head Coach: Todd LaVelle (1st year)
Key Returners: RHP Amanda Beeson, OF Regan Doiel, SS Shelby Morose, C Amber Topil, RHP/2B Julia Tyree
Key Losses: OF Angela Harstad, OF Nicole Mapes, OF Natalie Svoboda
Key Newcomers: OF Palmer Bosanko, RHP Lexye Bruegman, SS Brittany Hudler, OF Diana Mendoza, MI Courtnay Serve, 1B/3B Rebecca Walker
2013 GPAC All-Conference: Nicole Mapes (second team), Amber Topil (second team), Amanda Beeson (honorable mention)

Concordia University softball enters the 2014 season with a new leader at the top. Eleven-year head coach Frank Greene completed his run as the program’s all-time winningest coach, stepping down at the end of the 2013 campaign. Enter Todd LaVelle, who amassed a record of 171-91 with three state tournament appearances while at Lincoln North Star High School.

LaVelle brings an energetic style and describes himself as a motivator who expects to win immediately.

“I expect the best out of my players,” LaVelle said. “I expect the best out of my coaches and obviously I expect the best out of myself. We don’t take a pitch off and we don’t take an at bat off. It’s going to be pretty intense for the hour and 15 minutes that we play.”

While former all-conference selections Nicole Mapes and Natalie Svoboda have moved on, LaVelle has been impressed with the roster of 24 that he has taken over. The Bulldogs have a solid nucleus with top pitchers in senior Amanda Beeson and sophomore Julia Tyree back, as well as key position players like senior catcher Amber Topil and senior shortstop Shelby Morose forming the backbone of the lineup.

The group of seniors has led the way this offseason for a team that has pushed itself to new limits. An impressive fall exhibition season in which the Bulldogs won 12 of 13 games has them thinking big despite being placed seventh in the GPAC coaches’ preseason poll.

“I inherited 24 outstanding young ladies,” LaVelle said. “Whether they have all the same talent in softball is really irrelevant. I love to be around them every day. I feel very confident in what we have in place to make a run at the GPAC.”

That confidence is trickling from the top down. Last year’s 14-25 record is clear in the rearview mirror. For a program that had made itself cozy in the top half of the GPAC more often than not in recent years, the expectation is that 2014 will be a rebound season.

“I think it’s ours for the taking,” Beeson said. “‘Why not us?’ is our saying for the spring. GPAC has always been competitive. Even the seventh and eighth teams down there give you a dogfight. It’s going to come down to making the routine plays and doing what we know how to do well.”

Beeson will again lead a pitching rotation that LaVelle says will likely go three-deep. Last season Beeson, a native of Waverly, Neb., ramped up her strikeout rate and fanned 141 hitters for the third-highest total in the GPAC.

Beeson and Tyree covered more than 97 percent of the team’s innings in 2013. While their workload will likely decrease this season with greater pitching depth, the Bulldogs will count on the duo for big things.

“They’re all so excited to make it their best year,” Topil said. “I know Amanda wants to go out with a bang her senior year. She’s been working really hard. Julia worked crazy hard over the summer. She came in a totally different person and she’s ready to be a huge threat out on the mound.”

Beeson and Tyree will work with Topil, who earned second team all-conference honors last season while starting 38 of 39 games behind the plate. The former Seward High School standout had her best season in 2013 and has impressed LaVelle this offseason with her leadership.

LaVelle refers to shortstop Shelby Morose as the “cornerstone of the infield.” After playing in 83 games in her first two seasons, Morose was limited to 22 games in 2013 due to injury. Her return to health figures to solidify the defense up the middle.

The rest of the lineup projects to look much different than the one that trotted out at the end of last season. The outfield gets a makeover with junior Regan Doiel (Millard, Neb., out last season) and freshmen Diana Mendoza (Santa Clarita, Calif.) and Palmer Bosanko (Henderson, Nev.) expected to take on significant roles.

“Some of the players I’m really excited to see are Diana Mendoza and Reagan Dioel,” Topil said. “Reagan hasn’t been on the playing field with us. They both have a lot of speed and talent. They’re both a really good part of our lineup because of their speed.”

Because junior third baseman Molly Madsen is out due to offseason surgery, the first base position remains hotly contested. Meanwhile, the second and third base spots may also be turned over to newcomers. Rebecca Walker (third base), a transfer from Otero Junior College, and freshman Courtnay Serve (second base) have stood out this offseason. Tyree will also figure into the mix when she’s not pitching.

“We have some competitive freshmen and they’re moving everything up and pushing everybody,” Beeson said. “I think they’re ready to go. We’re all meshing as a team and they’re excited just as much as us seniors are. We want to make it a great year.”

Beeson says the most improvement should be seen at the plate. The Bulldogs believe they will be much better in that department after ranking eighth in the GPAC with 3.6 runs per game in 2013.

For LaVelle, it’s difficult to single out even a handful of players among a roster that appears solid from top to bottom.

“I’ve just been so impressed with the entire 24-girl roster,” LaVelle said. “Their work ethic is just above and beyond what I could ask for. We talked a lot when they came back this second semester about stepping it up a notch because we know our competition is. I go back to those seniors.”

With an understanding of what the competition will be like, the Bulldogs believe they measure up favorably.

“It’s exciting because it makes us a dark horse where we can come out of nowhere and impress people,” Topil said of the low expectations outside the program. “I really think the GPAC will be impressed with everything we’ll accomplish this year. We’ve set really high goals for our team and we know that seventh is people’s opinion in the rankings and we’re determined to change their minds.”

After piling up wins at Lincoln North Star, LaVelle doesn’t see why the same thing can’t happen in Seward – and soon.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say we want to win the GPAC,” LaVelle said. “That’s our ultimate goal. We were preseason seventh and that’s probably about where we should be. I’m not the coach that’s going to go in and coach to be preseason seventh or sixth or fifth or just make the tournament.”

Concordia has three exhibition games coming up on Saturday (Feb. 15) in Sioux City. It will officially begin the season on Tuesday, March 4 when the Bulldogs play a doubleheader at Kansas Wesleyan University.

13 February 2014

Senior Shelby Morose

Senior Amber Topil

Senior Amanda Beeson