Bulldog softball begins postseason play Thursday in Hastings

Bulldog softball begins postseason play Thursday in Hastings

SEWARD, Neb. – As the No. 3 seed in this week’s GPAC softball championships, the Concordia University softball team is set to open up postseason play against sixth-seeded Midland at 2 p.m. on Thursday. The eight-team, double-elimination tournament will take place at the Smith Softball Complex in Hastings, Neb. View the schedule HERE.

Live audio broadcasts of all Concordia games at the tournament will be available online via the Concordia Sports Network. Mike Meyer will serve as the play-by-play voice.

First-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad enters the postseason at 27-12 overall and 12-8 in conference action. The Bulldogs have already won 13 more games than last season, but none of that will matter when the action gets underway on Thursday.

“Now we’re 0-0,” LaVelle said after Saturday’s final regular-season doubleheader. “We’re going to go down to Hastings for the conference tournament. There are seven other teams that will be there and everybody is 0-0. It really doesn’t matter (what their regular-season records are). You have to play everybody and if you want to win the tournament you have to win three or four in a row.

“We’re going to get better. We’re going to rest up and fine tune a couple things. Hopefully this time next week we can have an interview saying we did exactly what we set out to do at the beginning of the year.”

LaVelle and company have their sights set on earning one of two GPAC automatic berths to the 2014 NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round. One of those bids has been locked up by regular-season champion Morningside (26-11, 15-5 GPAC). The other will go to the tournament champion – or runner up if Morningside wins.

“Why not us?” is the mantra the Bulldogs have rallied around all season and that won’t change in the postseason.

“We just have to take it one inning at a time, one out at a time and we can get there,” senior pitcher Amanda Beeson said after the regular season finale.

First things first, Concordia will try to figure out how to solve Midland (20-19, 11-9 GPAC), a team it got swept by in a doubleheader at Plum Creek Park on April 22. The Bulldogs are likely to again face Sammy Hislop, the Warrior ace who logged more than 150 innings during the regular season.

It’s that time of year when LaVelle and other coaches are apt to ride their best pitchers. Beeson is well-prepared to take on a hefty workload after firing 153.1 innings during the regular season. In conference games only, Beeson posted a sparkling 1.86 ERA and league-leading 82 strikeouts in 86.2 innings.

Pitcher’s duels figure to work in Concordia’s favor. The Bulldogs are 9-4 in one-run games and they boast the league’s top fielding percentage (.958) and third best ERA (2.37) in GPAC contests only.

There’s little doubt Concordia is a threat to win the title, especially if it carries over its offensive output from Saturday’s doubleheader in which the Bulldogs put up a combined 17 runs on 27 hits. That explosion bumped the team’s league batting average from .244 all the way up to .268.

The Mustangs will be the favorite after earning the No. 1 seed thanks to a conference mark of 15-5. Last season Morningside pummeled Hastings twice on the final day of the GPAC tournament to advance to the opening round of the NAIA softball championship. Morningside has arguably the conference’s top slugger in Kati Steffen (.434 BA, 11 HR, 40 RBI) and a stellar ace pitcher in Jordan Johnson (17-5, 2.40 ERA).

Northwestern tied Morningside atop the regular-season standings. The Red Raiders possess two elite pitchers in Katie Vandevoort (13-3, 1.79 ERA) and Keely Bracelin (12-7, 2.27 ERA). Concordia split a doubleheader at Northwestern on March 29.

Two teams will be eliminated on day one of the GPAC tournament. Every team will play at 2 p.m. and again at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Should Concordia advance to Friday, its first game that day would be at either 2 or 4 p.m.

30 April 2014

GPAC tournament schedule »

Junior Molly Madsen