Bulldogs push top-seeded St. Gregory’s to the brink in national tournament loss
SHAWNEE, Okla. – No. 1 seeds went 10-0 in Monday’s NAIA Softball National Championships Opening Round, but top-seeded and sixth-ranked St. Gregory’s had to sweat it out in its own backyard. Concordia University, making its first-ever national championships appearance, put a scare into the host Cavaliers before a three-run sixth propelled St. Gregory’s to a tense 4-3 win in Shawnee, Okla.
The Bulldogs (32-15) now drop to the loser’s bracket and face an elimination game on Tuesday against in-state rival Bellevue. Game time is set for 3 p.m. from Firelake Ballfields.
The Cavaliers (49-9), regular-season champions of the Sooner Athletic Conference, avoided the upset on the strength of Brooklyn Sparks’ two-run homer to left to break a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the sixth. That blast allowed a measure of relief to a potent St. Gregory’s squad that struggled to put up its normal production (third in the NAIA in runs per game, 7.95).
“It was kind of a ‘David vs. Goliath’ scenario on paper,” Concordia head softball coach Todd LaVelle said. “We shouldn’t have even been in the game. All season long our girls haven’t believed that. They thought they were good enough to win. We fell down 1-0 (came back) and played a great game.”
Concordia starting pitcher Amanda Beeson racked up four strikeouts over the first two innings and limited the Cavaliers to five hits over a six-inning complete game. Led by Randi Yousey, St. Gregory’s finally got on the board in the fourth after Yousey tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly.
Senior catcher Amber Topil again came up with a clutch hit for the Bulldogs when she doubled in Molly Madsen to knot the score, 1-1, in the top of the sixth. Shortstop Palmer Bosanko followed with a run-scoring single to give Concordia its first lead, igniting the visitor dugout.
“I’m just so darn proud of them for never giving up,” LaVelle said. “Being the David, we just tried to come and see what we could do. Even though the scoreboard says a loss, I’ve always preached to these girls if they play hard it’s a win in my book.”
Beeson nearly escaped the bottom of the sixth with the lead still intact. After a one-out Yousey double, Beeson induced a groundout that moved the runner to third with two outs. A walk, a wild pitch and a home run later, the Cavaliers had taken a 4-2 advantage.
Never a team to mail it in, Concordia mounted one last charge. Brittany Hudler drilled a leadoff home run to left to chase Devon Frazier (19-1) from the game. Reliever Sierra Gallego then retired three of the next four hitters to pick up the save and advance St. Gregory’s in the winner’s bracket.
Only two Cavaliers managed to record a hit off Beeson. Yousey went 3-for-3 with two runs and Sparks went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs. Frazier scattered seven hits over her six innings to get the win.
Tuesday’s opponent, Bellevue, is plenty familiar. The Bulldogs and Bruins split a doubleheader in Omaha on April 1. Concordia took game 1, 4-2. Bellevue won the second contest, 5-3.
The Bulldogs are no stranger to elimination games having won five-straight in the GPAC tournament to qualify for the national tournament. Concordia plays well with its backs against the wall.
“We came here to win,” LaVelle said. “We want to make our school proud. I think the girls will respond. I really do. Bellevue’s a good team. So are we.”
The Bruins were pummeled, 16-1, by No. 15 Belhaven University in Monday night’s first contest in Shawnee. Belhaven and St. Gregory’s will play in the winner’s bracket on Tuesday.
13 May 2014
(4) Concordia vs. (3) Bellevue
Tuesday, May 13 | 5 p.m.
Shawnee, Kan. | Firelake Ballfields
Live webcast: Stretch Internet
Live stats: Dakstats.com
Tickets: Single-session adult tickets are $8. Single-session student tickets (ages 18 and under) are $5. Tickets are available for purchase on site only.
*Winner advances to play at 6 p.m. against the loser between (1) St. Gregory's and (2) Belhaven.