Improbable season ends in opening round of national championships
SHAWNEE, Okla. – One of the most successful seasons in the history of Concordia University softball came to an end on Tuesday when the Bulldogs were eliminated from the 2014 NAIA Softball National Championships Opening Round. After falling 4-3 to No. 6 St. Gregory’s University on Monday evening, Concordia dropped a 3-1 decision to Bellevue University on Tuesday as part of the double-elimination postseason tournament held at Firelake Ballfields in Shawnee, Okla.
The fourth seed in the St. Gregory’s opening-round bracket, the Bulldogs (32-16) made the program’s first-ever trip to the national tournament a year after a disappointing 14-25 campaign.
LaVelle credits his group of five seniors, led by pitcher Amanda Beeson and catcher Amber Topil, with helping will the team to an improbable season.
“I think it’s a combination of things but I’m going to give all the credit to the players and our five seniors,” LaVelle said. “They worked and did everything we asked as a coaching staff. They believed. They showed heart. They showed character. They did everything we could possibly ask. When all that comes together and they play as one, good things happen.”
In-state rival Bellevue (36-16) bounced back after being dealt a 16-1 thrashing by No. 15 Belhaven University the day before. The Bruins eliminated the Bulldogs behind the stellar performance of ace pitcher Kellie Fisher. She limited Concordia to a single run on four hits.
Down 3-1, the Bulldogs had one of their best chances to take a bite out of the lead when they loaded the bases with only one out in the top of the fifth. Fisher then got Molly Madsen to ground into a fielder’s choice that resulted in an out at the plate. Third baseman Becca Walker, already 2-for-2, followed with a fly out to center to end the threat.
Concordia also left the bases loaded in the second inning – the only frame in which it scored a run. Madsen and Walker both singled to get it started. After a fielder’s choice, Palmer Bosanko and Regan Doiel both walked to force home a run. Fisher proceeded to coax a pair of groundouts to maintain a 2-1 Bruin lead.
“We left a lot on base and didn’t get things done at the plate,” LaVelle said. “I thought our defense played well. We were kind of rattled a little early but those things happen. When you get this far into a postseason tournament everybody you play is a great team.”
Bellevue got on the board in the bottom of the first Katie Mulloy’s sacrifice fly and Augusta Ratliff’s RBI single. The Bruins never gave up the lead with Fisher firing bullets in the circle.
Beeson also had a fine day in her final collegiate outing. The Lincoln native went all six innings and limited Bellevue to just a single earned run on eight hits. With 12 innings pitched at the national tournament, Beeson eclipsed 200 innings on the season.
Concordia’s 32 wins were the fourth most in a single season in program history. LaVelle hopes it serves as a springboard for even greater success in the coming years.
“The bar’s set high now,” LaVelle said. “We’re going to continue to get new recruits in and we’re going to continue to work harder in the offseasons. In nine-10 months from now I expect us to win. I do owe a lot to this team because they will forever be etched into what we’re trying to do.”
In the final game of the day in the St. Gregory’s bracket, Bellevue fell 6-5 in eight innings with Belhaven. Only Belhaven and St. Gregory’s remain alive heading into Wednesday’s action.
13 May 2014
Junior Rebecca Walker
Freshman Brittany Hudler (left) and sophomore Julia Tyree (right)