Senior-led Dawgs come up one win short of GPAC title, await national tournament placement
HASTINGS, Neb. – Thriving amid the pressure of elimination games, the Concordia University softball team nearly made history in trying to become the first team to lose its first GPAC tournament game and then run the table. Head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad came up one win short of that accomplishment. On Saturday the Bulldogs defeated top-seeded Morningside 3-0 in game 1 in then fell 8-7 in the championship-deciding contest.
After dropping an eight-run rule decision in Thursday’s opening battle of the GPAC championship event, Concordia (32-14) won five-straight elimination games to lock up an automatic berth to the 40-team 2014 NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round. The Bulldogs will learn their placement at one of 10 opening round sites when the announcement is made by the NAIA at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
“I’m so proud of these girls and what they’ve accomplished, not only the last three days but the entire season,” LaVelle said. “A lot of teams getting knocked down to the loser’s bracket day one would have folded. This team just has so much fight in it and so much pride in themselves and what they’ve done all season.”
In the culminating game, Concordia held leads of 2-0, 3-1 and 7-5 in a contest that turned into a seesaw affair in the late innings. Down 7-5 in the bottom of the sixth, the Mustangs (30-12) got a two-run homer from Morgan Fogelman and a solo shot from Taylor Daas as workhorse pitcher Amanda Beeson began to run out of steam.
Faith Schmidt got the ball in the circle in the top of the seventh and earned the save, but not before Concordia mounted a threat with two outs. Amber Topil walked and Palmer Bosanko reached on an error to put runners on first and second. Schmidt then got Regan Doiel to ground out to short to seal the conference title for Morningside.
Topil and the Bulldogs forced a second game with the Mustangs, previously unbeaten at the tournament, behind Beeson’s four-hit shutout in game 1. Beeson did not give up a Mustang hit until two were out in the bottom of the fourth. The native of Waverly, Neb., struck out nine and stranded seven in yet another masterpiece.
The two championship contenders were locked in a scoreless tie until the fifth inning of game 1. Brittany Hudler got the Bulldogs on the board with an RBI double to score Bosanko, who also doubled in the inning. Concordia added a run apiece in the sixth (Topil RBI single) and seventh innings (Julia Tyree run-scoring ground out).
Beeson and Topil exemplified senior leadership throughout Concordia’s seven-game tournament run, during which the team embraced the motto, ‘don’t let it end.’
“We went down really hard the first game – got run ruled,” Topil said. “We were like, ‘well, we need to turn it around.’ The whole team just came together. Every single person was on board to make it happen and fight all the way through.”
Beeson (19-9) worked 35 innings over the three-day GPAC tournament. She allowed a total of 17 earned runs on 36 hits and seven walks while striking out 35. Meanwhile, Topil went 8-for-18 with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs at the plate while catching every single pitch from Bulldog hurlers.
Concordia fell behind 5-3 in game 2 and then rebounded with four runs in the top of the sixth. Shelby Morose singled up the middle to tie the score and Diana Mendoza followed two batters later with a two-run double for a 7-5 lead.
After losing to Midland on Thursday, Concordia defeated Northwestern, Hastings, Dakota Wesleyan and Morningside to put itself in position to win the GPAC tournament.
With 32 wins, the 2014 Bulldogs have moved up to No. 4 on the school’s single-season all-time list. This year’s squad is the fifth in school history to reach the 30-win mark.
Concordia will be sent to one of the 10 opening round sites listed below. Four teams are assigned to each site with the 10 winners advancing to play at the 2014 NAIA World Series in Columbus, Ga., May 23-29.
Opening round cities:
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Oklahoma City, Okla.