Softball falls twice to No. 24 Friends
STERLING, Kan. – In three games this season against nationally-ranked opponents, the Concordia University softball team has proven it can compete against the best. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs fell frustratingly short on Saturday while matched against the top-rated team in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, No. 24 Friends University (Kan.).
The Falcons (21-7) won by scores of 8-6 and 5-3 in Sterling, Kan., to snap Concordia’s five-game win streak. First-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s club stands at 14-3 overall.
“We talked to the girls about this being a great measuring stick heading into conference,” LaVelle said. “We had a chance to find out where we stack up in comparison to the top tier of the NAIA. I feel like we’re close. We have some things to clean up but they are fixable. We’re very, very close to getting over the hump.”
Game 1 saw Friends come back from a 5-0 deficit to steal the win from the Bulldogs. The Falcons evened the score with five runs on only two hits in the bottom of the third, a long half inning that included five free passes issued by Concordia pitchers.
Friends took its first lead the following inning with a two-run single by first baseman Khadijah Bland that made it 7-5. Brenna Westemeir, who picked up the win in relief, allowed a leadoff double to Rebecca Walker in the seventh before inducing a pop out and a double play to complete the Falcons’ come-from-behind win.
“Obviously you want to be able to finish it when you take a 5-0 lead against a good team like that,” LaVelle said. “I thought we outplayed them. We talked about being mentally tough and what it takes to finish games. I thought we responded well in the second game even though we lost.”
The shaky bottom of the third spoiled a great start for Concordia. The Bulldogs pushed across two runs in the second on second baseman Brittany Hudler’s RBI single and a Falcon error. Three more Bulldogs came around to score in the third with Hudler again coming up big by delivering a two-run single following catcher Amber Topil’s RBI double.
Friends escaped game 2 with another two-run victory by wiggling out of a seventh-inning jam. With one out and the bases loaded, senior Shelby Morose hit the ball sharply up the middle where Falcon second baseman Courtney Kifer initiated a 4-6-3 game-ending double play.
Freshman leadoff hitter Diana Mendoza provided the biggest spark for Concordia in game 2. She went 2-for-3, stole two bases and scored two runs. The native of Santa Clarita, Calif., walked to spur a two-run first inning. She then led off the third with a single and ended up scoring the Bulldogs’ final run.
Hudler finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs on the day. Mendoza went 3-for-6 with two walks.
In the circle, freshman Lexye Bruegman was tagged with the loss in game 1. Senior Amanda Beeson suffered her second setback in game 2. The trio of Beeson, Bruegman and Tyree remain the only pitchers to toe the rubber so far this season for the Bulldogs.
Concordia was also scheduled to play Bethany University (Kan.) at 7 p.m. on Saturday, however, cold temperatures resulted in a cancelation.
After playing nine games over the past four days, the Bulldogs take Sunday and Monday off. They are scheduled to return to action on Tuesday with a home and conference-opening doubleheader against Doane (17-4). First pitch from Plum Creek Park is slated for 5 p.m.