Softball hosts Doane Wednesday afternoon in battle of GPAC’s top-rated squads
SEWARD, Neb. – Wednesday’s conference-opening softball doubleheader brings plenty of pizazz as two schools off to program record starts clash at Plum Creek Park in Seward. Concordia (14-3) hosts Doane (17-4) at 3 p.m. today (March 26) in matchup of the GPAC’s top teams in terms of overall winning percentage.
Both games of the doubleheader will be carried live via the Concordia Sports Network. Mike Meyer will call the action.
In the rankings
Concordia is ranked No. 1 and Doane No. 2 in the latest GPAC ratings released on Tuesday. Concordia was pegged seventh in the GPAC preseason poll while Doane was rated fifth. In this week’s national poll, the Bulldogs (seven points in the poll) are listed under “others receiving votes” for the second-straight time.
Concordia already equaled its win total from last year in large part because of an offensive attack that ranks as the best in the conference. The Bulldogs have seven regulars batting .340 or better and lead the GPAC in batting average (.365), runs per game (7.2) and hits per game (10.7). Those numbers represent a huge increase from 2013 when Concordia batted .257 and averaged only 3.6 runs per game.
New to the party
Head coach Todd LaVelle’s lineup typically includes five Bulldogs who did not play in a single game in 2013. All five are batting above .400, including team leaders in junior Rebecca Walker (.458) and freshman Diana Mendoza (.446). Mendoza (Santa Clarita, Calif.) has been a nightmare for opposing teams at the top of the order. She has at least one hit in 13 of her 14 games and two hits or more in 10 contests. Meanwhile, Walker ranks second in the GPAC in batting average. Last week she went 13-for-26 with five doubles and six RBIs.
The other three newcomers who have earned regular starting time are: junior Regan Doiel (.377 – redshirt in 2013) and freshmen Palmer Bosanko (.314) and Brittany Hudler (.406).
LaVelle has also gotten plenty of production from his veteran players – first baseman Molly Madsen, catcher Amber Topil and infielder Julia Tyree. All three are batting at least .340 and have been adept at driving in runs. Tyree has a team best 15 RBIs, Madsen has 14 and Topil has 13.
Both head coaches were given the reigns of a college program for the first time when they were hired in their respective positions. Doane’s Renae Littrell is in her second season as a Tiger after leading her team to a record of 18-24 overall and a fifth-place GPAC finish in 2013. In her previous 11 years of softball coaching, she made numerous stops at the collegiate and high school levels. On the other hand, LaVelle brought more than 20 years of softball coaching experience to Concordia. He compiled a record of 171-91 with a state runner-up finish in his most recent coaching position at Lincoln North Star High School.
Like Concordia, Doane possesses an explosive offense. The Tigers are second to Concordia in batting average (.360) and rank third in runs per game (6.2). They rank No. 1 in slugging percentage at .480. Freshman infielder Sam Valadez leads the conference in batting average (.491). Second baseman Heather Ramirez was named the conference’s player of the week on Tuesday following a week in which she went 9-for-13 with eight runs and four steals. Doane has six players batting above .400 on the season.
The Tigers’ top pitcher is Ellie Doughty, who is 8-1 with a 1.73 ERA in 60.2 innings of work. Doughty and the prolific offense are big reasons why Doane is 17-4 and off to the best start in school history. The team’s best win came on March 7 when it defeated No. 15 Oklahoma Baptist, 5-4.
26 March 2014
Senior Shelby Morose