Softball upsets No. 10 Olivet Nazarene, sweeps opening day competition

Softball upsets No. 10 Olivet Nazarene, sweeps opening day competition

TUCSON, Ariz. – Head coach Todd LaVelle could not have asked for a better start to his tenure as Concordia University head softball coach. Faced with three games in Tucson, Ariz., on Monday to open the 2014 season, the Bulldogs upset No. 10 Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) and then proceeded to knock off Jamestown (N.D.) (21-13 last season) and Missouri Valley for a perfect 3-0 start.

Concordia won by scores of 5-1 over Olivet Nazarene, 10-7 over Jamestown and 9-4 over Missouri Valley.

“I’d love to tell you I expected this,” LaVelle said. “I knew our first two were going to be really tough. Olivet went 48-9 last year and only lost one player. It didn’t scare me but we hadn’t been on a dirt field this offseason until we got here. We had good practices but you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Several new faces, such as leadoff hitter and left fielder Diana Mendoza, made seamless transitions on opening day. Mendoza routinely set the table for the likes of junior Regan Doiel (four hits in game 2) and senior Amber Topil (four RBIs in game 2). The offensive attack helped make winners out of starting pitchers Amanda Beeson, Julia Tyree and Lexye Bruegman.

On this day, LaVelle got production from up and down the lineup.

“What happened today is an extension of the hard work they put in all offseason,” LaVelle said. “Our pitching staff did well but we didn’t have a ton of strikeouts. Our defense did a nice job. Our hitting was the nicest surprise. When you only have five or six strikeouts and you score 24 runs in a day, that’s great production.”

The season-opening victory may surprise many around the NAIA when considering Olivet Nazarene finished runner up last season in a tough Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference and reached the national tournament for the third time in the past four years. Even more impressive was the way in which Beeson shut down an attack that averaged almost eight runs per outing last season.

Beeson fired all seven innings of game 1 and scattered six hits. Beeson struck out eight in game 1 before adding three more punch outs in relief of Tyree in game 2. Beeson, a native of Waverly, Neb., limited the damage to a single run when Olivet Nazarene loaded the bases in the fifth inning – the only frame in which the Tigers scored.

LaVelle’s club scored in the first inning of all three games and never trailed at any point in the day. Even against Olivet Nazarene ace pitcher Lindsey Stotler, 17-1 with a 1.80 ERA last season, the Bulldog bats came up with big hits. It was an outing in which everyone chipped in.

Mendoza recorded three hits in her first collegiate game. Doiel had a four-hit game. Tyree went 2-for-4 in game 3. Topil totaled four hits combined in games 1 and 2. Junior third baseman Rebecca Walker cracked a hit in each game. Shortstop Shelby Morose notched two hits in game 2. And the contributions go on.

Concordia is off to a 3-0 start for the second time in three seasons. The program has not begun a season 4-0 since 2008 when Frank Greene’s team won its first five games and finished 31-11.

“It’s nice to see the things we did well indoors transfer to the softball field,” LaVelle said. “We’re happy but we have a lot more work to do. We have three more on Wednesday and three more on Friday. We’re excited but cautious because we have a long season ahead.”

The Bulldogs will take Tuesday off before returning to action on Wednesday with three more games: 9 a.m. MST vs. Purdue University-North Central, 11 a.m. MST vs. Valley City State University (N.D.) and 3:30 p.m. MST vs. Presentation College (S.D.). All three games can be heard live on the web: http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/cun.portal

10 March 2014

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Concordia softball began its nine-game road trip in Arizona with a 3-0 start on Monday.