Tyree, Bulldogs cool off Doane in battle of GPAC titans
SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University softball team opened the season with a statement win over No. 10 Olivet Nazarene on March 10. On Wednesday the Bulldogs busted open the conference slate in similar fashion, sweeping away Doane, 6-5 and 6-0, in a battle of the GPAC’s top-ranked teams.
If it hadn’t been made clear already, it’s painfully obvious now: first-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s club, now 16-3 overall, is a contender in the GPAC.
“I’m very happy obviously for the girls but also for our program,” LaVelle said. “This is what we’ve been working at. We knew what we had, but when you open up the GPAC you just never know what you’re going to get on the field.
“We came out and did what we all know we can do, and that’s win and win fairly convincingly (in game 2).”
Concordia slowed down a hot-hitting Doane (17-6, 0-2 GPAC) squad that came into play batting .360 and possessed the GPAC player of the week in Heather Ramirez, who went just 1-for-7 on the day. Most impressively, Bulldog game 2 pitcher Julia Tyree whirled a four-hit shutout to complete the sweep of the Tigers, who are off to the best start in their program’s history.
“My defense worked really hard,” Tyree said. “They were phenomenal and I trust them with everything. When you have a team that you trust with your whole heart, you love them, they love you and you have each other’s back – that will get the win by itself. It wasn’t me.”
After winning game 1, Tyree and the Bulldogs pounced quickly in the night cap. Tyree staked herself to an early lead by drilling a two-run single to center. She would eventually score on a wild pitch prior to a Palmer Bosanko RBI double that made it 4-0 after one inning.
That was plenty of run support for Tyree, who moved to 7-0 on the season. She earned her second complete game and first shutout of the season while striking out four and walking four. She got most of her outs on grounders as the Tiger hitters chopped out 14 times.
“To hold them scoreless that second game was great,” LaVelle said. “Jules did a great job and she had a defense. She trusted her defense. She’s a groundball pitcher and the defense worked for her. When all nine units are working together it’s pretty special.”
Game 1 came down to the wire with Concordia starting pitcher Amanda Beeson working in the circle. With two outs, the bases loaded and the Bulldogs clinging to a 6-5 lead, Beeson coaxed Harley Horner into a game-ending pop out as LaVelle and company breathed a sigh of relief. Doane scored three seventh-inning runs to cut into what had been a four-run lead.
Both center fielder Diana Mendoza and catcher Amber Topil recorded two hits and an RBI in game 1 for Concordia, which got a run apiece in the first and third innings and two each in the fourth and fifth to take a seemingly comfortable lead. Mendoza ended up 3-for-7 on the day.
Doane third baseman Sam Valadez impressed with a long, towering home run into the teeth of a strong wind on a chilly, blustery day. That blast to lead off the second inning of game 1 made LaVelle leery of pitching to her the rest of the game. Valadez (GPAC high .491 batting average entering play) walked in all three of her game 2 plate appearances.
The challenge now for Concordia is to remain focused following a momentum-building opening day of GPAC action.
“We’re confident but we’re still humble,” Tyree said. “We know we have to work. As soon as we get complacent, that’s when we’ll start losing. As long as we’re still hungry and still fighting, we’ll be good.”
Batting in the No. 2 spot, freshman Brittany Hudler went 2-for-4 with a run in game 2. Concordia finished with a combined 13 hits over the two contests.
With Wednesday's victories, Concordia has already surpassed its 2013 win total of 14.
The Bulldogs continue GPAC play on Friday (3 p.m.) and Saturday (1 p.m.) with road doubleheaders each day. Concordia begins the weekend with Mount Marty (3-9, 1-1 GPAC) before finishing up with Northwestern (15-11, 3-1 GPAC) the following day.