SEWARD, Neb. – A split seemed fitting on an evening when both teams had their chances to taste victory in games one and two of Monday (April 23)’s doubleheader. Some late heroics from the likes of Elanna Osthoff and Kenna Heath pulled the Concordia University softball team out of the depths of despair. Visiting Dakota Wesleyan took game one, 3-2, in a 10-inning marathon. The Bulldogs needed just eight frames to pull out a 7-6 win in game two.
The split was good enough to move fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad just a little bit closer to locking up a spot in the GPAC tournament. Concordia is now 18-18 overall and 7-9 in league play (eighth place).
“I think we turned a corner on the grit and the fight,” LaVelle said. “That’s been questionable here in the last few weeks of the season so that’s what made me the most proud. Obviously you want to win every game you play. The way we battled on defense – I mean we had girls making diving catches and making plays. That’s what I want Concordia softball to be about.”
Things looked bleak as the bottom of the seventh of game two rolled around. The Bulldogs had already dropped one heartbreaker and were staring down a 6-3 deficit. Heath drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and Osthoff then knotted the score by lacing a two-run double to the left center gap. An inning later, Heath drilled a walk-off base hit off the wall in left center.
Finally, Concordia had delivered the knockout blow that it had failed to come up with all day long. It was a big moment for Heath, a Seward native who just joined the softball team this semester after transferring from NCAA Division II University of Sioux Falls.
“I was just trying to stay calm,” Heath said. “I had a pretty rough day at the plate so I kind of owed it to my teammates. I just wanted to get on base anyway I could and take a calm approach.”
Of course Dakota Wesleyan (11-21, 7-7 GPAC) left its share of runners on base in game one, but it walked the ultimate tight rope in the bottom of the ninth inning of game one. With the bases loaded and one out, Mackinsey Schmidt lined a shot to center that resulted in a double play to end the threat. Amber Budmar’s RBI double in the 10th proved to be the game winner.
The Bulldogs would not have lived to talk about the 10th inning without Schmidt’s impressive ninth-inning, diving catch racing towards the gap in right center. The play by the Crete native was about as good as you’ll see in a collegiate softball game. Catcher Allysia Thayer also made a highlight reel worthy lunging catch in game two.
Osthoff went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs in game two. Heath drove in three runs in the second contest. Out of the leadoff spot, Hhana Haro keeps on hitting. She went 4-for-9 with two more doubles, two runs and two RBIs on the night. In addition, Jenessa Jarvis went 2-for-2 in the capper. A home run apiece was recorded by the Tigers’ Karly Severance and Paige Kinley.
In the circle, Brittany Woolridge wound up getting the win while working five innings in relief of Baily Clear in game two. Woolridge allowed three runs on four hits. Grace Bernhardt was tagged with the loss in game one despite another solid outing.
Concordia hopes to springboard to more wins on the heels of the walk-off hit by Heath, who is enjoying her time as a Bulldog.
“It’s been such a blessing,” Heath said. “I love being around these people and this school at Concordia. They’re just the most welcoming group. This team is so much fun to play with. I’ve loved every moment. It’s good to be back home to see some familiar faces.”
Conference play will continue on Wednesday with a trip to Omaha for a doubleheader at College of Saint Mary (13-25, 4-12 GPAC). First pitch is set for 3 p.m. CT.