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'05 softball team rode grit, togetherness to GPAC title

By Jacob Knabel on Sep. 12, 2019 in Softball

That old cliché about the “whole being greater than the sum of its parts” represents an accurate description of the 2005 Concordia softball team. That particular bunch batted .268 as a team and averaged just over four runs scored per game. Those numbers do not jump off the page, nor do they scream championship team.

One has to go beyond these numbers to understand why the ‘05 team is a deserving inductee into the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame. The head coach of that squad, Frank Greene, gets choked up as he recalls the memories made that spring.

“It was the kind of team that you dream of,” Greene said. “In terms of talent, we had it at every position. It was just a great cohesive group. I was absolutely thrilled for them (to get into the Hall of Fame) because of who they are and how they represent the university. They are definitely servant leaders in the church and world.”

Greene guided that ‘05 team to a 20-4 conference mark and the program’s first-ever GPAC regular-season championship. The squad was built around the pitching arms of Judy (Alswager) Barjenburch, Sarah (Bergen) Grizzle and Amanda (Hehn) Voorman and a strong defense behind them. At one point that spring, the Bulldogs went on a remarkable run that saw them win 22 of 24 games. As part of the ceremony held on Sept. 27, these Bulldogs will officially join the Hall of Fame.

There have been 12 individuals who played softball that have been inducted into Concordia’s Hall of Fame, but the 2005 Bulldogs are the first softball team to earn enshrinement. The lone individual from the ‘05 softball squad currently in the Hall of Fame is Jennifer (Davis) Schwartz, also the all-time goals scored leader for the women’s soccer program. These facts are again a reflection of what was a true team effort that season.

Greene referred to the bunch as “ornery,” in a good way, and fiery. The scrappy bunch entered that campaign picked to finish third in the GPAC preseason coaches’ poll. Not a single coach gave the Bulldogs a first-place vote, but they rallied together and made winning (not just on the field) an expectation.

“We did a lot of things together,” Greene said. “We had a theme, you know, we are together. We’re a team that’s going to win together, lose together and support each other. We would talk about helping each other out if someone was struggling academically. It was about helping each other so we can be the best we can be.”

Greene was known as someone who poured his heart and soul into the program while also fulfilling many other roles as a husband, father, teacher and fundraiser for Concordia softball. His efforts were not lost on his players. With a heart of gold, Greene showed his players that he cared for them. Such bonds run deeper and are more significant than any wins that came on the softball diamond.

Indeed, most of the players from that team described the relationships that were forged and the memories made on road trips and team activities as some of the most special moments of their college careers.

A starter on the ‘05 team, Emilie (Lewis) Meyer wrote, “Coach Greene always treated his players as family. He did whatever needed to be done to make sure our team had what it needed. He was always fund raising to give us an experience we would have at no other school. He stayed with me in the ER. He made sure we were well fed. He raised money to give us the best equipment and he took care of us.”

Before the Bulldogs’ championship push began in conference play, they ventured down to Savannah, Georgia, over spring break (March 6-12) in another journey that stood out in Greene’s mind. During its stay in Georgia, Concordia went toe-to-toe with NAIA defending champion Thomas University. The Bulldogs actually began the season with three-straight losses and dropped eight games before GPAC play got underway. However, a tough early season slate got this group ready to rock.

Alswager starred as arguably the conference’s top pitcher. She put together an 18-7 record and a 2.61 ERA. As the No. 2 pitcher, Bergen went 15-7 and had a 2.33 ERA. As a pitching staff, Concordia held its opponents to just a .222 batting average. Defensively, the Bulldogs registered a .952 fielding percentage. Plus they had a knack for making winning plays. In one game over spring break, Katherine (Jeppesen) Drefs stole home. At the right time, Greene would deploy the bunt – and most often, his team executed to perfection. The only disappointment was falling short of reaching the NAIA national tournament.

A slick second baseman, Davis helped form an infield that always seemed to understand the right play to make and the right base to throw to. Wrote Davis, “My coaches and teammates are what made me love Concordia. I was very homesick at first, but my teams helped me tremendously to get through that. I have friendships from Concordia that will last my lifetime.”

Added Christine (Jeppesen) Ruhl, “Our spring trips were always great. Coach Greene did a wonderful job planning fun, memorable trips. I made many great friends, many of whom I keep in contact with.”

The group’s commitment to excellence was displayed further by the team grade-point average of 3.51, which ranked second best nationally for all NAIA softball programs for the 2004-05 academic year. Now this special group has the rare opportunity to convene as one, just like old times, 14 years later.

“They are absolutely thrilled,” Greene said of the opportunity to get together again. “I think we have 17 of them coming back. That’s a lot. I’m in shock that they’re all coming back. They’re coming from places like Minnesota and Texas and all over. Quite a few are Nebraskans and some are coming from far, far away.

“They played great ball. I love this team. I love them all.”

2005 Concordia Softball Team

Frank Greene, Head Coach
Randy Folkerts, Assistant Coach
Mindy Miller, Assistant Coach

Team Members
Judy (Alswager) Barjenbruch
Katie Charlton
Miranda (Ciochon) Coulter
Jenna (Hellbusch) Countryman
Kelly (Kurtzer) Dawson
Melissa (Morrison) Dunn
Susan (Braunsroth) Devereux
Katherine (Jeppesen) Drefs
Atlanta (Feaster) Hutchins
Kayla (Gataivasa) Gillian
Sarah (Bergen) Grizzle
Amanda (Hehn) Voorman
Meredith (Peters) Marsh
Christine Mabrey
Emilie (Lewis) Meyer
Cassandra (Pralle) Ruether
Erin (Wiedel) Rathe
Christine (Jeppesen) Ruhl
Tara Schumacher
Jennifer (Davis) Schwartz
Rebecca (Shaffer) Anderson
Samantha (Hellbusch) Wietfeld