SEWARD, Neb. – Though chances of catching Morningside for the GPAC regular-season title appear to be a longshot, the Concordia University softball team has plenty on the line with the final week of the regular season having arrived. Currently in second place, the Bulldogs hope to lock up a top-two conference finish and the right to host one of the four-team pods in the conference tournament that will open up next week.
This week’s schedule
Wednesday, April 26 – vs. College of Saint Mary (16-18, 9-7 GPAC), 5 p.m.
Thursday, April 27 – vs. Bethany College (19-28), 4 p.m.
Saturday, April 29 – at Dordt (18-17, 11-7 GPAC), 1 p.m.
Head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad owns a record of 16-4 since March 21. It won eight games in a row before falling in game 2 of last week’s home doubleheader with Mount Marty. The Concordia bats have been red hot, averaging 7.6 runs per game during the recent win streak. The Bulldogs (29-11, 11-5 GPAC) possess an impressive balance of pitching (3.19 team ERA) and hitting (.323 batting average and 6.2 runs per game).
One of the hottest hitters in the nation right now is Concordia second baseman Leah Kalkwarf. She has reached base safely in 21 games in a row. Over the past 13 contests, she’s gone 21-for-40 (.525) with 14 runs scored, 13 RBIs, 10 doubles, a triple and a home run. Her batting average has soared from .276 to .354. Last week she was a doubles machine, racking up five of them in 10 at bats.
Two single-season school records could fall this week. With 15 doubles on the year, Kalkwarf needs three more to surpass the program standard of 17 (held by Clarissa Eloge, Melissa Morrison and Meredith Peters). Additionally, catcher/third baseman Autumn Owens is one home run shy of equaling the single-season record she shares with Eloge. The home run record currently stands at nine for a year.
Senior day will take place on Wednesday. The senior class includes impact players such as Kylie Harpst (.286), Diana Mendoza (.268), Megan Ruppert (.388) and Michaela Woodward (.320). Though she has another year of eligibility remaining, Woodward will graduate early and move on to nursing school. Of the aforementioned seniors, Mendoza is the only one that has been in the program all four years. The native of Santa Clarita, Calif., has batted .295 in 165 career games as Bulldog.
College of Saint Mary is fresh off a 4-3 upset win over No. 10 Morningside. The Flames average only 3.8 runs per game, but are boosted by a strong pitching duo of Brittney Banks (6-7, 3.29) and Nicki Larsen (9-7, 3.03). Bethany sits in ninth place in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. The Swedes possess two star power hitters in Anna Crawford and Alyssa Montoya (12 homers apiece). Dordt jumped out to a surprising 8-3 start in conference play. The fourth-place Defenders rely heavily upon ace pitcher Tianna Top (11-7, 2.55 ERA in 123.2 innings).
The GPAC tournament will be held at home parks of the two highest seeds on May 5-6. The GPAC championship series will take place May 8 at the home of the highest remaining seed.