SEWARD, Neb. – Leads slipped away in both ends of the doubleheader for the Concordia University softball team, which opened up both its home and conference schedules at Plum Creek Park on Saturday afternoon. Visiting Northwestern clipped the Bulldogs, 4-3, in game 1 and then won a slugfest, 13-9, in the capper.
It was the first action for fourth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad since a 7-2 road trip at the Tucson Invitational. Concordia now sits at 13-7 overall and 0-2 in conference play.
“There’s a lot we can take away and a lot of things we need to improve upon,” LaVelle said. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We were in both games. We didn’t get the breaks or the key hits that we needed to. Nobody wants to go 0-2 to start conference play. We’ve got high hopes. We’re going to stick together as a team and we’re going to rebound.”
Though the Bulldogs come away empty handed in their opening weekend of GPAC competition, they showed an ability to fight back. Trailing 4-1 going to the bottom of the seventh of game 1, Concordia put up two runs (Kylie Harpst RBI single, Taryn Thomas RBI groundout) and had the potential game-winning run at second base when Michaela Woodward flew out to end the threat.
In a wild second game, the Bulldogs gave up a 5-0 lead when the Red Raiders (13-10, 2-0 GPAC) piled up seven runs in the fifth inning. Concordia came right back with four in the bottom half of the frame, regaining the advantage (9-7) when Megan Ruppert delivered a three-run double to the gap in left center. But it was just that kind of day for the Bulldogs, who watched Northwestern strikes for five runs in the sixth and then one more in the seventh.
Red Raider hitters feasted for a total of 16 hits in the second game. Cheyenne Wilcke blasted a grand slam and drove in five runs. Jessica Sandbulte added a home run and three runs batted in for a Northwestern team that entered the weekend with a .262 team batting average. Jessica Rayela homered in the first game.
Autumn Owens, who is splitting time between third base and catcher, continues to be a force in the middle of the Concordia lineup. She went 3-for-6 with a double and four RBIs on the day. Owens was one of five Bulldogs with two or more hits in game 2. That group included Ronee Watson (3-for-4, run), Jamie Lefebure (2-for-3, two runs, RBI), Ruppert (2-for-4, two runs, four RBIs) and Woodward (2-for-4, run, RBI).
Woodward ended up taking the loss in both ends of the doubleheader. She pitched solidly in game 1, firing all seven innings while surrendering four runs (three earned) on seven hits and one walk. She struck out six. Pitching was a struggled in game 2. Harpst threw four shutout innings before things unraveled in the fifth.
“We’re just going to stay positive,” LaVelle said. “We know we have a good team. I have to tip my hat to Northwestern. They came in and did what they had to do. They hit us well. We have to stick together as a team and learn from it.”
The Bulldogs will be back at Plum Creek Park on Tuesday to host Doane (13-11, 0-0 GPAC) in another GPAC doubleheader. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. CT. The two sides split last season’s twin bill in Crete.