Bulldogs look to recapture magic at site of 2015 GPAC title

By on May. 3, 2016 in Softball

GPAC softball tournament schedule

Concordia University (29-16, 10-10 GPAC) vs Hastings College (35-19, 12-10 GPAC) 
Wednesday, May 4 | 10 a.m.
Site: Jensen Complex | Sioux City, Iowa
Live Stats: Stat Crew 
Webcast: Live Stream 

SEWARD, Neb. – Over the past two seasons the Concordia softball program has shown an ability to flip a switch come tournament time. That time is now for the 2016 Bulldogs, who enter the postseason as the fifth seed in the eight-team GPAC tournament. Concordia (29-16, 10-10 GPAC) will open up the Morningside Bracket at 10 a.m. on Wednesday when it takes on fourth-seeded Hastings (35-19, 12-10 GPAC).

The double-elimination tournament is set to play out Wednesday and Thursday before the championship series on Saturday. The event consists of two four-team pods hosted by the conference’s top-two seeds, Morningside and Doane. The complete schedule can be viewed HERE.

The 2016 edition of Concordia softball features a “big four” led by sophomore third baseman Autumn Owens, a member of the 2015 GPAC tournament championship team. Owens (.398) joins four other Bulldogs with batting averages greater than .350. The others are Kylie Harpst (.403), Michaela Woodward (.388) and Taylor Huff (.363). They are the backbone of an offense that ranks 16th best nationally in terms of runs per game (6.6).

Said Owens of playing in the GPAC tournament, “There’s definitely more excitement and more pressure, but I know if I make an error my team will back me up for the next play. Everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to keep playing for each other. We keep each other calm.”

In LaVelle’s first two seasons as head coach, the Bulldogs have thrived in the underdog role while qualifying for the opening round of the national tournament two years running. At the 2014 GPAC tournament, third-seeded Concordia fell by a 9-1 score to Midland in the opening game and appeared headed for an early exit. However, the Bulldogs then rattled off five-straight wins and locked up the program’s first-ever national tournament appearance via the tournament runner-up finish. Concordia clinched the berth in dramatic fashion when Amber Topil hit a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to beat Midland on May 2, 2014.

The tournament atmosphere again brought out the best in the Bulldogs last year when they won five of six conference tournament games and captured the GPAC tournament title. Along the way, pitcher Michaela Woodward went 5-1 and worked 39.2 innings, allowing 19 runs on 36 hits. At the plate, she went 9-for-20 and hit a three-run homer in the title-clinching win at Morningside. It was the first year the GPAC went to a pod system and GPAC championship series once the field was trimmed to two.

Under LaVelle, Concordia is a combined 10-3 in GPAC tournament games. That mark includes a 3-1 record against this year’s top seed, Morningside. The Bulldog softball program also won a GPAC tournament title in 2007 and a conference regular-season championship in 2008. Concordia is 32-25 in 14 all-time GPAC tournament appearances.

In addition to (1) Morningside, (4) Hastings and (5) Concordia, the Morningside bracket also contains (8) Midland. The Bulldogs own a record of 4-2 against opposing teams in their pod. Concordia split doubleheaders with Morningside and Midland and swept a twin bill from Hastings.

The GPAC is awarded two automatic berths to the opening round of the softball national championships. Morningside has already earned one of them by way of its regular-season title. Another will be given to the tournament champion, or the tournament runner up in the event that Morningside also wins the postseason title. The opening rounds will take place at 10 sites around the country. Those sites are listed HERE. The champions from each of the 10 Opening Round tournaments will advance to the 36th annual NAIA Softball World Series in Sioux City, Iowa, from May 27 – June 2.

Concordia softball all-time GPAC tournament records
(32-25 in 14 appearances)

2001: 0-2
2002: 3-2
2003: 2-2
2004: 3-2
2005: 1-2
2006: 2-2
2007: *4-0
2008: 2-2
2009: 0-2
2010: 2-2
2011: 2-2
2012: 1-2
2014: 5-2
2015: *5-1
*Won GPAC tournament title

GPAC grade
As a team in the conference, the Bulldogs lead in batting average (.340), slugging percentage (.498), triples per game (0.44) and total triples (19), rank second in fielding percentage (.961), runs scored per game (6.56), hits per game (9.67), RBI per game (5.79), doubles per game (1.86) and at bats per game (28.46) and third in runs scored (282), total hits (416), total RBI (249) and total doubles (80).

Kylie Harpst – hits allowed per game, tied for 10th (7.45); wins, tied for sixth (13); saves, tied for sixth (1); batting average, fifth (.403); slugging percentage, 10th (.604); hits per game, third (1.43); total hits, eighth (60); triples per game, first (0.12); total triples, first (5); total bases per game, fifth (2.14); total bases, 10th (90); stolen bases per game, fifth (0.31); total stolen bases, tied for fifth (13); steal attempts per game, sixth (0.33); total steal attempts, tied for sixth (14); at bats per game, first (3.55)

Taylor Huff – hits per game, 10th (1.23); RBI per game, sixth (0.86); total RBI, 10th (37); doubles per game, fourth (0.35); total doubles, tied for fifth (15); total home runs, tied for 10th (5); total bases per game, sixth (2.02); at bats per game, ninth (3.40)

Leah Kalkwarf – stolen bases per game, sixth (0.30); total stolen bases, tied for fifth (13); steal attempts per game, fifth (0.37); total steal attempts, fifth (16)

Autumn Owens – batting average, tied for sixth (.398); slugging percentage, fourth (.669); hits per game, eighth (1.26); RBI per game, third (1.02); total RBI, sixth (43); doubles per game, tied for seventh(0.33); total doubles, ninth (14); home runs per game, sixth (0.19); total home runs, tied for fifth (8); total bases per game, fourth (2.21); total bases, tied for sixth (93)

Megan Ruppert – triples per game, fifth (0.08); total triples, tied for fifth (3); stolen bases per game, tied for eighth (0.25); total stolen bases, tied for ninth (10)

Julia Tyree – putouts per game, 10th (4.47)

Michaela Woodward – innings pitched per game, 10th (5.31); total innings pitched, ninth (132.2); batting average, eighth (.388); total homeruns, tied for 10th (5); on-base percentage, 10th (.441)

National rankings
The Bulldog squad ranks in the top-50 in nearly 20 different statistical categories including seventh in triples per game (0.44), 10th in doubles per game (1.86), 12th in total triples (19), 13th in slugging percentage (.498) and 14th in hits per game (9.64).

Scouting the opponent
Hastings College Broncos
The Broncos of Hastings College hold a 35-19 overall record and a 12-10 mark in the GPAC. The Broncos have a team batting average of .338 and a .381 on-base percentage. Hastings’ pitching staff owns a 2.94 ERA and its opponents bat .264 against them. The Broncos are led by head coach Troy Baker who is in his 10th season at Hastings. Baker is assisted by Chelsey Jacobitz.

2016 GPAC tournament schedule

Morningside Bracket
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Game #1 – (4) Hastings (35-19, 12-10) vs. (5) Concordia (29-16, 10-10) – 10 am
Game #2 – (1) Morningside (39-8, 18-3) vs. (8) Midland (22-27, 10-12) – Noon

Game #3 – Winner Game #1 vs. Winner Game #2 – 2 pm  
Game #4 – Loser Game #1 vs. Loser Game #2 – 4 pm   

Thursday, May 5, 2016
Game #5 – Winner Game #4 vs. Loser Game #3 – Noon
Game #6 – Winner Game #3 vs. Winner Game #5 – 2 pm
Game #7 – If necessary (Game #6 winner/loser) – 4 pm

Doane Bracket
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Game #1 – (3) Dakota Wesleyan (32-20, 15-7) vs. (6) Dordt (24-20, 10-10) – 10 am
Game #2 – (2) Doane (28-12, 17-4) vs. (7) Nebraska Wesleyan (18-17, 10-12) – Noon

Game #3 – Winner Game #1 vs. Winner Game #2 – 2 pm  
Game #4 – Loser Game #1 vs. Loser Game #2 – 4 pm   

Thursday, May 5, 2016
Game #5 – Winner Game #4 vs. Loser Game #3 – Noon
Game #6 – Winner Game #3 vs. Winner Game #5 – 2 pm
Game #7 – If necessary (Game #6 winner/loser) – 4 pm

GPAC Softball Tournament Championship Series – Saturday, May 7, 2016
Morningside Bracket Winner vs. Doane Bracket Winner (at highest seed) – (Best 2 of 3 Format)
11am (Game 1), 1pm (Game 2), 5pm (Game 3, if needed)