SEWARD, Neb. – The goal now for Concordia University Softball team is to finish the 2023 season strong as it prepares for two GPAC road doubleheaders. The Bulldogs completed their home slate this past weekend while hosting Briar Cliff and Mount Marty. Concordia dropped two one-run decisions to Briar Cliff (1-0 and 6-5) before splitting with Mount Marty (won 7-4 and lost 4-2). Head Coach Brock Culler’s squad now stands at 14-27 overall (3-15 GPAC). The Bulldogs will be headed to College of Saint Mary on Tuesday and then to Dordt on Saturday.
By the numbers
· When the dust settled on this past weekend, the Bulldogs were eliminated from GPAC tournament contention. The top eight in the final league standings (out of 12 teams total) earn the opportunity to compete in GPAC tournament pod play beginning on May 3. At the top of the league standings, Northwestern (15-1), Midland (12-2) and Morningside (11-3) remain in contention to win the GPAC regular season title. The Red Raiders moved up to No. 12 in last week’s NAIA coaches’ poll. As for Concordia, it will miss the GPAC tournament for the first time since 2013. The 2014 team then bounced back and qualified for the national tournament.
· In so many instances this season, the Bulldogs have seemingly been one big hit – or one more defensive play – away from winning. That was the case in the two losses that came against Briar Cliff. Sophomore ace pitcher Megan Eurich threw perhaps her best game of the season in the 1-0 (eight innings) defeat at the hands of the Chargers. Eurich did not surrender a single earned run in an eight-inning complete game that saw her surrender five hits and a walk to go along with five strikeouts. Briar Cliff (28-10, 10-4 GPAC) scored the game’s lone run on Kylee Lukes’ RBI single, which scored a runner that had reached on an error. In game two, Concordia relinquished a 5-2 lead while allowing three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh. Hanna Bowers, Jayden Fernau and Taylor Glause drove in one run apiece for the Bulldogs.
· Concordia celebrated senior day while hosting Mount Marty (16-17, 9-9 GPAC). Following a slow start in game one, Eurich settled in and wound up picking up a win thanks to stronger offensive support. Eurich pitched a seven-inning complete game and limited the damage to two earned runs in the 7-4 win. Offensively, Bowers and Aubrey Bruning notched three hits, a stolen base and two RBIs apiece. The Bulldogs recorded nine hits in what of their better offensive outings within GPAC play. In game two, Lancer pitcher McKenzie Gray allowed just one earned run in the 4-2 win for her side. Bruning produced two more hits in what was a five-hit day for her personally. She drove in a run in the bottom of the seventh to tighten the score, but Gray got a strikeout to close the game out.
· Bowers and Bruning certainly did their part while holding down the Nos. 1 and 2 spots in the lineup this past weekend. Both Bulldogs went 7-for-15 (.467) for the weekend. The lefty Bruning, a Lincoln Southeast High School graduate, also stole three bases and knocked in three runs over the weekend while raising her season batting average to .343 (No. 3 on the team). As for Bowers, she’s been the team’s most consistent offensive threat. The Surprise, Ariz., native even made the in-season switch from second base to shortstop and leads the team with a .364 batting average – to go along with a .426 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage. Bowers has started all 41 games in 2023 after starting 14 games as a freshman in 2022.
· The seniors who were recognized this past weekend were Caitlyn McGarvie (Valparaiso, Neb.), Jerzi Rowe (Gretna, Neb.), Sydney Schildt (Milford, Neb.) and Alexis Tachovsky (Wilber, Neb.). As part of the presentation, each senior detailed their post-graduation plans. McGarvie will attend UNMC of Pharmacy and pursue her doctorate degree. Rowe plans to attend veterinary school. Schildt plans to pursue a career in livestock production systems in the beef or dairy industry. Finally, Tachovsky plans to obtain a job in animal production systems within the ag industry related to reproduction, animal welfare or genetics. The senior class had a hand in helping the 2021 team qualify for the NAIA national tournament. McGarvie is a two-time First Team All-GPAC award winner.
· Lincoln North Star High School product Kylie Shottenkirk likely played her last games of the 2023 season during the South Dakota trip (April 14-15). The budding sophomore sat out this past weekend due to injury. The future is bright for Shottenkirk, who is hitting .360 with 12 doubles, three home runs, 21 RBIs, a .430 on-base percentage and .544 slugging percentage this season. She was named the GPAC Player of the Week back in early March. In her first two seasons as a Bulldog, Shottenkirk has played second base, shortstop and in the outfield. Culler has hinted that Shottenkirk could play outfield in 2024 as the lineup gets shuffled next spring with the help of what is shaping up to be a strong recruiting class.
College of Saint Mary will host Dordt on Monday prior to welcoming Concordia to Omaha on Tuesday. The Flames will also finish their 2023 season this week. The lone two GPAC wins for the Flames came over Jamestown on April 10. Head Coach Carolyn Todd Bray is in her eighth season leading the program, which reached the GPAC tournament in 2022. For the ’23 team, Macy Homes has supplied power with six home runs and a .581 slugging percentage. It’s been a struggle from a pitching perspective as CSM ranks last in the conference in ERA (8.02). Offensively, the Flames average 3.63 runs per game. Concordia won two of last season's three meetings, including a 6-5 decision in the GPAC tournament.
Dordt has made a leap forward in 2023 after finishing last season at 21-21-1 overall (10-12 GPAC). Head Coach Jeff Zomer has led the program since 2010 and has won more than 280 games in his tenure. The strength of this Defender team is its pitching. Dordt ranks second in the GPAC with a 1.96 team ERA. The Defenders lean heavily upon the pitching arm of Abby Kraemer, who owns a 15-5 record, a 1.10 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 133.2 innings. Kraemer beat 12th-ranked Northwestern (15-1 GPAC), 1-0, while throwing a five-hit shutout on April 18. Dordt’s top hitter has been Ella Koster, who is batting .431 with a .651 slugging percentage. Due to postponements, the Defenders are scheduled to play Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of this week.
For the eight teams that qualify, GPAC tournament pod play will get underway on May 3. The two highest seeds in the final standings will earn the right to host separate four-team pods.