Concordia readies for defending GPAC champs

By Jacob Knabel on Apr. 4, 2017 in Softball

SEWARD, Neb. – Head coach Todd LaVelle will know a lot more about his team by the end of this week. The Concordia University baseball team will host 10th-ranked Morningside on Thursday. It will be the Mustangs’ first trip to Seward since the 2014 season. Based on the latest conference poll, the meeting will feature the GPAC’s No. 1 and No. 4 teams. The Bulldogs will then look forward to a GPAC road trip on Saturday.

This week’s schedule
Thursday, April 6 – vs. No. 10 Morningside (23-6, 5-1), 3 p.m.
Saturday, April 8 – at Dakota Wesleyan (11-22, 1-3), 1 p.m.

Concordia has run into a couple bumps in the road of late, splitting doubleheaders at Hastings on March 31 and at York College on Monday. Prior to that, the Bulldogs won six-straight games, including four in a row inside the conference. Concordia stands at 21-9 overall (.700) with a winning percentage that would rank No. 1 during LaVelle’s time at the helm of the program.

The hottest Bulldog hitter is center fielder Megan Ruppert, who leads the team with a .407 batting average. She’s been even better of late. During her active eight-game hitting streak, the native of McCook, Neb., is batting .516 (16-for-31) with 11 runs scored, six RBIs, two doubles, a home run, three walks and four stolen bases. Ruppert is in her second season as a Bulldog after transferring from McCook Community College.

In the circle, Michaela Woodward is the team’s unquestioned ace. She limited York to two runs (one earned) on four hits and four walks in a complete game victory on Monday. Woodward has already earned two GPAC pitcher of the week awards in 2017. She’s currently 9-6 with a 2.78 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 93 innings. She’s also adept with the bat, sporting a .374 average with four home runs.

Catcher/third baseman Autumn Owens could be on her way to a record setting season in the power department. Last season she belted nine home runs, tying Clarissa Eloge for a single-season school record. Owens hammered a pair of home runs in the first game at Hastings last week and has six long balls on the season. Only one player in the GPAC has more home runs than Owens.

The Bulldogs have enjoyed recent success against Morningside, despite playing the past six meetings in Sioux City. Concordia has won four of the last five games against the Mustangs. Included in that run was two wins over Morningside in the 2015 GPAC championship series. A year ago, the Bulldogs had a legitimate shot at sweeping the Mustangs in Sioux City. After dropping the first game, 10-8, Concordia routed Morningside, 13-3, in game 2. The Mustangs own a 1.74 ERA behind Rachel Henks (18-4, 1.78 ERA).

Dakota Wesleyan has already dropped the same number of games it lost during the entire 2016 season. The Tigers broke through last season with a third-place conference finish. The Bulldogs would like to avenge their most recent doubleheader with Dakota Wesleyan, which resulted in two games won by the Tigers by the run rule. Dakota Wesleyan pitchers have struggled, ranking 10th in the GPAC in ERA (5.46).

After this weekend’s trip to Mitchell, S.D., the Bulldogs will then look forward to hosting Kansas Wesleyan University for a doubleheader at 3 p.m. CT on Thursday, April 13. Just eight conference games will remain after this week’s action.