The Concordia University softball team opens the 2011 season in early March at a spring break tournament in Arizona. The Bulldogs were 24-18 overall and 12-12 in league play a year ago. Concordia is picked to finish sixth in the GPAC preseason poll. With a solid group of returning players and some talented newcomers, Concordia hopes for a strong 2011 season.
The Bulldogs must replace 2010 All-Conference selection Laura Fugate. Fugate was a first team All-GPAC selection a year ago. She led the team in runs scored and hits and was second in batting average, homers, RBI’s and slugging percentage.
Despite the loss of Fugate, Concordia returns three All-Conference performers from a year ago. Seniors Clarissa Eloge (Rising City, Neb.) and Nicole Baker (Arvada, Colo.) and junior Nicole Sempek (Columbus, Neb.) will lead the way for the Bulldogs in 2011.
Eloge, a first team All-GPAC selection a year ago, was the 2009 GPAC Player-of-the-Year and is a three-year All-Conference performer. Last season, she hit a team-best .423 with team-highs in doubles (11), homers (9), RBI’s (43), on-base percentage (.500) and slugging percentage (.748). She also scored 32 runs and added 17 walks on the season.
Baker was also a first team All-Conference selection in 2010. She hit .378 and was second on the team in doubles (7), runs scored (35) and hits (54). She led the team with 24 stolen bases, and her .510 slugging percentage was good for third on the team.
Sempek was a second team All-GPAC selection last year after posting a 23-10 record. She had 193 strikeouts and finished with a 1.91 ERA. Sempek totaled 21 complete games and six shutouts on the season.
Concordia also returns a trio of sophomores that gained valuable experience last year. Natalie Svoboda (Lincoln, Neb.) started 40 games for the Bulldogs in her freshman season. She hit .269 with 19 runs scored, three homers and 14 RBI’s. Angela Harstad (Lewiston, Minn.) appeared in 34 games with 20 starts last year. Nicole Mapes (Greeley, Colo.) started all 42 games last year and had 14 RBI’s on the season.
Freshmen Amanda Beeson (Waverly, Neb.) and Elizabeth Young (Grand Prairie, Texas) should bolster the pitching staff this season. Last year, Sempek accounted for all but one of Concordia’s victories on the mound. She also totaled over 200 innings of work. Beeson and Young will add depth and should contribute as both starters and relievers this year for the Bulldogs.
“This year’s team will be a work in progress,” noted Bulldog head coach Frank Greene. “With a lot of younger players, we will need to mature as a unit very quickly. The team shows promise, but early nagging injuries make the future a guessing game at this time. The players work hard and have a good attitude going into the season and when it’s time, they’ll be ready to give it their best.”
Concordia opens the 2011 campaign in Arizona from March 5-10. The home opener is scheduled for March 16, and conference play begins on March 18.