SEWARD, Neb. – Diana Mendoza and Maddie Fousek both delivered walk-off hits as the Concordia University softball team prevailed in a pair of heart stoppers over Hastings at Plum Creek Park on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs needed eight innings to buck the Broncos, 11-10, in game 1 prior to a 5-4 victory in game 2. Concordia had to rally from a deficit of at least two runs in both instances.
Third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad brushed aside a trend of splitting its league doubleheaders. The resilient Bulldogs are now 20-7 overall and 5-3 in conference action.
“This team just amazes me every day,” LaVelle said. “They have so much fight in them. They never panic. That is the sign of a championship team. We get down and they keep plugging away. The biggest thing that the coaching staff and myself were so impressed with is that they’re so selfless.”
Center fielder Megan Ruppert, who enjoyed a big day that saw her reach base in 6 of 9 plate appearances, tied game 1 in the bottom of the seventh with a run-scoring double. After relief pitcher AJ Wygant worked a 1-2-3 top of the eighth, Michaela Woodward doubled with one out in the bottom half. Following a Wygant ground out, Mendoza lined a base hit to left that chased home pinch runner Bri Liebelt for the game-winning run.
The excitement was only getting started. Concordia found itself trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh of game 2. Taylor Huff singled, Julia Tyree got hit by a pitch and Woodward singled home the tying run. With no one out and the bases loaded, LaVelle turned to Fousek, a freshman with only 13 at bats entering the night. She promptly lined a base hit up the middle to spark another walk-off celebration.
“It’s not the first time we’ve come back,” Mendoza said. “We do this all the time. We always put ourselves in that position somehow, but we always come back. It’s just fighting. We’re a good fighting team. We’re the fighting LaVelles.”
The opening contest was a wild affair in which Hastings (23-13, 0-6 GPAC) racked up four runs on four hits, including a Heather Sabata homer, in the top of the first. But Concordia returned fire with a 16-hit performance. Six different Bulldogs collected at least two hits – three apiece for Ruppert, Tyree and Woodward – and Autumn Owens pushed her team-leading home run total to six with a two-run big fly in the third. Owens and company tagged Bronco pitcher Taylor Erlenbusch for nine earned runs over her 7.2 innings.
Concordia got a better pitching performance in game 2 as Kylie Harpst delivered a solid 6.2 innings. Wygant then got the final out of the seventh and ended up earning her first two career wins as a Bulldog on Tuesday. She did not allow a run over three total innings versus Hastings.
The likes of Fousek and Wygant have helped make for a team with great depth.
“It’s a team,” LaVelle said. “It’s great to see those girls come in and do that. Let’s take Maddie. For two games straight, for almost three hours she’s over there swinging a bat just waiting for her time to come in and help the team.”
Woodward made up for a rough pitching outing by going 5-for-7 with three RBIs on Tuesday. Harpst was 4-for-7 with three RBIs. Concordia pounded out 25 total hits in the twin bill.
Snake-bitten Hastings remained winless in the conference. Morgan Fisher had a huge doubleheader in going 7-for-9 at the plate.
The stretch of 10 games in six days continues for the Bulldogs on Wednesday with a trip to Peru State College (9-23) for a twin bill set for 3 p.m. Concordia will also be in action Thursday (vs. Grace University), Saturday (at No. 14 Morningside) and Sunday (at No. 23 Grand View University).