TUCSON, Ariz. – It was the pitching that carried the Concordia University Softball team through day four at the Tucson Invitational. The Bulldogs surrendered just three combined runs on Friday (March 10) while defeating Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.), 6-2, and Siena Heights University (Mich.), 2-1. Megan Eurich earned credit for pitching wins in both victories while Aubrey Bruning delivered a walk-off base hit to cap off a nine-game stretch in Arizona.
Head Coach Brock Culler’s squad went 5-4 at the Tucson Invite and stands at 11-10 overall. Culler still believes the best is yet to come for his club.
“The key to that first game was our quick start,” Culler said. “We jumped on them early. Our bats were hot and we put pressure on them to make some plays defensively. They made some mistakes and we were able to ride it out. Megan came in and she did a great job in both games. We got everyone of our players time in at least one of the two games. We were a little beat up and tired, but it was a really good day.”
The day got started nicely for the Bulldogs when Bruning led off the game with a double and then scored on Caitlyn McGarvie’s triple. Julia Van Wey added a sac fly as part of the three-run frame. Those three tallies would have been sufficient with the way Jerzi Rowe and Eurich combined to limit Olivet Nazarene to a grand total of two hits. Eurich entered the game in the third and covered 4.2 innings with one run allowed (unearned) on one hit and one walk. Rowe had fired the first 2.1 innings with one unearned run conceded.
Four Concordia hitters notched two hits apiece in the win over the Tigers: Montgomery Berner (2-for-3 with a double), Hanna Bowers (2-for-3), Van Wey (2-for-3) and McGarvie (2-for-4). Bowers also walked and scored three times. Seven Bulldogs notched at least one hit as part of an 11-hit performance. Concordia was able to add insurance with a run in the third and two in the seventh.
Siena Heights pitcher Shyann Truax had the Bulldogs’ number in two separate outings in Tucson. Truax shut out Concordia on five hits two days earlier and kept the opposition in check again on Friday. Concordia did just enough in this matchup. McGarvie drew a walk with the bases loaded in the second. The game was knotted, 1-1, going to the bottom of the seventh. That’s when Grace Boganowski led off with a triple. Bruning followed with a walk-off RBI single.
“Grace hits really well to the right side of the field,” Culler said. “She got an outside pitch and tripled to right field. She was pretty jacked up when she got to third. They called a timeout and we Aubrey at the plate with Caitlyn on deck, so I really liked our chances. They asked if we were going to squeeze. I said, ‘No, swing away and win a ballgame.’ Aubrey is swinging the bat well. It was outstanding.”
Just like the first game of the day, Eurich pitched in relief. Freshman Jessie Bestenlehner started in the circle and went 3.1 innings without allowing a run. Eurich entered the game in the top of the fourth with the bases loaded and one out. A line out and a strikeout got the Bulldogs out of trouble. Eurich did allow a run in the fifth but rebounded by putting up zeroes in the sixth and seventh innings. She’s now 6-1 on the season.
Added Culler, “We’re right there. We’re playing really good softball. We’re one or two hits away from our record looking a lot different. I’m proud of our group that we were able to end the trip this way, as hard as they’ve worked. It was cool having Devin (Smith) out there the past couple days.”
A much-needed break in the schedule arrives after Concordia just finished playing 13 games in an eight-day stretch. The Bulldogs will return to action on Sunday, March 19 with a 12 p.m. CT doubleheader at Mount Mercy University. The Mustangs are located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.