Fifth-inning splash pushes Bulldogs to win in regular-season home finale

By Jacob Knabel on Apr. 27, 2017 in Softball

SEWARD, Neb. – A fifth-inning outburst proved to be all the Concordia University softball team needed to wrap up a season sweep of visiting College of Saint Mary on Thursday evening. Making their last career home regular-season appearances, Kylie Harpst earned the pitching victory and Michaela Woodward blasted a fourth-inning home run in leading a 6-3 victory.

Just a single seven-inning game took place on Thursday, completing what had been a scheduled doubleheader on Wednesday. Fourth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad will enter the final weekend of the regular season at 31-11 overall and at 13-5 in conference play.

“We talked about it in the huddle. We’re in the driver’s seat. We control our own destiny (in regards to hosting in the GPAC tournament),” LaVelle said. “It was a good win. What I like is the resilience of this team. They did what they had to do. They didn’t panic. Our bats were not there the first three or four innings, but we played solid defense behind Kylie.”

The game turned in the bottom of the fifth with the score tied, 1-1. Starter Brittney Banks lost control of the zone, walking four hitters in a row before Leah Kalkwarf dumped a two-run single into right field. Ronee Watson added an RBI single and then scored when a grounder by Maddie Fousek went through the legs of the Flames third baseman.

Watson, a native of Riverside, Calif., has been a big addition to LaVelle’s lineup. She’s now hitting .353 in her freshman campaign.

“It’s definitely been a hard adjustment, but leaning on the seniors and upperclassmen have made it an easy transition for me,” Watson said. “They make me feel very welcome and it’s just like playing at home.”

Harpst is now 10-2 on the year after tossing her ninth complete game. College of Saint Mary didn’t hardly put a dent in her until the game was essentially out of reach in the seventh inning. The Flames held a brief 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth when Banks’ single was mishandled in the outfield, allowing Emily Dickerson to trot home. College of Saint Mary actually outhit the Bulldogs, 6-5.

Though it may not have been a dominant victory, it was a nice way for the senior class to go out before gearing up for a road trip and then postseason play.

“Those seniors have been the backbone of this whole year,” LaVelle said. “It all started back in August with them. They believed. We had some shaky moments last year and we’ve had some adversity this year. They just keep rallying this team around them. Then their talents are a whole different level.”

The Bulldogs are slated to return to action on Saturday with a trip to Sioux Center, Iowa. First pitch from Dordt (18-17, 11-7 GPAC) is set for 1 p.m. CT. Both Hastings (29-21, 12-6 GPAC) and Dordt remain in the running for the No. 2 seed and the right to host one of two pods in the GPAC tournament.