GPAC championship softball series features rematch of 2014 conference final

By on May. 1, 2015 in Softball

GPAC championship softball series features rematch of 2014 conference final

SEWARD, Neb. – Teams pegged Nos. 1 and 2 in the GPAC preseason coaches’ poll took meandering paths to the conference championship series, but here they are. Fifth-seeded Morningside (27-19) will play host to seventh-seeded Concordia (26-21) in a championship battle of squads looking to atone for regular-season performances that fell short of expectations.

The best-of-three series will begin at 11 a.m. from the Jensen Complex on the Morningside College campus in Sioux City, Iowa. Game 2 is set for 1 p.m. with the if-necessary game 3 slated for 5 p.m.

The GPAC series winner will earn a return trip to the opening round of the national tournament, which is scheduled for May 11-13. Conference regular-season champion Doane has already locked up one of the GPAC’s two automatic bids to the national tournament.

Head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad is eager to again go head-to-head with the powerful Mustang program, which has won five-straight GPAC tournament titles and has made six-consecutive national tournament trips.

“I’m really excited,” Bulldog center fielder Regan Doiel said after Thursday’s victory at Midland. “I was kind of excited to play Doane, but Morningside is one of our biggest rivals so I’m more excited to play Morningside.”

The Bulldogs remain in the hunt for their second-straight trip to the national tournament by way of winning the Midland Bracket. Concordia went 2-0 on day one of the GPAC tournament with wins by scores of 8-4 over Midland and 6-1 over Nebraska Wesleyan. With ace pitcher Michaela Woodward working every inning at the conference tournament so far, the Bulldogs then finished off Midland with an 8-0, run-rule win that followed a 6-5 loss to the Warriors on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the red hot Mustangs enter Saturday’s series with a 13-2 record over their last 15 games. Head coach Jessica Jones-Sitzmann’s squad fell to fourth-seeded Northwestern, 1-0, in the opening game in the Doane Bracket. Morningside then won four-straight elimination games, including two over top-seeded Doane, to make it out of the Doane Bracket. The Mustangs have allowed only a combined seven runs during postseason action.

Faith Schmidt has had the hot hand in the circle for Morningside. Schmidt (16-9) was tagged with a loss in the first game of the conference tournament despite throwing a no-hitter against the Red Raiders. She then tossed a three-hit shutout in one of the two victories over Doane.

Concordia and Morningside met less than a week ago in Sioux City. The Mustangs won game 1 of the doubleheader, 10-2 in six innings, to extend their winning streak to nine. The Bulldogs responded with a 2-0 victory in the second game behind a two-hit shutout from Woodward, who struck out a career high 12 hitters.

Schmidt and the Mustang pitchers will have to contend with Concordia leading hitter Julia Tyree (.423 BA, 7 HR, 38 RBIs). Woodward has also been a dependable hitter and sports a .380 batting average. On the other side, Jacey Tomhave tops Morningside with a .353 average. McKenzie Anderson supplies plenty of power. She has team highs for home runs (eight) and RBIs (47).