GPAC's top two rated teams set to visit Seward for Easter weekend

By Jacob Knabel on Apr. 3, 2023 in Softball

SEWARD, Neb. – On the heels of a tough run of hitting, the Concordia University Softball team is looking forward to the challenge that awaits this weekend. The Bulldogs are set to welcome the league’s top-two rated teams to Plum Creek Park: Midland and No. 15 Northwestern. Doubleheaders are slated to get underway at 1 p.m. CT on both Friday and Saturday. Head Coach Brock Culler’s squad will attempt to brush off a five-game losing streak within conference play. Concordia enters the week at 12-17 overall (1-5 GPAC). The Bulldogs are 1-5 in their first six home games.

This Week

Friday, April 7 vs. Midland (19-6, 4-0 GPAC), 1 p.m. DH
--Live Webcast/Stats | Location: Plum Creek Park (Seward, Neb.)

Saturday, April 8 vs. No. 15 Northwestern (27-2, 4-0 GPAC), 1 p.m. DH
--Live Webcast/Stats | Location: Plum Creek Park (Seward, Neb.)

By the numbers

·        Inside the dugout, the Bulldogs will not dwell on it too much, but it was another week of scuffling at the plate. Concordia hit .214 (22-for-103) over last week’s action and managed only three extra-base hits. The Bulldogs have been especially quiet in their six home games having totaled seven runs over doubleheaders with Nebraska Wesleyan, Morningside and Hastings. The results are a stark contrast to what Concordia had been doing earlier in the spring. For example, the Bulldogs went 3-1 at the Friends Invite (March 3-4) when they racked up a combined 46 runs in four games. Rediscovering that offensive firepower will be a key to potentially climbing the GPAC standings during the month of April. In last week’s conference doubleheaders, the Bulldogs dropped two at Doane, 6-2 and 7-5, and fell twice at home to Hastings, 4-2 and 8-2.

·        Concordia saw its seven-game series win streak over Doane (16-12, 3-3 GPAC) get snapped while it faced former teammate Camry Moore last week in Crete. Moore fired a complete game in the opener as the Bulldogs got their lone two runs on Caitlyn McGarvie’s two-run single in the third. Moore outdueled Megan Eurich while limiting Concordia to five hits. Eurich racked up eight strikeouts as she continued as strong sophomore season. In game two, the Bulldogs made a late push before stranding the bases loaded in the top of the seventh. Moore earned the save while recording the final two outs. The Concordia bats came alive to produce 10 hits in the contest, including two knocks apiece from Kylie Shottenkirk, Julia Van Wey and Delanie Voshell.

·        Four days later, the Bulldogs never could sustain anything offensively as the Hastings pitching combination of Kyleigh Boever and Sophia Haverkamp quieted the bats. Concordia was limited to a combined seven hits on the day. Despite some of the offensive struggles, the Bulldogs nearly got the win in game one. They took a 2-1 lead to the seventh behind ace Eurich. Unfortunately, the Broncos (11-13, 5-1 GPAC) rallied back with three runs and won it, 4-2. Eurich went all seven innings and allowed three earned runs on seven hits and a walk to go along with six strikeouts. Game two eventually got away from Concordia. The only offense in that contest was produced by Jerzi Rowe’s two-run single.

·        The belief is that the best players on the Bulldogs will heat up soon. As things stand, six Concordia regulars are hitting above .300: Hanna Bowers (.387), Shottenkirk (.352), Aubrey Bruning (.333), Van Wey (.305), McGarvie (.303) and Delanie Voshell (.301). As a team, Concordia is hitting .287 and averaging 4.69 runs per game. Other team leaders include Bowers in doubles (eight), runs (20), on-base percentage (.448) and slugging percentage (.538), McGarvie in triples (two), Shottenkirk in home runs (three) and Zoie Isom in RBIs (24).

·        A sophomore from Gretna, Neb., Eurich consistently gives the Bulldogs a chance to win. Eurich has completed 10 of her 13 starts and leads the team with 86 innings pitched in 2023. She owns a 3.01 ERA and an 8-5 record. In the 10 complete games, Eurich has allowed more than three earned runs only once. She’s perhaps the team’s most improved player after making only three starts in the circle in 2022. Eurich finished last season at 2-0 with a 4.10 ERA in 42.2 innings. The rest of the staff has featured Rowe (56 IP), Brooke Townsend (32 IP) and Jessie Bestenlehner (12 IP).

·        McGarvie (118 career hits) moved past 100 hits for her career earlier this season. Two other Bulldogs could soon reach that number. Counting her one season with Cloud County Community College, Taylor Glause has collected 97 hits (49 at Concordia). Additionally, Van Wey enters this week with 89 career hits to her credit. As for McGarvie, another hot streak is likely coming. She batted .390 last season and is a two-time First Team All-GPAC honoree.

The opponents

Midland pushed its win streak to 11 while sweeping a doubleheader from College of Saint Mary on Sunday. As defending GPAC champions, the Warriors were also the conference favorite in the preseason. They returned both the 2022 GPAC Pitcher of the Year, Aliyah Rincon, and GPAC Player of the Year, Roni Foote. Both players continue to star among the best in the nation at their respective positions. Foote is currently hitting .443 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs. Meanwhile, Rincon owns a record of 10-2 and has a 1.94 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 90.1 innings. In her first season as the program’s head coach, Beth Singleton was named the GPAC Coach of the Year. In the most recent NAIA coaches’ poll, Midland was listed in the receiving votes category. To their credit, the Warriors own a win this season over Our Lady of the Lake (Texas), currently ranked No. 2 in the NAIA. The Midland program has been on a nice roll having made four-straight appearances in the NAIA Championship Opening Round.

Northwestern fell short of reaching the national tournament last season (38-11-1 overall record), but that didn’t deter the Red Raiders heading into 2023. Head Coach Shane Bouman’s squad has been the hottest team in the GPAC while rolling to an impressive 27-2 record. The highlights of the nonconference portion of the season were wins over 11th-ranked Grand View University (Iowa) and sixth-ranked Indiana Wesleyan University. A Second Team All-GPAC honoree last season, Gwen Mikkelsen has been off the charts in hitting .506 with 14 extra-base hits and 32 RBIs through 29 games. Northwestern also boasts one of the league's top pitchers in Kameryn Etherington, who is 13-2 with a 1.57 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 102.1 innings. The Red Raiders lead the GPAC in runs scored (181) with an offense that does not rely much on the long ball (five homers). Northwestern also tops the conference in ERA (1.52).

Next week

A trip north is coming up as the Bulldogs are scheduled to play at Jamestown on April 14 and at Dakota Wesleyan on April 15. A the conclusion of next week’s play, Concordia will be down to eight conference games left on the regular season slate.