ORANGE CITY, Iowa – The first three GPAC games of 2018 for the Concordia University softball team have all been nailbiters, up for grabs until the final out has been recorded. Unfortunately, those games have yet to turn in favor of the Bulldogs, who dropped two one-run decisions at Northwestern on Wednesday (March 28). The host Red Raiders won by scores of 5-4 and 7-6.
It’s a process for fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle and his squad. LaVelle has to keep reminding himself about the youthful nature of a lineup that starts just one senior on a regular basis. Concordia now sits at 11-12 overall and 0-3 in conference play.
“I learned everything about what they stand for,” LaVelle said. “Every time today that they scored or took the lead we came right back and answered. Those are characteristics you look for in a good team. The more this team plays and believes in one another the more fun it’s going to be at the end.”
A lot of fun can be had watching freshman third baseman Hhana Haro swing the bat. She went 6-for-8 with a pair of home runs on Wednesday. Her blast leading off the seventh inning broke a 5-5 tie in game two. The Bulldogs failed to hold the advantage and suffered a walk-off defeat for the second time in three contests when Cheyenne Wilcke’s base hit drove home the winning run for Northwestern (16-5, 3-1 GPAC).
Haro’s six-hit day pushed her impressive GPAC best batting average to .540. She’s also slugging .828 on the strength of 16 extra base hits (11 doubles, a triple and four home runs).
“She’s playing really, really well,” LaVelle said. “She has so much confidence in what she does. I’m extremely proud of her. We moved her to third and she had a lot of good defensive stops there. She’s playing well in all areas.”
Kenna Heath and Jamie Lefebure also left the yard as part of a four-homer day for Concordia. The big fly marked of the first for Heath as a Bulldog. Collectively, Concordia pounded out 20 hits on the day. Lefebure went 2-for-3 in game one while Jenessa Jarvis went 2-for-3 with a run in game two.
In the circle, LaVelle used Grace Bernhardt and Brittany Woolridge as starters. Baily Clear wound up pitching in relief in both ends of the twin bill. The continued improvement of the pitching staff will be a key for a team that entered the day ranked 12th nationally in runs per game (7.3).
It’s been a fine line between winning and losing so far in conference play. The Bulldogs have held a lead in the sixth inning or later in each of their three GPAC games. Concordia also holds an 11-6 lead in the suspended contest at Doane that will be finished on Monday, April 9.
The Bulldogs have Easter weekend off before returning to action on Tuesday, April 3 when they are slated to host Hastings (5-15, 0-0 GPAC) in a doubleheader set for a 5 p.m. CT first pitch from Plum Creek Park. The Broncos are coming off an opening round national tournament appearance in 2017.