Harpst drives in eight, powers sweep of Doane

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 21, 2017 in Softball

SEWARD, Neb. – It was Kylie Harpst Day at Plum Creek Park on Tuesday night. The senior from Lincoln burned visiting Doane with six RBIs in game 1 and then delivered the game-winning two-run double ­to cap a doubleheader sweep that has the Concordia University softball team back on track. The Bulldogs defeated the Tigers by scores of 10-0 (five innings) and 3-2 on a chilly evening in Seward.

This was exactly the response fourth-year head coach Todd LaVelle hoped for after having its home-opening twin bill spoiled over the weekend by Northwestern. Concordia has improved to 15-7 overall and to 2-2 in the GPAC.

“Those girls came out before I even got to practice yesterday. They had the mindset that they were ready to go for tonight,” LaVelle said. “They had one of the best practices I’ve seen in my four-year career here at Concordia. They were energetic. They were positive. They worked their tails off.

“I have to give credit to the girls and the senior leadership that we have. They just took the bull by the horns and said, ‘Hey, we’re better than what we showed on Saturday.’”

It was a day Harpst won’t soon forget. After grounding out in her first at bat on Tuesday, she helped trigger the game 1 blowout of Doane by blasting a three-run triple to the gap as part of a five-run third inning that broke what had been a scoreless tie. She was just getting started. She hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning as part of a six-RBI game.

Her most clutch hit came in the bottom of the sixth of game 2. With the score knotted 1-1, Harpst strode to the plate with runners at second and third. She again peppered the hole in left center with a double that proved to be the game-winning blow. Not only that, Harpst worked four innings of relief and earned the pitching win.

By her standards, Harpst was off to a slow start at the plate this season. She seems to be doing just fine now.

“I was finally seeing the ball,” Harpst said. “I haven’t been hitting that well, honestly, this season. Finally I made some adjustments and knew I needed to get some hits.”

After Concordia pitching allowed a combined 17 runs to Northwestern, it tightened up the screws and surrendered only two all day to Doane. Michaela Woodward fired a one-hit shutout in the run-rule shortened first game. She then started game 2 and fired three innings (one run allowed) before handing the ball to Harpst.

Harpst was only part of the hit parade off of Doane ace Haileigh Arthur in game 1. The Bulldogs rapped out 12 hits, including two apiece from Maddie Fousek, Autumn Owens, Taryn Thomas and Harpst. Woodward got Concordia on the board with her home run to right center leading off the bottom of the third. The hits were fewer and far between in game 2 as Tiger lefty Breanna Hamilton had the Bulldogs (nine strikeouts) miffed at times.

But Concordia wasn’t satisfied walking away with just a split. Harpst ensured that the Bulldogs would get greedy.

“We’ve known all season she’s got a good bat,” LaVelle said. “She hit close to .400 last year. We just dropped her down to the five hole to take a little pressure off of her today. It seemed like she came up and time and time again with runners on. I was happy for her. She deserves it. She works hard.”

In the GPAC preseason coaches’ poll, Concordia was picked third and Doane second. The Tigers (15-13, 0-2 GPAC) have made two-straight trips to the national tournament.

The Bulldogs are also scheduled to host Nebraska Wesleyan (13-5) in a nonconference doubleheader on Thursday. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. CT from Plum Creek Park. The Prairie Wolves are in their first season as a member of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, an affiliate of NCAA Division III.