OMAHA, Neb. – Now in the final weekend of GPAC regular-season play, the Concordia University softball team continues to seek the magic it discovered in conference tournament play in each of the past two seasons. In Friday’s final road trip of the regular season, the Bulldogs came back from a 5-1 loss in game 1 to blow out host College of Saint Mary, 10-0, in game 2 behind a shutout by pitcher Kylie Harpst.
Third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad now stands at 29-16 overall and 10-10 in league play. Currently tied for fifth in the GPAC standings, Concordia has clinched a berth in next week’s eight-team conference tournament (May 4-5, 7). As the top two seeds, Morningside and Doane will host pods of the bracket.
“Right now we have some people playing different positions so I think it maybe took them a game to get comfortable,” LaVelle said of the team’s eighth GPAC doubleheader split of the season. “I have to give credit to Kylie. She came back in the second game and pitched really well. It makes it easier to pitch when you’re up six, seven runs. We were able to get the timely hits we needed in the second game that we didn’t get the first game.”
Third baseman Autumn Owens, who extended her hitting streak to 11 with a 4-for-8 day, busted the second game wide open with a three-run blast to left center as part of the six-run second inning. Included in that frame was a bunt RBI single by Maddie Fousek and a two-run base hit by Harpst. Fousek, a native of St. Paul, Neb., was just getting started. She drove in another run in the fifth and then two more in the seventh on her way to a 3-for-3, four-RBI performance.
The Bulldog bats forced the Flames (19-19, 7-15 GPAC) to use four different pitchers in game 2. Concordia rapped out 14 hits as five different players collected multiple knocks: Fousek, Harpst (2-for-5), Taylor Huff (3-for-4), Owens and Michaela Woodward (2-for-2). Woodward accounted for the team’s lone run in game 1 with a solo homer to center in the sixth.
Harpst’s work in the circle is just what Concordia will need to make a deep postseason run. She allowed just three hits (no walks) and struck out six in earning her second complete-game shutout of the season. She’s now 13-10.
Owens has been this year’s biggest breakout offensive star. She entered the day ranked fourth among GPAC players in slugging percentage. She’s now slugging .699 with a team high eight home runs on the year. On Friday she thrived while taking on the No. 3 spot in the lineup.
“We expect that out of all our hitters,” LaVelle said. “For us to be a force in the playoff we’re going to all have to hit like that. It’s just part of it. We’re excited for her. To be honest though, it’s an expectation we all have. We just need to relax at the plate and go up and have fun. (The hitting streak) is great for Autumn.”
Woodward threw game 1 and was tagged with the loss. She allowed five earned runs on 10 hits. Nicolette Larson whirled a complete game and picked up the win for College of Saint Mary, whose season came to a conclusion on Friday.
The Bulldogs are slated to host Dordt (24-20, 10-10 GPAC) for Senior Day on Saturday. If the doubleheader gets rained out on Saturday, it could possibly be moved to Monday. Dordt, like Concordia, has sewed up a spot in the conference tournament.