SEWARD, Neb. – Thursday’s nonconference clash at Plum Creek Park featured a pair of teams at or near the top their respective leagues. Leah Kalkwarf and the Concordia University softball team added to their win streak by claiming wins over visiting Kansas Wesleyan University by scores of 4-3 and 12-2 (five innings) on a warm afternoon in Seward.
Fourth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad is already within one victory of cracking the program’s top 10 list for most wins in a single season. Now riding a five-game win streak, the Bulldogs have moved to 26-10 overall.
“No doubt they’re a good team,” LaVelle said of Kansas Wesleyan. “They came in here 24-9 and leading their conference (Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference) so they were flying high. We had been off since Saturday. You never know what you’re going to get. We started out a little slow, but we got a good game out of (Michaela) Woodward and got the outs we needed. We won the game and we carried momentum into the second game.”
Kalkwarf has been searing hot at the plate. That didn’t change on Thursday. She accounted for Concordia’s first run of the day with a solo homer to left center in the second inning of game 1. One frame later, the Bulldogs got all they needed when Kylie Harpst tripled in two runs and Taryn Thomas singled in another.
Woodward held down the Coyotes (24-11) just enough for her team to escape with the win. Woodward scattered nine hits and struck out five in a seven-inning complete game effort. With two outs in the top of the seventh, Kansas Wesleyan put runners on first and third. Woodward put an end to the threat by inducing a grounder right back to the circle.
In game 2, Kalkwarf added a double, a walk and two runs in a contest that got away from the Coyotes, who jumped out to a 2-0 lead. But they committed two costly errors that helped lead to a nine-run third-inning explosion for Concordia. Included in the frame were RBI singles by Janey Pasold, Jamie Lefebure and Megan Ruppert.
“We have a lot of confidence right now,” said Woodward, who punctuated the game 2 win with a fourth-inning homer. “We’re having a lot more fun. We’re not stressing so much. We’re just playing it out and what happens, happens.”
The return of Harpst to the lineup was a welcome sight. She had not started a game since March 31 due to a recent injury. She was able to give Woodward a break in game 2 by tossing a five-inning complete game. Harpst allowed two runs on four hits and one walk.
Kalkwarf, who extended her hitting streak to nine games, went 2-for-3 in game 1. Ruppert (2-for-3) and Autumn Owens (2-for-3) both collected a pair of hits in the capper.
These were two quality wins over a Kansas Wesleyan program that reached the opening round of the national tournament in 2015. That same season, the Coyotes swept a doubleheader from Concordia.
“To be the best, you have to play the best. We wanted to play this team,” LaVelle said. “We don’t want to schedule teams that aren’t going to make us better. This was a high caliber team.”
The Bulldogs have Easter weekend off and will return to action on Tuesday (April 18) when they make the trek northeast to Midland (13-19, 3-7 GPAC). First pitch from Fremont is slated for 5 p.m. CT. Also on Thursday, the Warriors split a twin bill at Mount Marty.