Kalkwarf's walk-off wraps up regular season

By Jacob Knabel on Apr. 28, 2018 in Softball

SEWARD, Neb. – Nail biters have been a theme in this week’s home action. All four contests played at Plum Creek Park since Monday have been decided by just a single run. After missing an opportunity in a 4-3, eight-inning loss in game one, the Concordia University softball team rebounded with a 2-1 victory of the walk-off variety on Saturday afternoon (April 28). Dordt served as the guest on this particular day.

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad will move on to postseason play with an overall record of 21-19 and a final GPAC regular-season mark of 10-10 (seventh place).

“It’s been the theme all year,” LaVelle said. “We’ve been in a lot of close games. I just told the ladies after the game that there have been some valleys but in those valleys we have learned lessons. It all came to this game. I’m certainly proud of them. We were already in the tournament. We were just jockeying for seeding. We came in and battled both games.”

The Defenders (22-18, 11-9 GPAC) appeared on their way to a doubleheader sweep behind pitcher Tianna Top in game two. With a shutout still intact, Topp retired the first two Bulldogs she faced in the bottom of the seventh. Down 1-0, Concordia suddenly had life when Maddie Fousek and Janey Pasold reached on back-to-back infield singles. Mackinsey Schmidt then drove in the game-tying run with a base hit through the left side of the infield.

It set the stage for a second walk-off win at home this week. Dordt chose to intentionally walk Hhana Haro, bringing up veteran Leah Kalkwarf with the bases loaded. She promptly lined the ball back up the middle to send Pasold to the plate for the game winner.

“It’s pretty great (to experience a walk-off hit),” Kalkwarf said. “We just won. We should have won that first game, but we did it together as a team. We really needed to come through and get that win and improve our seed in the tournament.”

In the victory, freshman pitcher Grace Bernhardt was masterful once again. She coaxed 14 fly outs while tossing a seven-inning complete game that featured only three Defender hits. Bernhardt struck out three hitters and did not issue a single walk.

Concordia also had its chances to walk off with a win in game one. Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, the Bulldogs loaded the bases against Dordt pitcher Rachel Evavold. Kenna Heath’s RBI fielder’s choice tied the game but Evavold escaped the jam with a pair of ground outs. She then played the role of hero in the eighth back blasting a solo homer that proved to be the game winner.

Haro and Kalkwarf both went 2-for-3 in game one. Heath added a two-run double in a three-RBI effort in game one. The team’s seven hits in game two were spread out between seven different players.

The regular season is in the books for the Bulldogs, who now look ahead to the start of the conference tournament next Friday (May 4). Complete GPAC postseason pairings were released shortly after games were completed on Saturday. As the No. 7 seed, Concordia will play second-seeded Morningside (28-11, 16-4 GPAC) at 12 p.m. on the tournament’s first day as part of the Morningside bracket.

“We are peaking at the right time,” LaVelle said. “We’re going to get in the tournament and everybody’s 0-0. I like the way our pitching staff is pitching – all three of them. Grace is pitching well. Britt (Woolridge) had a great outing today. And then I can bring Baily (Clear) in and she’s going to roll us some ground balls. If we can put our pitching and hitting together it’s going to be a fun tournament.”

Saturday was senior day for the program. LaVelle started each of his three seniors – Brittany Arent, Kaitlyn Buresh and Pasold – in game one.